Insomniac Dustin Luther couldn’t quite stay up late enough last night to witness the launch of the US version of Dothomes.com. But here it is, yet another real estate search site: dothomes.com, already live in South Africa and the UK.
I commented yesterday that recent property search entrant Roost.com’s business model is clever, unique, and possibly
illegal non-MLS-complaint. [1/30/08 update: I’ve been thinking about my choice of words, and “illegal” is definitely not the word I should have used. “Illegal” is mugging somebody, or stealing something. What Roost is doing is 100% legal and above-board. It may — and I emphasize may — be viewed by some as being non-MLS-compliant.]
A first glance at Dothomes suggests a similar, though unfortunately more damning verdict: extremely clever, very unique, and definitely
illegal non-MLS complaint. [1/30/08 update: What Dothomes is doing is absolutely 100% legal, but again may be interpreted by some as being non-MLS compliant.]
The clever and unique part is easy to see: they’ve managed to pull off what Google Base real estate could have been, and may well still become: a Google-ish type search experience — with a whimsical “I’m feeling wealthy” instead of “I’m feeling lucky” button — where instead of choosing your criteria from input boxes or sliders, you simply type in what you’re looking for.
Right-oh then, let’s give it a try, shall we?
And, as the Brits would say, “Bob’s your uncle!”
A quick glance at the 99 results confirmed that they all had 3 bedrooms and were under $850K. Pretty slick! (As a sidenote, many of the results were in South San Francisco, an entirely different city. But I’ll cut them some slack on what is, after all, a pretty new product.)
So that’s the clever and unique part. Here’s the (tragically)
illegal non-compliant part: per their own FAQ/blog, they get their data from either a feed that a broker sets up or by crawling the broker’s site.
From a feed the broker sets up: So far, so good…as long as it’s only that broker’s listings.
By crawling that broker’s site: At most MLS’s this is strictly verboten.
Most of the first few pages contained only listings from Realogy brands Coldwell Banker and Century 21. Since Realogy has been fairly open of late with distributing their inventory online — e.g. with Trulia — it is possible that Dothomes has an agreement with Realogy, though I have not heard such news.
A few pages later I see a few listings from my ex-Broker Alain Pinel Realtors. Now the warning bells sound. Unless things have changed dramatically since I left a few months ago, Alain Pinel would never ever distribute its listings to a non-IDX site — Trulia being the exception (probably because Sami is such a sweet talker!)
My prediction: tragically, Dothomes will be forced fairly quickly to adopt an alternate and legal listings acquisition strategy: either MLS-by-MLS, or broker-by-broker.
- Future of Real Estate Marketing weighs in.
- Mashable wonders if Dothomes will be able to compete against Trulia et. al.
- SearchEngineLand notes that in real estate search, just like travel search, there is no one comprehensive site with all listings. (Realtor.com could lay claim to the title of “most listings” by virtue of having most broker-listed homes, but it does not include FSBO’s…plus the site just, well…sucks)
Todd Carpenter, in what I believe is a quote from Dothomes founder Douglas De Jager, says:
Because DotHomes does not serve up those details pages, they do not need permission from the listing agents.
I hope this isn’t Dothomes’ understanding of what most American MLS’s allow, because if it is, he’s in for a nasty surprise.
Tags: Alternative business models, Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Industry, MLS, Realogy