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How to Build a Real Estate Marketplace Like Zillow (Website)

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Yuri Musienko
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Featured image for How to Build a Real Estate Marketplace Like Zillow (Website)

In the early 2000s, real estate buyers were looking for agents and realtors. Ten years ago, they searched for ads in Craigslist, google the address, got into the car and drove to watch the house.

Now for this there is Zillow: I went to the site, looked at the photo, arranged an inspection and made a deal. Tomorrow, people will sit on the couch and view all the options in virtual reality, making deals with the push of a button.

Our article will help you create a site like Zillow, only better and more advanced, and thus gain a share in the real estate market of the future. You will learn:

  • what is common between the most popular real estate sites;
  • how to create your own real estate site, similar to Zillow, but better;
  • what virtual and additional reality will change the market;
  • how to monetize the real estate website.

Top Real Estate Sites

How to Build a Website Like Zillow SimilarWeb
Top 10 Real Estate Websites by SimilarWeb. Source of the image
The sites represented in the SimilarWeb rating are the best in terms of marketing and traffic. They have the most users (buyers, sellers, realtors), and they bring the most profit. The first four of these sites are in the lead over the past five years. From what we can conclude that they have found the key to success, and therefore, if you plan to create a real estate site, you need to understand what kind of key.

What do the best real estate sites have in common:

  1. This is the point of contact between all parties involved. Top sites do not just provide clear listings of real estate, they also create conditions for communication around real estate. For example, people can create community pages (like groups in social networks), speaking as experts, talking about living conditions in a particular region, the infrastructure of a city, helping with paperwork, etc.
  2. This is a marketing tool with convenient search and settings. Zillow shot due to the fact that it opened the listing for everyone. Before it, such information was confidential: only realtors and agencies knew about those who want to buy or sell real estate. Companies are now signing a multi-listing service (MLS) database sharing agreement and synchronizing their listings.
  3. This is a general store that accompanies the entire property purchase process. Within the site, the buyer and the seller of real estate can find all the necessary information (free of charge), get expert help in any matter and reach the necessary government agency.
  4. It is inclusive, not exclusive. Zillow and other similar sites seek to connect experts to the transaction (if this is desired by the buyer or seller), and not to exclude them. Thus, the site does not exclude or discriminate any of the parties.
  5. It is safe and transparent. The real estate site should protect its users from fraud. This requires checks and quarantine zone for certain types of transactions. For example, only carefully verified sellers can provide objects for online investment.

How to create a great real estate site by Zillow type

Creating a website should always begin with a study of the target audience. You need to understand the needs and problems that you can solve. In the case of real estate sites you will have four sides and they will have the following requirements for your site:

How to Build a Website Like Zillow
Based on the needs of all four user groups, it is safe to say that a modern real estate site must have at least four functions in order to become successful.

# 1 Listing system

How to Build a Website Like Zillow Property

Zillow Property Information (not all, lower on the screen for more)

Listing is information about specific properties that users see on the site. You need to create a large database of real estate from such listings, as it is the cornerstone of your site and the main reason for its existence. But the problem is that at the start you will not have such a database of real estate (or permission to use someone else's). So you have to take it from somewhere.

How to create a real estate database:

  • connect to existing listings (i.e. enter into an MLS contract);
  • to unite with other sites, companies, real estate agents;
  • track offers FSBO (For Sale By Owner);
  • buy a base.

The best option is MLS. So you immediately get access to a large database of real estate, which will not lose relevance in a couple of weeks. Zillow and Trulia, which united the bases, allowed them to get 70% of the traffic on the real estate market in the United States.

# 2 View Property

The possibility of the initial inspection of the object using photos, video, 3D-models - one of the main functions of Zillow and similar sites. Thanks to this, users can eliminate 95% of potential options. And if you intend to create your own real estate website, make sure that the visualization of real estate objects was top notch.

Effect of professional photos

The main visualization tool is photography. They must be authentic, relevant and of high quality, as this affects at:

  1. User experience. Viewing quality photos pleases the eye, which increases the conversion and user engagement.
  2. The issuance of search engines. Increases the chances that your site will be higher in the search results of Google and other search engines.
  3. Brand reliance. Quality content shows that you are responsible for your responsibilities to users.
  4. User nerves. If the photos are cloudy, with highlights, the wrong scale and / or do not visualize important things, they will annoy your users.
The first to understand this is Airbnb. Marketers of this site began to attract professional photographers to make high-quality pictures of real estate. This was one of the reasons why the Airbnb website and application lead the short term rental market. And so Airbnb can be sure that the photos are authentic and show all the important details.

How to provide maximum visual information

To obtain a competitive advantage and exceptional visualization of the appearance of real estate, high-quality photographs are not enough (although their presence is obligatory). Need to use new technology:

  1. 360 ° photos. In recent years, they have gained great popularity. With their help, are shown interiors, streets, panoramas of the windows. It is noteworthy that they are not difficult to do, just download the application for the smartphone and follow simple instructions.
  2. 3D video / panorama. Allows you to fully explore the architecture of the object before visiting it. To do this, use 3D-video, as in cinemas, and 3D-panorama - a computer model of the object.
  3. AR / VR. It allows you not only to visualize the object, but also to supplement it, for example, with other space planning or furniture. Today, good AR- / VR-glasses are relatively inexpensive (Oculus Rift S costs $ 400), in a few years their price will drop to $ 50-100, which will allow this technology to conquer the mass market (as it happened with smartphones).
Inspection of real estate in the future will occur as follows: you sit on the sofa, wear VR glasses and give the command to fly to the right place where you can inspect the room using the built-in camera. At the same time at the bottom right of the screen you will have a 3D panorama for orientation on the terrain (like a mini-map in video games). And this is not fantasy, such systems already exist.

