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How Does Trusty Compare to the “Portals”: The Difference Between Trusty and Zillow / Redfin / Trulia / Realtor.com

6 min read
Tim Hyer

Buying or selling a home has changed a lot in the past ten years.  A decade ago, a buyer needed a real estate agent to gain access to which homes were even listed for sale.  Now 50% of all homes  purchased are found online by the buyer --  without the help of a real estate agent.  This big step forward was in large part due to the innovations of companies like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin and Realtor.com, collectively referred to as the real estate “portals.”  

These portals blazed the trail for making real estate information available to the masses.  The largest source of real estate data is the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS for short.  Prior to the portals, the MLS could only be accessed by licensed real estate agents.  By opening up this treasure trove of home data, the portals effectively paved the way for homebuyers to do their own research.  This has led to buyers becoming less dependent upon real estate agents during the discovery phase of their home search, a major shift for the industry.

Although each has its differences, the portals have a lot in common:

  • All real estate data featured by the portals is pulled from 3rd party sources, meaning the portals don’t own the information they feature.  They just present third party info to their users, including photos, descriptions, school ratings, and more.  The sources of this data are the MLS, tax records, and specialty sites like GreatSchools.org, which provide specific data like school and neighborhood information.  Since all portals populate the same 3rd party data, they all look virtually identical.  

  • The portals make limited updates to active listings while they are on the market.  This means there’s no change to the photos, descriptions, stats.  The only changes that occur are the pricing and status of the listing.  So whether it is Day One on the market or Day One Hundred, the data itself doesn’t change.

  • The portals allow their users to create personalized home searches based on specific criteria.  This allows users to save searches and instantly see what new listings match their preferences, which can be delivered instantly via email.  Although this is a useful feature, users are limited to the search criteria offered by the 3rd party data sources, such as location/zip, square footage, lot size, bedroom/bathroom count, and other basic home stats.

  • The portals make money by selling leads to realtors by allowing users to request a tour.  Only realtors that pay for these leads are eligible.  The one exception to this model is Redfin, which employs its own agents.  In Redfin’s case the leads are funneled to Redfin agents with the promise to the consumer of offering lower commissions.  This pay-to-play model is the dominant revenue driver for the portals.  The cost of entry can be steep, so the primary customers for the portals tend to be the top-performing agents who can afford to invest in more exposure. 

  • When a user wants to reach out to an agent through one of the portals, they fill out their contact information.  The portals then pass along this user’s contact information as a “hot lead” for the agents they connect them with.  This means the user can expect to be contacted by agents via phone, email and text message, without a way to shut it off.  Contact is initiated on the agents’ terms, not the users’.

While it’s true that the portals revolutionized access to real estate content, it’s also true that innovation never stops.  Ten years later, consumers are ready for the next big step forward when it comes to real estate information.  That’s where Trusty comes in.  It’s probably easiest to explain how Trusty stands out by comparing directly against the characteristics the portals have in common:

Trusty’s real estate data is crowd-sourced and unique

Unlike the portals, Trusty’s real estate data is crowdsourced from licensed real estate agents who willingly contribute their insights to the Trusty platform.  Although we feature MLS data as well, Trusty’s primary content comes from human agents visiting the listings and leaving their opinions in the form of star ratings, pros & cons, user generated photos, home value estimates, property highlights, and more.  This data is 100% unique to Trusty and can’t be found anywhere else.

Trusty’s data is dynamic

While the portals’ listings become static and unchanging, Trusty’s listings are dynamic.  Since we encourage multiple agents to submit reviews of each listing, there are continual updates in the form of user-submitted photos, videos, price estimates, and overall commentary.  This makes our real estate content dynamic and interactive so there’s always fresh information to consume on Trusty.

You can hyper-customize your search

Similar to the portals, Trusty allows users to customize their home search.  However, we are not limited by the data offered by the MLS.  Trusty collects significant structured data in the form of property highlights that can be used as filters by our users.  For example, if a user is looking for a home that has an open floor plan, sunny exposure, high ceilings and a great view, they can indicate those specific requests and get homes that match these preferences.  That’s much more robust than just bedroom count or square footage.

Trusty agents can’t buy exposure -- they earn it through insights and expertise

Like the portals, we connect buyers and sellers with agents.  But we don’t charge agents for exposure.  Instead, Trusty grants exposure in exchange for quality content.  We believe that the caliber of agents’ insights carries greater weight than their wallets.  This levels the playing field so that all agents can get the exposure they deserve, with the best agents rising to the top. 

Communication with a Trusty agent is secure and controlled by the user

When it comes to communication, Trusty believes in relationships over leads.  And that contact information is sacred.  For this reason, we don’t give our users’ contact information until the user feels comfortable with an agent.  Trusty creates a safe environment where users can ask questions and engage in conversations with multiple agents.  When a strong connection is made, the user can decide to engage directly with an agent.  It’s all on their terms.  

To sum it up, Trusty is democratizing real estate information as the next leap forward.  We’re giving homebuyers new information and datapoints to evaluate homes and research the best fit for them.  Like the portals who have paved the way, Trusty is putting its users in the driver’s seat again by delivering more unique, dynamic, diverse content that can’t be found anywhere else.

Some portals are home-first, some are agent-first.  Trusty is consumer-first.  And it shows.

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