Jumping into Shark Infested Waters: REonomy

REonomy.com: The Next Big Thing?

REonomy.com: The Next Big Thing?

Normally, I greet the news of yet another real estate search website launching with a giant yawn of utter disinterest.  Seriously, this space is starting to get pretty crowded.  Just among the major players, you’ve got Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow, HomeGain, RealEstate.com.  Throw in Roost, Estately, Redfin, BlueRoof, and then the major brand sites like Coldwell Banker, C21, Remax.com, and so on not to mention the hundreds of thousands of local realtor websites and you really have to wonder if there’s room for yet another real estate search website.

But REonomy.com, a odd hybrid real estate/MLS/social network play that just launched last Friday (?) made me at least pause in mid-yawn.

Based solely on the tour (I haven’t had time to join the thing and testdrive it, nor do I really want to just yet), this is one slick puppy.  Seriously, go check it out.  You may be impressed, you may think it’s bunk, but you’ll probably have lots to think about.

The Cool Factor

The whole site seemed to be pretty well-designed with nice user-friendly navigation.  And the depth of data was pretty impressive.  Tax information, parcel data, FAR (Floor Area Ratio), Maximum FAR, etc. etc. and even comps automatically generated.

By far the sexiest little thing I saw was this:

If this is automated... it rocks.

If this is automated... it rocks.

I’m not entirely sure how they’re doing this, or where they’re getting their air rights data from, but it’s a pretty fun little tool.  Basically, the system seems to compute how high a building can go based on the air rights of the parcel (some of which may have been sold to someone else, of course).  This is, understandably, quite a big deal in NYC.

There are plenty of other interesting features on REonomy.  Owner phone number lookup, tenant information (this is a relatively expensive dataset, at least from CoStar, and I have to assume this is limited to commercial tenant data instead of actual residential tenant data though I could be wrong there), income and expenses lookup (again, a commercial real estate dataset), and so on are all kinda sexy.

Neat data options!

Neat data options!

And of course, like any 21st century web business, REonomy makes a social networking play with a self-contained member network.  (Sometimes, it seems like the word “social” is the new “dotcom” — everyone has to be “social something” today.)

Watch Out for Sharks!

The downside to REonomy is partially its own issue and partially a competitive issue.  As the Crain’s article that broke the story of the launch points out, REonomy is jumping into some rather crowded waters:

Maybe so but it won’t be easy for REonomy.com to penetrate the market. Prominent Web sites like PropertyShark.com, with roughly 400,000 registered users, dominate the commercial real estate space. On the residential side, StreetEasy.com has also built a loyal following. It now boasts 45,400 registered users, up 130% from a year ago.

“This industry is highly competitive. We are looking at them closely,” said Bill Staniford, chief executive of PropertyShark.com, pointing out that his site offers distressed building information like foreclosures and lis pendis filings while REonomy.com does not. “We got a ton of programming power we can throw at a competitor like this. It will be hard to knock us off.”

And the article didn’t even talk about REonomy’s other competitors.

REonomy is trying to cover both the residential and the commercial markets, which exposes it to competitors from both side.  It has to think about Trulia and Loopnet; Cyberhomes as well as CoStar.  Each one of these competitors is well-funded, has strengths of its own, and quite possibly the means to “throw at a competitor like this” as PropertyShark will surely do.

In a way, this is good and healthy.  Competition results in better products for customers.  If real estate agents, both commercial and residential, flock to REonomy for the cool factor, for the data visualization tools, for some of the datasets, then competitors like PropertyShark and CoStar will have to match or surpass what REonomy delivers.  That’s a great thing… but not necessarily for REonomy.

Trying To  Be Too Much for Too Many?

My main concern (criticism of, if you will, albeit constructive I hope) for REonomy is that it may be trying to be too broad, trying to be too many things to too many constituencies and as a result will end up serving none of them particularly well.

For example, the cute air-rights visualization tool I screenshotted (is that word?) above is pretty cool especially if it’s automated.  But who would use this?  Any developer who could even consider building high-rise buildings in Manhattan is going to have major architectural firms, site consultants, and at the very least a high end commercial real estate firm such as CBRE working for them.  Those folks can all produce a far more detailed, a far more realistic, and far better researched visualizations of air rights for a particular parcel of land.  And you’d be a fool to go try to raise hundreds of millions of dollars necessary for major building development in NYC based on something you get off of REonomy.com.

The same goes for many of the datasets that REonomy makes available.  Income and expense statements are nice, but again, if you’re into buying commercial property in NYC, you’re not going to make multi-million dollar investment decisions based on REonomy.com.  You’re going to be asking for Argus data runs going back ten years.

And REonomy does lots of things, including things like creating marketing microsites, but it isn’t a site selection tool.  No commercial broker or developer in his right mind would use REonomy for that purpose, when ArcView and MapInfo and other tools are not only available but likely already purchased with a team of specialist dedicated to running them.