# 3 Property Search

How to Build a Website Like Zillow filters
Search filters for real estate buyers on the Zillow website
The search function is necessary for the user so that he can look through the entire base of real estate and find one that fits his needs. And this function must meet two criteria: simplicity and relevance.

What search is relevant to user needs

Study the statistics of search queries on the topic of buying, selling and renting real estate, and you will understand the needs of your users. Divide these requests into two groups:

  1. Most Popular. Based on them, create a main window and search filters. This will allow you to create a search box that is not overloaded with unnecessary filters and elements, which will be sufficient for most.
  2. Less popular. Based on them, create an Advanced Search window, where you can filter out the options by more precise criteria, for example, the number of bathrooms, the minimum and maximum area, etc.
Where to place information about smart home technology

A survey of CNET and Coldwell Banker, conducted among Americans, showed that more than 80% of people when buying property would prefer an object with smart home technology, if the price does not bite. Creating a site like Zillow, you should keep this in mind and provide a section, a label or a field informing the user about the presence of such technologies in a particular house.

How to Build a Website Like Zillow example

An example of using smart home technology. Source of the image

Typically, such information is placed in the "Other" section, but this is incorrect, considering the high interest of people. And the problem is that so far there are no uniform standards for displaying such information (what and how to indicate), which means that you need to invent or spy on someone. For example, in the California Regional MLS, which offers to fill in five fields to describe the house's solar energy system: property, size, age, incoming and outgoing source.

The real estate sites will decide where to place such data. It can be assumed that in California this information will be visible, but in less sunny regions it is unlikely, since it is not relevant to the interests of local users. Thus, it can be assumed that it is not necessary to group information about smart technologies in one section. The best to make relevant information about such technologies on the main listing screen.

# 4 Property valuation

When someone buys or sells real estate, the first thing that interests him is the price. Neither of the parties wants to lose even 1 percent of the possible benefits or savings, since this is big money - thousands and even millions of dollars. Therefore, expert opinions are so popular, the figures are the average cost per square meter in the city (district, street).

Property valuation

How to Build a Website Like Zillow value

An example of assessing the value of real estate through Zestimate

In Zillow, there is a special Zestimate calculator for this, estimating the value of real estate using statistical models, neural networks (machine learning) and big data. It gives approximate accuracy with an error of 5% (at the start was 14%) and is considered one of the best sources for determining the value of real estate in the United States and Europe. In other regions, the accuracy is lower because there is less sampling for big data.

Mortgage valuation

How to Build a Website Like Zillow Mortgage

Calculator.net Mortgage Calculator

Very often, people are interested in the possibility of buying a home in the mortgage and, accordingly, its cost. This tool also needs to be integrated into the real estate site. An example implementation can be found at Calculator.net. If possible, you can implement direct access to credit products of popular banks (in a particular region, country).

# 5 Information about the region

70% of users of real estate sites begin searches with a local search query, as neighbors, infrastructure, crime rates, presence of schools and other similar things are more significant than the cost and / or condition of the object. And it is important that users have such information, preferably at the “one click” distance.

What content is useful to users:

  1. Blogging. Marketing tool to drive traffic to your site and help users with specific issues. A blog can be maintained by your employees, experts, or users. At the same time, it is important to understand that a blog on a site is not a blog on social networks. They have different tasks and ways to achieve them.
  2. Information about the area (street). Overview of infrastructure, crime, the number of schools, the quality of the transport system, socio-cultural life, and more. Trulia and Zillow in this regard are guided by statistical data, and not by the opinions of local residents or experts.
  3. Community pages. Thanks to them, one can understand the local culture and traditions. Learn about attractions, festivals and mass cultural events.
  4. Heatmaps (Dynamic heat maps). A great way to visualize market trends with reference to a particular region. Will help newcomers to evaluate the prospects of finding housing for purchase in a particular region.
  5. Street view. You can use panoramic photos using Google Street View Trusted, you can make your own, ask the locals or hire specialists. You can also create videos that will introduce users to individual cities, districts, streets.
You are unlikely to be able to compete with Trulia and Zillow in providing statistical data, so focus on the content, or rather on the local content. And remember that your task is not to sell the property, but to help the user with a choice. So, if the region is “not good enough”, you need to talk about it directly, citing specific facts and arguments to confirm.

# 6 Site monetization

Creating a good real estate site is expensive, especially if you plan to make a multi-functional platform out of it, like Zillow. And you probably want to make a profit on your investment, which means you need to think of a mechanism for monetizing your project. Here are some ways:
  1. Sale of advertising space. The simplest approach that is available to absolutely all sites. You can start with Google Adsense and eventually go to the sale of advertising space directly (several times more profitable). Remember the possibility of implementing contextual advertising.
  2. Paid services. The most common model: most services are provided free of charge and only some of them are paid. Charged may be pricing, expert assistance and AR / VR.
  3. Subscription (membership). MLS NAR gives unlimited access to the lists only to paid subscribers, all others have the right to view a certain number of positions per day. You can create several types of subscriptions with a different number of available views, if you are a buyer, and with a different number of free ads, if you are a seller.
  4. Commissions. If your site will be involved in some financial transactions, you will have the opportunity to charge a certain percentage of each transaction. For example, your website may provide an escrow service or be an intermediary in rental transactions.
  5. Affiliate programs. Such real estate programs can be found on offervault or odigger sites. Conditions and profitability depends on the specific program and the popularity of your site. To promote such programs, you can use blogs, banners, news feeds.
  6. Premium Content. When you have a lot of users, you can collect big data and analyze them. This is a unique content that is in great demand, therefore, it can be sold.

Merehead does professional development of Website like Zillow. If you have questions, contact us for a free consultation.

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