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Hamptons Life

Feb 8, 2018 9:37 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Zillow Group Launches Out East, A Successor To HREO

Out East is the successor to HREO.
Feb 12, 2018 12:01 PM

Out East, a successor to East End real estate listings portal Hamptons Real Estate Online, launched on Thursday morning, February 8, a little more than a year after Zillow Group acquired the website.

Zillow Group, a real estate database company that also owns the New York City real estate online marketplace StreetEasy, purchased HREO and its listing entry and distribution software, RealNet, from HREO co-founder and owner Nicholas Khuri in January 2017 for an undisclosed amount.

Now, not only will Zillow Group replace the HREO brand with Out East, the new website also replaces StreetEasy.com/hamptons.

“HREO was at one point the leading and most used portal in the Hamptons, and it sort of suffered from a lack of updates for a number of years,” said Matt Daimler, the general manager of Out East, during a demonstration of Out East on Wednesday, February 7.

“What was most exciting to us after the acquisition was putting our heads down and rethinking that consumer experience. It’s obviously a beautiful area, and there’s a lot of unique things, and we really want to really charge into that hyperlocal market and do something special. That set us down a path of re-imagining everything, including the brand.”

Out East is the only portal directly connected to RealNet, he noted, and so the updates that real estate agents make to their listings on RealNet will automatically be reflected on Out East. The changes will also be sent out to Zillow, The New York Times and Realtor, but there will be some delay, he said.

From the consumer perspective, Out East offers tools that national real estate portals don’t provide, according to Mr. Daimler. For instance, prospective buyers and renters can add multiple hamlets and villages to one search inquiry. They can also specify what type of view they would like their ideal home to have.

“When we send a feed to Zillow or Realtor or The New York Times, they only accept one type of view: It’s just ‘waterview,’ or it’s not,” Mr. Daimler said. “That’s an area where you lose specificity and you lose granularity as you go to a national portal.” Out East, for example, permits searching views by “waterfront” and “oceanfront.”

A histogram helps visualize the available inventory on the market, plotted by volume and price, and updated in real time. Advanced search tools allow searches by acres of land or square feet of living space.

A tool that HREO never offered, but that Out East does, is the ability to save searches and come back to them later.

Also of interest to consumers are neighborhood guides about each hamlet and village, with photographs by local photographers. And maps display where transportation options—such as the Long Island Rail Road, Hampton Jitney and Blade helicopters—and places of interest—cultural institutions, beaches, yoga studios, golf courses and more—are in proximity to a listing.

Mr. Daimler said developers learned what mattered to consumers by asking experienced East End renters and buyers, both the locals and those who live in New York City most of the year. “These are things that people said made an integral part of their Hamptons experience.”

The neighborhood guides will also display, in real time, the median for-sale price and median for-rent price in each area. “Those are active listings, right now ... As new listings come on the market, this number changes, up or down,” Mr. Daimler said.

He noted that year-round housing was historically the second most popular searched for rental length on HREO, behind Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Another way Out East is designed to provide a better user experience than its predecessor is that multiple listings for the same address—that is to say, the same rental offered by several different agents—will be consolidated. “It’s sometimes a frustrating search experience looking at the same house over and over,” Mr. Daimler said. “ ... We have grouped them together for a new take.”

Out East users will see just one result for a rental address, with a callout to let them know other agents have listed the home. By clicking through, users can see who the other agents are, how many photos they have uploaded and how recently the listing was updated.

In its current design, one agent’s listing is chosen at random to be displayed first in a search result, in a round-robin fashion, and each agent will get equal exposure. But Mr. Daimler said this system could eventually be optimized “to encourage good behavior,” by showing the listing with the most photos and the best property description first.

“For example,” he said, “if an agent posted zero photos and had a terrible short description, we probably wouldn’t want to show that an even number of times as the agent who took the time to put in 21 photos and write a great description and, sort of, spent more time on it.”

In addition to the overhaul and rebranding of HREO, Zillow Group has also made small improvements over time to RealNet, he said. Recently, agents were given the ability to upload larger photo files, which allows Out East to display listing photos that are bigger and of much higher quality than how photos historically appeared on HREO.

Since Zillow Group took over HREO and RealNet, more people were added to offer support to agents, answer questions and address problems, Mr. Daimler said. Zillow Group also began publishing the prices for brokerages to use RealNet, while under the previous ownership each agency had a different contract. “Everyone had a different price for the service,” he said.

The base fee is now $1,000 per month for a brokerage with fewer than 50 agents, and $3,000 per month for those with 50 or more agents. The cost per agent to use RealNet is an additional $60 monthly.

“On average, when we went to that pricing model, I think everyone but one customer got a discount,” Mr. Daimler said, adding that the average discount was between 35 and 40 percent. “We wanted to have a fair price for the agents and the resources they consumed.”

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