Zillow, according to one report, may be closing in on a deal to buy rental marketing software maker RentJuice for $45 million, but in the meantime the online property portal is focusing on the rental market in another way: by launching its first dedicated rentals app — a free app for Android devices.
Zillow Rentals is the latest development in Zillow’s strategy for mobile, which — now numbering at 10 apps — has become a huge part of its business: on weekends, a full 40 percent of all of Zillow’s traffic — 32 million uniques in March — comes from mobile devices, and in the same month 155 million homes on Zillow were viewed from mobile devices: that works out to 57 homes per second, the company tells me.
And although users are able to view some rental information on the original app, the new, dedicated app gives a speedier and more streamlined experience for the fast, high-volume property viewing that characterizes the average would-be renter, says Jeremy Wacksman, VP of marketing at Zillow.
Wacksman says Zillow opted for Android first over iPhone for the launch because its Android users “tend to skew younger, and we felt this group of earlier adopters could benefit from an app developed specifically with renters in mind.” He says the company will extend it to other platforms in the “near future.” Other apps from Zillow work on iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Windows Phone and BlackBerry platforms.
Zillow is partly launching this rental app — and in general getting more focused on the rental space because activity in that segment is on the rise. At the moment, some 70 percent of markets tracked in the Zillow Rental Index showed increases in annual home value. In contrast, only 14 percent of markets tracked in the Zillow Home Value Index (for house sale prices) went up in price.
The new app will have several features that are unique to it. Among them will be the ability to view Rent “Zestimates” — the company’s proprietary rental price estimates on some 100 million properties in the U.S.
The app also lets users compare selected rental properties on a side-by-side list and to narrow searches by geography by drawing boundaries around neighborhoods. It also integrates with Android voice search to find homes in a specific area. People can also browse based on the age of the rental posting, to find those that have just been listed versus those that have been on the market for longer or have already been viewed (and may therefore be a waste of time to visit). Users can also get push notifications for when homes that match their search criteria get posted. There is also the ability to contact owners or landlords through the app.
Zillow has added in a few elements to its property portal that have set it apart from many others in the same field: in addition to list prices, it compiles a list of data around price valuations and recent renovations among other things; and it has inked big deals with other portals like Yahoo and some 180 newspapers to extend its reach.
Wacksman says that Zillow is still seeing “tremendous” growth from its activities in the U.S. so it is continuing to stay focused here rather than expand internationally.