Free Startup Idea Fridays: Incorruptible Real Estate Reviews

This is my latest post in my Free Startup Ideas series.

I've been coming up with business ideas since my earliest childhood memories. Most of them have been absolutely terrible. Some of them have been decent. And now I'm going to give away some of my best ones for free.

Am I really give these ideas away with zero expectation of return? Absolutely.

  1. Ideas are worthless. It's all about execution. If you want to take one of these ideas and run with it, do it. I'll even be happy to give you a brain dump with all of my notes on the idea as I’ve been thinking about most of them for a while.
  2. I take coffee meetings all the time with people looking for startup ideas. Perhaps one of these ideas will help them spark a new idea of their own.
  3. I want to get these ideas out of my head to clear some of my brain's RAM. That way I can come up with new and better ideas.
  4. I like giving things away and planting seeds.

Without further ado...

Incorruptible Real Estate Reviews

Elevator Pitch: Everyone is approaching the real estate market the same way — make better listings. The problem here is that listings are marketing material that are fully doctored up to do one thing and one thing only: sell. Incorruptible Real Estate Reviews provides us with authentic reviews from people in the know about a specific real estate listing.

Backstory: I can't think of one pleasurable experience that has to do with real estate. It's all full of pain and it's all designed to part buyers, sellers and renters from their money for the good of the middle men: agents, brokerages, mortgage financiers, lawyers. Every step of the way represents misery and the departure of your dollars. Sometimes these middlemen add value. Most of the time they do whatever they can to keep the good times rolling.

A few months ago, Jason Calacanis wrote a post for a “Request for Prototype” for someone to build brutal real estate reviews. He wants to fund a company who hires journalists to write reviews of properties that are listed on the market and allow people to comment on these reviews in order to weed out the shit listings. It's a solid idea and naturally, it got me thinking. So, this week’s startup idea is a remix of that.

Let me first say that I generally do not enjoy hearing pitches for a startup idea that is "this for that." Anything that is Uber for this or Airbnb for that are typically not that interesting. It is generally better to let people make their own associations than to force it upon them. However, for the sake of this post, for brevity and because I’m not trying to market this to anyone, let's call this idea:

Trip Advisor for Real Estate

Every property has a story. Some of it is told through photos, descriptions, financials and public records. Websites like Zillow and Trulia do a good job of surfacing that information. That information can be selective and manipulated. We need brutally honest feedback. No sugar coating. No makeup. Just raw, honest information.

Our goal is to gather the most comprehensive database of authentic property reviews we can get our hands on. We can accomplish this by tapping into a few different sources with actual knowledge about the property who aren’t trying to sell us anything.

  • An army of journalistic reviewers: this one is straight out of Jason’s post. I like it, I think it will work, but it will take a while to get to scale. These are hired guns who go to every open house on the market. They will write comprehensive and objective reviews of the listing, the building, and the surrounding area. Essentially, everything they can find out from an outsiders perspective.
  • Past tenants: where the journalist will be amazing as an outsider, we need real intel from insiders. That’s why we’re going to first turn to people that have previously lived (or even currently live) in a listing. We’ll settle for in the same building or even across the street if that’s the best we can do. These people have spent meaningful time in this particular location and can tell us what no one else can. The average NYC resident has lived in 3.5 apartments during their time in the city. They’ve got wonderful stories to tell, and we want to hear them.
  • Borrowing from the internet: this one definitely needs some more research, might fall into the grey area of some Terms of Service and may not be that useful. Ideally, we can borrow some reviews from other sites which may or may not be useful for what we’re trying to accomplish. One example is Airbnb. People leave many reviews of properties on the site — some of it will be useful about our particular property, some will be useless about the host or other nonsense. We can offer to link back to the Airbnb listing as a thank you if it helps. There are many other sites that may be useful in this quest. Again, I don’t know if this make sense, but it’s worth exploring as a way to get some initial intel into our database and get the ball rolling.

There you have it. A bit of a remix of a very solid idea by Jason. I love it because it falls into one of my major startup themes — transparency. This transparency is going to allow people to make much better decisions about where they live and cut through the incredibly thick layer of marketing that clouds the real estate market.