On the residential side, REonomy makes the mistake (again) of trying to offer too much to too broad an audience.  Social networking might be the hype du jour in real estate, but I see no reason whatsoever why any realtor would want to upkeep yet another social networking site when they’re already lacking time to keep FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter up to date.  Marketing microsites are nice, but realtors are already having trouble keeping their personal websites and blogs up to date, and hosting your blog on REonomy.com means losing a ton of control without gaining all that much.

REonomy would have been smarter simply to offer clean and simple integration with FaceBook, LinkedIn, ActiveRain, Twitter, and other social networking sites.  Rather than giving agents the ability to create content on REonomy, it should provide a simple-to-install plugin for popular blog platforms: WordPress, TypePad, etc.  Why try to reinvent something that someone else is already doing extremely well?

Finally, the demo talks about “Our MLS fully integrates listings with property data… yadda yadda”.  Why in the world would REonomy want to tangle with all of the MLSs in the country?  Wouldn’t it have been smarter to work with existing MLSs and offer REonomy’s front-end software as a way to upgrade the MLS’s own search interface?  Seems to me that the very last thing REonomy should be wanting to do is to get into competitition with established MLSs since that will pretty much kill an important data pipeline REonomy.com needs to be useful to its customers.  Not every market is New York City, which lacks an MLS.

Still… Bears Watching

Nonetheless, I chose to write about REonomy because on balance, it’s an extremely interesting site.  That they are aiming at the real estate professional market, rather than the consumer market, is interesting in and of itself.  The UI and design are both extremely clean and extremely usable.  I never found myself thinking, which should be every UI designer’s goal.  The map integration is the best I’ve seen yet, and some of the tools are extremely slick.

If REonomy had focused on a narrow-enough vertical — for example, providing front-end software to MLSs — I think it would have been a pretty incredible offering.  As it is, trying to be a little bit of everything to just about anybody connected with real estate turns out to be a weakness.  Whether that’s a fatal weakness or not, time will tell.

Also, keep in mind that I did not register on the site, haven’t seen exactly how it works for a subscriber, and haven’t spoken to anyone about it.  I’ve read the press release (since it was Quinn & Co that gave me the heads up about these guys) and the Crain’s article, and browsed the tour.  So for all I know, I’m totally, 100% dead wrong. :)  Nice thing about blogs is, the folks at REonomy or at Quinn can correct all my mistakes.  Which I now invite them to do. :)

-rsh

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  • http://www.revealrealestate.com/ Claudia Gonella

    Yes more data in the hands of consumers. This can only be a good thing. We’re keen to see more data and analysis in the international real estate scene. Most of the portals that service overseas property markets are very data light and the listings often feel out of date (particularly when it comes to emerging markets). Much to learn from the USRE.net I think.

    • http://www.notorious-rob.com/ Rob Hahn

      You know, judging from your website link, you’re in Central America. I have to confess I hadn’t thought about the international angle at all. But it makes such obvious sense when you compare NYC real estate vs. Honduras real estate. Thanks for the point.

      I think the emerging markets would do very well to focus heavily on data collection. Even as I’m leery of government intervention in the economy, I fully support almost all data-collection and data-distribution services that the government does. Census data, business data, labor data, financial data — so much of this stuff is critical to capitalism, but profits are hard to come by.

      Buy the UI from REonomy or any of the other real estate tech companies, but focus on data collection. That will be the key.

      -rsh

  • http://www.revealrealestate.com Claudia Gonella

    Yes more data in the hands of consumers. This can only be a good thing. We’re keen to see more data and analysis in the international real estate scene. Most of the portals that service overseas property markets are very data light and the listings often feel out of date (particularly when it comes to emerging markets). Much to learn from the USRE.net I think.

    • http://www.notorious-rob.com Rob Hahn

      You know, judging from your website link, you’re in Central America. I have to confess I hadn’t thought about the international angle at all. But it makes such obvious sense when you compare NYC real estate vs. Honduras real estate. Thanks for the point.

      I think the emerging markets would do very well to focus heavily on data collection. Even as I’m leery of government intervention in the economy, I fully support almost all data-collection and data-distribution services that the government does. Census data, business data, labor data, financial data — so much of this stuff is critical to capitalism, but profits are hard to come by.

      Buy the UI from REonomy or any of the other real estate tech companies, but focus on data collection. That will be the key.

      -rsh

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  • http://www.BestHomePro.com/ Jeff Johnston

    What comes first. Yes, a U.I. cannot be effective without data, but consumers care about information that helps them, not data. Presentation of the data is key to success: you can’t have success presenting data and you can’t present effectively without a solid consumer interface.

    Check-out wwww.BestHomePro.com. Search in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill NC area. (Also in other markets and growing.)

