Friday, March 31, 2006
Interview with Chuck Hoover, RealEstateABC
My interview today is with Chuck Hoover, who is SVP of Marketing at Internet Brands (www.realestateabc.com). The firm just launched a new, Web 2.0 home valuation service yesterday and I thought it would be interesting to hear about the service. The whole home valuation via-Web 2.0 area has been heating up lately, with Seattle-based Zillow getting a lot of attention for its own version of a Web 2.0, home valuation tool. Chuck tells me how RealEstateABC is different, and the background on the site.
Ben Kuo: Tell me a bit about RealEstateABC and this new home valuation tool?
Chuck Hoover: The site RealEstateABC has actually been around since 1998, and is focused on helping consumers understand the real estate market and things like buying and selling homes, tips, advice, and market analysis. One of the things we thought was missing on the site was valuation information. That was really the big elephant in the room, so to speak, when you're thinking about selling your home. So we decided to create ABCValues, which is a free home valuation tool.
BK: There has been lots of attention given to Zillow, a competitor in the space which features a home valuation tool very similar to yours. How are you different?
CH: Our product was actually developed in a vacuum. We've been working on it since Q4, and decided to create the product without any knowledge about Zillow and what they were doing. We'd heard rumors around Zillow and how they were going to reinvent Real Estate, but had no idea what they were doing. This was entirely based on what we thought would fill a need and help consumers.
BK: So this really was one of those cases where you developed the idea independently and just happened to launch a product around the same time?
BK: What's the the business model behind RealEstateABC? Are you leads based?
CH: In terms of the business model, it's more of an ad model We have a very strong Realtor agent directory, with 5000 agents. We think it will be an ad model, and not a lead model, because RealEstateABC already has a very strong traffic. We've been around since 1998, and have great content, and over 16,000 inlinks, with a lot of organic traffic. We saw this product as a way to take advantage of existing traffic and create more traffic for the Realtors on the site.
BK: What's the ad model—I assume it's a monthly or annual fee for listing?
CH: Our advertising is on an annual, tiered basis. Listings are anywhere from free to a lot more, depending on how much prominence a Realtor wants to have on the site.
BK: How does RealEstateABC fit into Internet Brands? You guys were once CarsDirect.com, right?
CH: We launched as CarsDirect in 1999, and last year changed it to Internet Brands. We have three different categories and verticals – automotive, which is still our largest – real estate and mortgage, and travel. RealEstateABC fits into the real estate and mortgage category. It fits conceptually into our sites, where we focus on creating great content that helps consumers make decisions around large purchases.
BK: What's your opinion on the Web 2.0 craze—I assume with this launch you're stepping into the whole competition to create the “next cool thing”?
CH: There's some great trends, but what we were trying to do was to solve a problem for the consumer, which is to help them value the house they own. This was the best tool to achieve that solution.
BK: Back to the differences, you were explaining how your tool is different than the others?
CH: I think there's a couple of difference between our product and Zillow and others. One is that we really focused on making it easier for the consumer to use. I don't think any algorithm can come up with a completely accurate valuation of homes across the country. We specifically built the tool to enable consumers to use their own knowledge of the property and market to refine the valuation. When you look at the tool, and the results you can see that consumers are able to include or exclude sales comparables from the valuation, and are able to adjust the valuation based on how much nicer their house is than others in the market. They can vary the valuation for lot size. On the easy side it's all on one page, and we present the consumer all of that on one page, so they don't have to click through a complicated process or a bunch of different pages to make changes. Another difference is we really think that it's important to talk to a real estate professional to come up with the right answer on valuation, and we've integrated our realtor directory into our tool itself. Finally, we don't require consumers to register or give their email or anything like that.