Zillow has always been a resource for people in every stage of the home ownership process, whether they’re buyers, sellers, or homeowners.
In late 2009, we added renters to that mix when we launched rental listings on Zillow. And today, we’re delving even further into the world of renters and landlords as we launch Rent Zestimates – estimated rent prices for more than 90 million homes.
Renters make up 70% of all people who move in a given year, but up until now there hasn’t been a way for them to figure out how much they should be paying for rent. I’ve experienced this firsthand, both as a landlord and a tenant. In fact, according to a survey we recently fielded with Ipsos, nearly two-thirds of current renters didn’t do ANY research into fair rent prices before signing their lease.
Enter Rent Zestimates. Computed using a proprietary algorithm that takes public record information, as well as information from hundreds of thousands of rental listings on Zillow, they are starting points in determining a home or apartment’s fair rent price. Combine this with information on comparable homes and apartments for rent on Zillow, and a prospective renter will have many more data points to figure out how much they should pay for a rental. And with Rent Zestimates now on Zillow’s mobile apps as well as on Zillow.com, it’s also easy for renters to arm themselves with data on the go, while they’re out looking at apartments or when walking into a lease negotiation.
It’s not just renters who will benefit, though. Landlords – especially “accidental landlords,” who want or need to move out of their homes, but don’t want to sell in a down market – can use their home’s Rent Zestimate as a starting point to figure out how much they should ask for rent.
When it comes to building real estate websites, listings are kind of important. Just kind of. That is true whether you are an agent/broker trying to be relevant to buyers & sellers in your area or a serial entrepreneur trying to build the next national real estate portal with your own unique twist. I recently got a private question from someone on Quora asking how to get comprehensive MLS listings, so I thought I’d answer it publicly rather than privately.
Adding listings to an agent or broker website in one specific market is a known process – just sign up for IDX, hook it to your website, and away you go.
But for entrepreneurs looking to get nationwide listing inventory — well, it’s not so simple. For those of you in this situation, there are three primary options to consider:
- Direct from the source (agents and brokers) – . This is the route companies like Zillow and Trulia took in order to give them maximum long term flexibility. But it’s extremely time intensive and relationship heavy. You’ve got to win over the likes of ERA, Prudential, Weichert, and about a thousand other medium and large sized brokerages and convince them syndicating their listings to you is a good idea. Or you can spend a boatload of money trying to reach 500,000 agents individually. Whichever route you take, you’ve got to be committed to the effort over the long run and put in the time to form real relationships with key stakeholders at a variety of organizations.
- Aggregate MLS feeds across the county – This route still requires that you aggregate hundreds of MLS feeds (there are roughly 900 MLS’) to get comprehensive. Plus, you’ll have to have a sponsoring real estate agent/broker in each market. Additionally, if you aggregate MLS feeds, you are bound by MLS rules that vary from MLS to MLS (making building your national site a pain in the rear).
- Use ListHub or Point2 – this will probably get you the greatest number of listings in the quickest amount of time. But it’s still not going to result in comprehensive coverage across the United States. Not all brokers/agents use one of those two syndication partners.
So, in short, there is no quick way to achieving comprehensive listing inventory around the country in a timely manner. Unfortunately for serial entrepreneurs, but fortunately for the Zillow’s of the world who have a considerable head start (they’ve been working on it since 2007), if you start now – you don’t really have a chance at having comprehensive listings within the next 2 years. Unless you want to pay a LOT of money to agents and brokers to get them.
Regardless of which route you take, you’ll have to build a XML import system that can handle multiple XML feeds and de-dupe listings that come from more than one source simultaneously. Hope this helps clarify that whole (non-existent) “nationwide listings data” thing.
If anyone else reading has alternatives, by all means, leave them in the comments.