  • http://www.BestHomePro.com Jeff Johnston

    What comes first. Yes, a U.I. cannot be effective without data, but consumers care about information that helps them, not data. Presentation of the data is key to success: you can’t have success presenting data and you can’t present effectively without a solid consumer interface.

    Check-out wwww.BestHomePro.com. Search in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill NC area. (Also in other markets and growing.)

  • http://www.REonomy.com/ Charlie Oshman

    Thanks, Rob, for writing your honest analysis of REonomy.com: The Knowledge of Real Estate. We love hearing what people have to say about REonomy, and we think our 3-D maps are pretty cool, too! Thanks for pointing out how user-friendly REonomy is; this was a tough task and important to us in the development of REonomy.

    We appreciate your invitation for us to chime in, and hope the below helps further explain REonomy’s place in the real estate information world and the purpose of its unique tools.

    For the RE Professional
    • REonomy is a B2B property research service, and every piece of data, research tool, and service component of REonomy.com was designed for the real estate professional. There are some great B2C sites out there, such as Trulia, Zillow and others, and they are targeting a different user set.

    • You mention many great companies in your post. Our systems are very different, and we do not intend to compete with many of these services. While Argus is used for large deals that make up a fraction of real estate transactions, REonomy provides detailed income and expense reports and useful information to peek client or investor interest, as well as for smaller acquisitions, at a fraction of the price. REonomy’s mapping software is different from that of ArcView and MapInfo in that REonomy has all its information integrated and will automatically update as often as possible, and does not require any work from the user. As with all REonomy tools, our mapping system is very simple to use.

    Social Network
    • REonomy’s “social network” is not a traditional social networking platform. The format of our business network and the information we allow real estate professionals to provide can be more closely compared to a very detailed virtual business card that keeps everyone updated on what you are working on in case of potential interest. While social networks often require multiple daily or weekly posts, REonomy’s tool is not something that would not necessarily need to be updated even a handful of times per year.

    3-D Bulk-Study Renderings
    • Our 3D Bulk Study Renderings are generated on demand and are not designed to replace an architect or a team of people by any means! In fact, some projects you mentioned, such as large office buildings, are overbuilt assemblage projects that would not use REonomy to gauge the potential of any property. Instead, our tool is useful for investors or brokers who are trying to quickly see what a property could be turned into. It is precisely this type of tool, showing a client a visual of what he could be buying, that could close the deal for a broker. There are also many under-built buildings in NYC, and this tool can identify them for the user and is terrific for any initial research that would ultimately require you to do analysis on multiple buildings whereas here you just click on the properties.

    MLS
    • REonomy’s MLS will not be competing with established MLSs around the country. The real benefit of our MLS is that it is free to post listings on REonomy, and the individual who posts the listings can choose who to make these listings available to within the REonomy network. A user has the option of to create off-market listings and opt into those he/she would like to share them with. When a user views a listing on REonomy, as you can see in the tour, the listing information is displayed alongside a full property report. All information can be found in one place. Crosspollination of information adds additional value.

    Microsites
    • REonomy employed an SEO specialist to develop the user-friendly Microsite platforms for real estate professionals. This platform is index-able by search engines so that leads may be gathered at no cost to the user. Listings are automatically pulled from the system and displayed in a way conducive to lead-generation. For commercial and residential brokers alike, bringing in the client gets a larger percentage of the sale.

    REonomy’s all-inclusive platform is designed to show people in many facets of the industry how to use information some of them do not ordinarily use and create tools to benefit their business.

    Residential brokers can use REonomy to provide better information to their clients and ultimately save time. REonomy provides more information about buildings, such as how many apartments are in it (I like to live in small buildings), incomparable photos of a building and neighborhood, and pictures of the views. Our imagery is the same imagery that ameliorated an issue for an early beta-user: This user worked at a mid-sized private equity group and after doing his due diligence, the final obstacle was an issue with how the penthouse of a mixed-use building sat on the roof. They could not determine this from the street, nor get into the penthouse. After two minutes on our maps, he had his answer.

    Using REonomy as both a property data, research and service provider allows users to consolidate their service providers and significantly reduce overhead; the most expensive subscription we offer is currently $560 per year.

    We are also far from complete. REonomy is a living, evolving system, we have a lot in the pipeline, and you will see many new features from us in the future. We have and will continue to create tools that automatically analyze properties and numbers to help the real estate professional. We take requests from our clients to better serve them, and we are already developing new tools based on their feedback.

    We welcome you to register for a free trial (http://www.reonomy.com/Register.aspx), play around with the site more, and let us know what you think as you use the site in the coming weeks!

