| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO U.S. property comparison Web site
Zillow.com is giving home owners, prospective buyers and real
estate agents a new way to discuss property valuations via a
question-and-answer format, the company said on Tuesday.
The site has struck a chord with U.S. home owners since it
was introduced early last year by giving property valuations on
70 million residences, equipping home owners and realtors with
new tools to respond to potential buyers.
"The release of Zillow Home Q&A enables anyone to ask any
question about any house," Chief Executive Rich Barton said.
"We are trying to take all those conversations that take
place offline in coffee shops or schools or cocktail parties,
and shine some light on them," he said in an interview. "The
same thing happening offline can happen online now."
Privately held Zillow was ranked as the seventh most
visited U.S. real estate site at the end of March, according to
online audience measurement firm Hitwise Inc. Realtor.com, run
by Move Inc., was ranked as the most popular.
Thirty-one million different homes have been viewed by
visitors to Zillow.com, according to company data.
Use of Zillow by property shoppers in certain cities is
especially heavy, it said. In Seattle, 86 percent of homes have
been viewed at least once. The rates are 79 percent in San
Francisco, 76 percent in Los Angeles and 72 percent in Boston.
Zillow Home Q&A aims to attract the most knowledgeable
commentators about particular homes -- the home's owners, local
real estate agents and neighbours. "Critical to this
conversation are realtors. They are often the best informed,"
Such focus is in sharp contrast to general-purpose
question-and-answer sites like Yahoo Answers and Microsoft Live
QnA, which are collections of random knowledge, often from
know-it-all contributors who seek status.
"For buying a house or re-roofing a home, consumers will
look to an expert not to a set of user reviews from anonymous
consumers," said Matthew Booth, an analyst who tracks online
local media for the Kelsey Group.
"If Zillow's tools can attract enough experts, this will
draw in a lot of consumers looking for professional advice."
The start-up is looking to assure realtors that it acts as
an ally rather than a competitor. "Zillow Q&A should help make
it clear in terms of the (real estate) industry's perception of
us," Barton said. "We are not going to be an agent and it
should be clear after this release," he said.
More than half a million users have contributed to Zillow.
The site attracted 4 million visitors during February. It
estimates nearly 90 percent of Zillow visitors own a home, and
half (54 percent) hope to buy or sell in the next two years.
The company is also introducing Zillow EZ Ads, a
self-service, locally targeted way for agents and owners
seeking to sell their houses or other community businesses to
buy advertisements on Zillow map pages when users type in zip
Zillow has raised $57 million in funding in two rounds.