Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sleepless in Berkeley

I was just putting the finishing touched on my post on the >play media conference last night, when I got an email from Dustin over the Rain City Guide letting me know that he just wrote something that I'd be interested in.

Working out of Seattle, Dustin has been writing some awesome posts on the subject of real estate search and this one didn't disappoint.

First, the news:
Homestore, Inc., the leading provider of real estate media and technology solutions, today announced that Elevation Partners, a private equity firm, has agreed to invest $100 million in Homestore in the form of convertible preferred stock.

Homestore Inc. is important because they have an exclusive agreement with the National Assoication of REALTORS® to operate the largest real estate portal in the nation, Realtor.com.

$100,000,000 is a lot of Cheddar. It has been widely rumored that Homestore wasn't doing too well financially and now it looks like they have the capital to do some serious innovation.

With tech based upstarts such as Trulia & Zillow as well as Google looking to crack into real estate, this move sends the signal that the company representing the NAR is willing to innovate along with them.

No excuses fellas, our clients along with us tech savvy agents want REAL innovation. It's happening, the question is this: Do we (NAR, Homestore) want to be a part of the solution, or is this going to be an attempt to keep a walled garden. This is a huge opportunity, lets not screw it up.

I know a lot of REALTORS® aren't too pleased with Realtor.com and their business practices, but this seems like a logical step to evolve the current system to provide more value. I don't pay the ridiculous fees that they charge agents for premium placement on Realtor.com, but I do know that for a small fee you can link a virtual tour to your listing and get tons of extra exposure.

From Dustin's post.
Now mix together (1) the only complete nationwide MLS database (that I’m aware of), (2) $100M to improve operations, and (3) some VERY accomplished tech visionaries, and I’d imagine that expectations are set very high.

For Homestore, Elevation Partners brings a former Apple star, a former Electronic Arts star, a Silicon Valley star, and of course, a rock star (freakin Bono!)… There are enough opportunities to make one’s head buzz… I’m thinking:

* Real estate listings on my iPod
* Simcity interface for home search
* Home listings videos done MTV-style
Right on Dustin! I'm glad that I'm not alone in thinking along these lines.

Then I finished the post.

Part III: Your Mission Should you Wish to Accept It
Imagine that you’ve been invited to 2800 Sand Hill Road to discuss the future of real estate with Roger McNamee, Fred Anderson, Bono, John Riccitiello, John Doerr, and Joe Hanauer.

What do you tell them? What features do you want to see in real estate search? If you are an agent, what is the biggest pain that someone could fix with a technical solution? If you are a buyer, what are the major gaps you see in the current system? What information do you wish you had?

I know that some of my readers have some great ideas. Please share as much as you’re willing. Remember that these guys want to work “within” the current system (i.e. cooperate with real estate agents!), and, most importantly, these people are thinking huge… $100M huge!

This sent my head spinning. I was just about to crash after a LONG day, and after reading my mission, I knew that I wouldn't be falling asleep anytime soon. I collected what thoughts I could and posted a comment and we've been going back and forth.

We'd love to hear what anyone else's thoughts on the subject. Come on over and participate in the conversation.

Flickr credit: Alex Olshansky under a Creative Commons license.