    Thanks again,

    Charles Oshman
    Co-founder & Partner
    REonomy.com: The Knowledge of Real Estate

    • http://www.notorious-rob.com/ Rob Hahn

      Thank you Charles for such a detailed and on-point response. I think rather than trying to do a back-and-forth here with you, I’ll see if you and I can hookup and do a chat/email interview and post that up at a future date. :)

      -rsh

  • http://www.REonomy.com Charlie Oshman

    Thanks, Rob, for writing your honest analysis of REonomy.com: The Knowledge of Real Estate. We love hearing what people have to say about REonomy, and we think our 3-D maps are pretty cool, too! Thanks for pointing out how user-friendly REonomy is; this was a tough task and important to us in the development of REonomy.

    We appreciate your invitation for us to chime in, and hope the below helps further explain REonomy’s place in the real estate information world and the purpose of its unique tools.

    For the RE Professional
    • REonomy is a B2B property research service, and every piece of data, research tool, and service component of REonomy.com was designed for the real estate professional. There are some great B2C sites out there, such as Trulia, Zillow and others, and they are targeting a different user set.

    • You mention many great companies in your post. Our systems are very different, and we do not intend to compete with many of these services. While Argus is used for large deals that make up a fraction of real estate transactions, REonomy provides detailed income and expense reports and useful information to peek client or investor interest, as well as for smaller acquisitions, at a fraction of the price. REonomy’s mapping software is different from that of ArcView and MapInfo in that REonomy has all its information integrated and will automatically update as often as possible, and does not require any work from the user. As with all REonomy tools, our mapping system is very simple to use.

    Social Network
    • REonomy’s “social network” is not a traditional social networking platform. The format of our business network and the information we allow real estate professionals to provide can be more closely compared to a very detailed virtual business card that keeps everyone updated on what you are working on in case of potential interest. While social networks often require multiple daily or weekly posts, REonomy’s tool is not something that would not necessarily need to be updated even a handful of times per year.

    3-D Bulk-Study Renderings
    • Our 3D Bulk Study Renderings are generated on demand and are not designed to replace an architect or a team of people by any means! In fact, some projects you mentioned, such as large office buildings, are overbuilt assemblage projects that would not use REonomy to gauge the potential of any property. Instead, our tool is useful for investors or brokers who are trying to quickly see what a property could be turned into. It is precisely this type of tool, showing a client a visual of what he could be buying, that could close the deal for a broker. There are also many under-built buildings in NYC, and this tool can identify them for the user and is terrific for any initial research that would ultimately require you to do analysis on multiple buildings whereas here you just click on the properties.

    MLS
    • REonomy’s MLS will not be competing with established MLSs around the country. The real benefit of our MLS is that it is free to post listings on REonomy, and the individual who posts the listings can choose who to make these listings available to within the REonomy network. A user has the option of to create off-market listings and opt into those he/she would like to share them with. When a user views a listing on REonomy, as you can see in the tour, the listing information is displayed alongside a full property report. All information can be found in one place. Crosspollination of information adds additional value.

    Microsites
    • REonomy employed an SEO specialist to develop the user-friendly Microsite platforms for real estate professionals. This platform is index-able by search engines so that leads may be gathered at no cost to the user. Listings are automatically pulled from the system and displayed in a way conducive to lead-generation. For commercial and residential brokers alike, bringing in the client gets a larger percentage of the sale.

    REonomy’s all-inclusive platform is designed to show people in many facets of the industry how to use information some of them do not ordinarily use and create tools to benefit their business.

    Residential brokers can use REonomy to provide better information to their clients and ultimately save time. REonomy provides more information about buildings, such as how many apartments are in it (I like to live in small buildings), incomparable photos of a building and neighborhood, and pictures of the views. Our imagery is the same imagery that ameliorated an issue for an early beta-user: This user worked at a mid-sized private equity group and after doing his due diligence, the final obstacle was an issue with how the penthouse of a mixed-use building sat on the roof. They could not determine this from the street, nor get into the penthouse. After two minutes on our maps, he had his answer.

    Using REonomy as both a property data, research and service provider allows users to consolidate their service providers and significantly reduce overhead; the most expensive subscription we offer is currently $560 per year.

    We are also far from complete. REonomy is a living, evolving system, we have a lot in the pipeline, and you will see many new features from us in the future. We have and will continue to create tools that automatically analyze properties and numbers to help the real estate professional. We take requests from our clients to better serve them, and we are already developing new tools based on their feedback.

    We welcome you to register for a free trial (http://www.reonomy.com/Register.aspx), play around with the site more, and let us know what you think as you use the site in the coming weeks!

    Thanks again,

    Charles Oshman
    Co-founder & Partner
    REonomy.com: The Knowledge of Real Estate

    • http://www.notorious-rob.com Rob Hahn

      Thank you Charles for such a detailed and on-point response. I think rather than trying to do a back-and-forth here with you, I’ll see if you and I can hookup and do a chat/email interview and post that up at a future date. :)

      -rsh