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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Where The Brokers Hang Out Online To Get The Inside Scoop

Think of it like a Facebook for real estate brokers. About two years ago, two Seattle-area entrepreneurs launched a blog-hosting site for brokers, called ActiveRain, which has grown into a social network where nearly 90,000 members post and bid for each others' referrals.

We recently conducted an interview via email with co-founder Jonathan Washburn, who noted that the referral service has helped ActiveRain set itself apart from the herd of Web 2.0 real estate sites competing for agents' attention. "Our members receive a great deal of value from the site. Both in terms of income earned and knowledge gained," Mr. Washburn wrote.

But what lures the average real estate junkie to the site? The same thing that keeps us coming back: gossip.

If you search the ActiveRain site for local news (like we did), you'll see that 107 Marin real estate professionals—including agents, mortgage brokers and real estate attorneys—are members (and bloggers). For the real estate enthusiast, there's no end to the interesting tidbits you can pick up from such posts as broker Kelley Eling's monthly market conditions update. Average number of days on the market in April varied widely throughout Marin, Eling notes, ranging from 13 in Greenbrae to 150 in Kentfield.

Other ActiveRain blogs we follow religiously:,

The following is an edited transcript of our interview:
ROOF: Can you tell me a little about how you got the idea for the site,
how old it is, did you launch it with venture investment money or was
it a by-the-bootstraps project, etc.?

JONATHAN: We initially started ActiveRain with the idea to create a real estate social network around transaction management but after we built
out the entire network we had lots of trouble gaining traction on the
network. It just didn't spread virally like we had initially
imagined. In 2006 Matt Heaton, an ActiveRain co-founder thought of a
way to scale down our initial idea and add a competitive element to
it. After about a month of development we launched and
that has evolved to what you see today. We bootstrapped the company
ourselves for the first couple of years, then we received a few
hundred thousand dollars from some very supportive angel investors,
and recently we announced an investment for a couple million dollars
from HouseValues.
ROOF: Your own background. I saw on the site that you have extensive
experience in real estate and wondered how that helped you come up
with the idea for Active Rain.

JONATHAN: I started as a real estate agent when I was 18 years old. After a
couple years I created my first real estate website, which after years
of hard work eventually led to the creation of my first real estate
brokerage WhyNotOwn Real Estate. I would say that my on the ground
real estate sales experience has played a huge roll in the development
of ActiveRain. It has allowed us to see things from our members
perspective and keep our company very real estate professional

ROOF: Why do you think Active Rain is taking off so quickly? Is the
secret to the site's success the referral forum?

JONATHAN: I think ActiveRain has achieved fast and significant success
because our members receive a great deal of value from the site. Both
in terms of income earned and knowledge gained.

ROOF: How does the referral feature work? Can anybody post a referral or
respond to one?

JONATHAN: Yes, any member can post or bid for a referral.

ROOF: Are there other social networks for realtors and, if so, how is
Active Rain different (better!)?

JONATHAN: here are a ton of web 2.0 websites or products for real estate
agents. Integrating web 2.0 marketing tactics into a real estate
agents marketing repitoure is extremely important in this day and age.
Investing the time to learn about web 2.0 businesses and how to
utilize them in your business is something that every forward thinking
real estate agent should be doing; ActiveRain is a good place to do

1 comment:

Jesse said...

Hey, your "Time" article really does give you traffic!

-Jesse in Denver