Friday, January 02, 2009

Yahoo Real Estate Getting it Right... But Could Be Better

A couple weeks ago, Yahoo! Real Estate launched and new and improved real estate section. I've spent a lot of my time in the past few years thinking about real estate search so I'm going to fire away some of my likes and dislikes.

1. First, it has a nice homey look and feel on the front landing page. This is the way a real estate site should look:

2. The slider bars for narrowing search criteria are really the best way I've seen for effectively narrrowing search criteria (Roost does a nice job using these too).

3. The Map Search on the other hand is in sufficient IMHO. My best experience with a map is when I can select an area either with cross hairs ( or draw a polygon !) and then use advanced search options like the sliders to refine the home price and size criteria for that area. To be perfectly honest, the vast majority of map implementations just make my life more frustrating. They are too clucky and slow.

4. When I search down into an area, such as Denver, when I click on the top menu to find foreclosures, or REALTORS®, I'm taken back to a landing page for that section, rather than foreclosures and REALTORS® in Denver. You have to maintain the user's context.

5. I love the image overlay telling you how many photos a listing has. The most important content for people searching real estate is photo and video content. So part b) to this point is that I don't think Yahoo! should be displaying listings without photos. They are useless to home hunters. Moreover, a listing with no photos certainly should NOT be a featured listing. It's the Prudential agent's fault here, but it makes Yahoo! look bad.

6. This could start a huge never ending debate, but if Yahoo wanted to fully support it's content, it's search engine should return results from Yahoo first. Why wouldn't they? I don't mean to get into the whole natural, organic, unfiltered, and egalitarian virtues of search results. Yahoo! search should return content on their portal first if available.

7. YRE should filter out duplicate listings better. This one in particular doesn't even come from different sources. They both link back to metrolist!

8. Spare me the click through! As a user, I can't figure out if YRE is part of a search engine or a portal. It integrates a lot of information in one place like a portal would but then sends me off to the broker portals for more info. In the complicated real estate business, this seems like a reasonable compromise to YRE and real estate brokers, but as a user, it frustrates the hell out of me.

So if the appropriate phone number and email address show up, why is it necessary to send me on a mad user experience nightmare to view listings and see all the info for each listing on hundreds of different sites? Furthermore, if the agents or brokers recieve the phone calls and emails and also get analytics to show their clients, it seems like it shouldn't matter where the view is ...
You see the problem it creates for the user in the image above. If you have any doubts whether you can create a comprehensive portal with all the listing information available, one only needs to look to

... So just a quick look from my perspective. Some things can be fixed easily here, others are symptomatic of larger issues.



Steve said...

Hi Tim. Steve Schultz from Yahoo! Real Estate. Thanks for your review! We launched this product in early December. It’s a huge improvement to the previous user experience, but there are still lots of additional features and optimizations.

With respect to maps, we decided to implement basic mapping functionality for now. Our user research show that maps are primarily for power users and engagement is relatively low with a good majority of users (and yes they really slow down the app). So we need to get it right the first time and make it simple and useful for everyone. We’re working on an advanced map search.

Fair point about the navigation. We’re organizing everything search related on the left rail but it seems there is some visual confusion.

Glad you like the multiple photo overlay. We’re working very hard with the broker community to show the value of providing more and more data to us (both multi-media and text based fields). In the end, it’s the agent and homeowner who want the exposure and they don’t care if it’s on Yahoo! or on the broker site.

The search debate is in interesting one that I don’t have enough room for. However, search “Denver homes for sale” and “Denver real estate” and you’ll find Yahoo! Real Estate on the first page.

Thanks again.


Jeff Tomlin said...

Hey Steve, good to hear from you. In all, I think you guys did a good job. I really do think that the location of the content is less and less important as long as the end results can be effected.

syeds said...
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