The Future of Multi-Housing Marketing is Online

Douglas Pope is the co-founder of hotpads.com, a Web site that offers a map-based search for buying, selling or renting homes. Recently, PC magazine named hotpads one of the top real estate websites. Twenty-six-year-old Pope (pictured), who founded the company with his college friends, talks to MHN Online News Editor, Anuradha Kher about his site, what the housing downturn has revealed about multi-housing and why he thinks the future of multi-housing marketing is online.MHN: How did you get the idea to start this site?Pope: The founders of HotPads were college roommates at the University of Notre Dame. Following graduation we moved around a bit for our first jobs and found the rental housing search process excruciating. We founded HotPads to make the housing search process easier by building a site with a vast amount of listing content so users can see all the available options and technology that allows housing shoppers to quickly search through all of that data by real estate’s most important attribute, location.MHN: How is your site different from other free real estate listings sites?Pope: HotPads is a map-based housing search engine. We currently have over 160,000 active rental properties listed on the site. This is more than any other site out there. We also accept listing data feeds from companies in order to automate the listing creation and maintenance process, saving valuable time for property managers.MHN: How do you search for a home on the site?Pope: You can narrow by neighborhood by zooming the map into a particular area. You can click and drag the map to center it and increase your zoom using the Plus and Minus scale in the top left of the screen. You can also type the neighborhood, city, state in the locate box at the top of the map, or the search box on the homepage.MHN: What is the business model for this site?Pope: There are ads on the site. Most of them are on the listing pages as this is where a majority of our traffic is. We also have a featured listing platform that people can use to drive additional traffic to their listings. Featured listings get over-sized contrasting colored icons on the map and a preview bubble in the top right corner of the screen. MHN: Based on the activity on the site, what are some of the trends you have noticed in multifamily housing?Pope: The multifamily housing industry is starting to use the Internet more effectively than ever before. Companies are developing very engaging websites, using alternative listing services like Craigslist and HotPads, and creating data feeds to automate the listing marketing process. It is through this automation where a great deal of the Internet’s efficiencies can be reaped.MHN: Has the housing crisis affected your website? How?Pope: We have seen an increased demand for rental housing. There has also been a surge of interest for our housing market analytic tools like our Foreclosure Heat Maps and our Rent Ratio Heat Maps.MHN: What is the foreclosure maps feature on Hotpads and how does it work?Pope: The Foreclosure Heat Maps track the areas of the country that are getting hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis. Areas with the highest percentage of homes in foreclosure are color-coded red while those areas with fewer foreclosures are color-coded blue.MHN: What do you think is the future of the way in which rental multi-housing product is sold?Pope: The future of multi-housing marketing is online. In the next three years you will see whatever marketing budgets are currently left for print advertising transition online. This will allow for new innovation online but also cost saving for the multi-housing industry. You will also see a great deal more automation in the marketplace. As listing data feeds get more widely accepted/developed, property managers will be able to enter their listing data into one place and have it disseminate across all of the listing services that they employ.