Why Web Scraping is Transforming the Real Estate Industry
(Photo : Why Web Scraping is Transforming the Real Estate Industry)

The real estate business was one of the earliest non-tech industries to rapidly comprehend the potential of the internet. Even pre-Google, dial-up users were greedily browsing listings of properties, despite the low-quality images and slow speeds. Today, more than 50% of all home buyers find their property on the internet.

It's not difficult to see why online real estate listings pushed aside yard signs, windows displays, and newspaper advertising. Even the simplest listing now gives you high-quality images, accurate maps, floorplans, distance from amenities, detailed descriptions, and other information essential for making a decision on a new home. And all of this was taken up a notch with websites such as Realtor.com and Zillow that enable potential buyers to search across the entire country and filter by a range of factors.

Zillow was founded in 2004 with an intriguing business model. It doesn't charge home owners or agents to list properties, but instead makes money by charging property management companies to advertise on the Zillow Rental Network and by offering real estate agents Premier Agent Websites, with premium designs and other features. It also started house flipping a few years ago. Zillow offers quick cash payments to homeowners and, if the offer is accepted, Zillow fixes up and resells the property.

Zillow was recognized by TIME in April 2021 as one of the 100 most influential companies, thanks to its work in transforming the real estate industry. And Zillow is also making plenty of money, with over USD 2.7 billion in annual revenue in 2019. That revenue is generated from over 173 million monthly unique visitors and 110 million homes in the Zillow database. That's a lot of real estate listings and a lot of data just waiting to be scraped and repurposed.

What is web scraping?

Web scraping is the automated extraction of data from websites. It is the same as manually visiting a web page and copy-pasting information from it, but bots can read thousands of pages every second and never make mistakes. The data can be used immediately in another website or stored in a database for later use.

How to get the most data out of Zillow

Zillow has its own free API that you can use to interact with the site, but you can also use a more powerful tool like the Apify Zillow Scraper to build upon the capabilities of the Zillow API and go beyond the official limits of 500 results per page. This ready-made tool uses web scraping to extract data from Zillow.

With the Apify Zillow Scraper you can extract detailed listings data on properties in any location. Scrape price, address, longitude, latitude, URL, photos, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and all other information available. Even better, the scraper lets you download the data in formats like JSON, CSV, Excel, XML or just plain HTML, so that you can quickly feed it into your application or database for whatever purpose you want.

Zillow found a way to add value to online real estate listings for their users and has profited hugely from that innovation. Once you can reliably extract data from Zillow and other real estate sites, you can start to imagine ways that you can do the same for your business. From better investment decisions to marketing, web scraping has the potential to offer new and unexpected paths to profiting from the online real estate boom.

Investing in property the smart way

Real estate listings can give you business intelligence that can be used to predict the future of the market, visualize demographic changes, map the movement of populations, and identify up and coming areas. This kind of information is crucial for making investment decisions. The modern property investor has to consider more data than ever before, and web scraping offers a fast and efficient way to collect it. There is no longer any excuse for being caught out by changes in the market, while there are more opportunities than ever to profit from them.

Modern real estate marketing

Realtors still exist, but they now have to find smart ways to co-exist with the real estate listings giants. Marketing is key to finding clients and keeping them, with social media and email campaigns driven by automated lead generation fuelled by web scraping. Real estate agents can thrive in a fully online market, but they need to use the right tools. Listings on websites like Zillow are no longer closed books of clients. The web has made all of that data available to anyone, as long as it can be extracted in the right format.

Waves of innovation: PropTech and beyond

Over 1000 new technology companies have launched in the property industry over the last decade. By identifying ways that they can provide tech services to real estate listing websites and real estate agents, these PropTech companies are disrupting the industry with innovative tools such as 3D and virtual reality viewing experiences, advanced ways to manage lists of buyers and sellers, or smart algorithms trained to predict and act fast. PropTech can also be low key and operate in the back office, reducing paperwork, automating invoicing, and managing detailed customer relationship management systems.

Web scraping is a newcomer that promises to become an essential part of the technological transformation of the real estate business. Web scrapers have until recently only been available to large companies that could field the kinds of development teams needed to build and maintain them. But over the last few years, web scraping and automation platforms like Apify have made these data scraping tools accessible and available to anyone, regardless of programming ability, and at any scale, from lone wolf developers to global enterprises.

Armed with fast, low-cost scrapers that can run almost continuously and extract data as it becomes available, the possibilities for future innovation in the real estate business continue to expand. The next wave of PropTech may not even have been imagined, but there is no doubt that it will arrive, and it is a safe bet that web scraping will feature extensively in its box of technical tricks.

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