As 2006 comes to a close, things have thankfully quieted down around the Zillow offices and we have all been able to catch up on some much-needed sleep and family time. Most of us feel like we’ve been running on 12 cylinders for months — fast, a little crazy, but in many ways just the beginning of a long, fun ride.
But before we continue running forward, we have taken some time to glace back at our first year of existence. We have detailed our learnings from starting and maintaining our corporate blog, as well as reflected on what we saw as the key stories in the industry in 2006. As for the work we have done– every month seemed to bring new challenges, new ideas and ultimately new features for you, our users. Some of our favorite milestones:
– January: CEO Rich Barton sat on a panel at the Inman Conference. Still under wraps, he couldn’t say exactly what Zillow was going to do, but he dropped some hints and speculation flew. Meanwhile at home base in Seattle, developers, engineers and many others prepped for a looming launch, and a very important decision was made — Zillow would have a blog.
– March – Email home reports launch — allowing anyone to track up to 25 homes at a time on a monthly basis.
– April – Bird’s Eye Views are added to many areas of the country, giving a close-up aerial view of homes never before seen on a real estate Web site… at least at first. Soon, several sites added Microsoft’s Virtual Earth — proving it to be a fantastic application for real estate (including viewing famous TV homes — to this day, Hugh’s mansion remains one of Zillow’s most popular properties).
– May – In his spare time, data analyst Tommy Unger whipped up heat maps of Seattle and San Francisco showing the most expensive neighborhoods by Zestimate per square foot. We thought it was pretty cool, so we had him post it on the blog. Soon, requests started pouring in for other cities, leading to other blog posts and eventually a site feature with heat maps all around the country. Now you can see what areas are hot in any city by clicking "heat map" at the top of any map view on the site.
– June – While Tommy played with maps, Arjun (a business intelligence analyst) was messing around with mobile, and one weekend came up with Zillow Mobile (or ZMobile as we like to call it) — a way to get Zestimates on the go from any mobile phone or SMS device. We announced it at Inman in July and within 10 minutes, more than 1,000 people had tried it. Text any address in the message field to firstname.lastname@example.org and see what happens!
– July – Yahoo! Real Estate added Zestimates and other Zillow data, the company secured more funding, and we launched Zillow Labs for enterprising developers. Rich and Lloyd spoke at the Inman Connect Conference in San Francisco, and Drew blogged every minute of it. Zillow’s blog team also kicked off a new open experiment called the Carnival of Real Estate, hoping to foster some community among real estate bloggers. Now in its 23rd edition, the Carnival has taken a life of its own!
– August- Dr. Stan and his analytics team released our first quarterly home value reports. Time Magazine also named Zillow one of its 50 Coolest Websites. And here in Seattle, we all tried our hardest to get outside all month, as we enjoyed one of the sunniest summers on record — perhaps prepping us for the crazy fall weather to come?
– September– We launched "Z2," our internal name for the new features allowing homeowners to update and edit information on their homes in the Zillow database. In the first few months, 300,000 homeowners did just that.
– November- Zillow’s content team of writers and editors worked feverishly building the base for what would become the Real Estate Wiki — more than 100 articles on home buying, selling and owning, to launch and be opened to the public for editing (and potentially changing everything they’d worked weeks and months to write).
– December brought the "opening up" of Zillow and our largest new addition since launch. Agents and owners can now post a home for sale, for free, and any homeowner can claim their home and post a Make Me Move price. Zillow Blog had its first guest blogger, as part of the Yankee Blog Swap. And dozens of Zillow employees braved days without power in a major windstorm.
What will 2007 bring for Zillow? We can say one thing for sure — it won’t be a dull year! As we near our first birthday, we’re working on even more ways to find useful, free real estate information online, and for real estate professionals to find new ways to market themselves and their listings. Have a peaceful, happy New Year, and we’ll hopefully see many of you at Inman in early 2007!