New visual search for property uses Trade Me API for intuitive experience

by Alistair Helm in ,

Trade Me has launched a new visual search solution called Rummage. The website has been built jointly by Trade Me and two California based entrepreneurs Matt Inouye and Eugene Otto.

The site uses the open access API (Application Programming Interface) to present the content from Trade Me, focused entirely on images - very intuitive user experience.

This development has a number of strong components that really benefit real estate marketing. I see it as a strengthening of Trade Me’s position as the primary marketing platform for all forms of real estate in NZ. Here is my take on why I think this initiative is so relevant for real estate.


Real estate is all about images. Yes location is all-important; but reflect for a moment as to the vast majority of user experiences when searching for property for sale or rent. First they establish their chosen location and then they browse properties – image by image.

This website cleans always all the extraneous material that at this browsing stage is just not relevant – no address, no “eye-catching” headline, no factual property information. People want to browse, they want to allow a veritable wave of ideas and stimulating images pass before their eyes to allow them to start to build a shortlist.

This however highlights in my view a couple of minor shortcoming in this initial version – you need to have a “save to watchlist” button. Additionally rather than a fixed a fixed image size it would be better to allow options for larger sizes. The responsive web design adjust to smaller screens but at the same time the large view on a 1680 x 1050 just looks cluttered with 6 across.

Search criteria

An unexpected benefit of the Rummage user experience is that it seems easier in some way to refine searches by styles of property. Whilst this functionality is available on the Trade Me Property site it somehow just seems more intuitive in this form.

How I experienced this is best shown by some of the most searched for styles and categories in real estate:

Coastal property


New Home



Trade Me has opened up their API and thereby their content for others to create solutions such as this new site as well as other sites and mobile apps. In so doing they are adopting and embracing the strategy of being a platform, rather than just a destination website. This is the new ambition of the leaders in digital marketing – platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Amazon. Platforms are the new version of portals – comprehensive content allowed to be accessible wherever and whenever and in whatever device as required by users. Platforms are the big winners online.

All such platforms rely on a read and write API in this way they can as a platform strengthen the relationship with their customers -  in this case their key content customers being real estate companies and agents who seek to provide their listings on behalf of vendors with the largest and most targeted audience possible.

Rather than Trade Me having to build multiple solutions they merely have to be the core hub upon which the real estate industry relies for optimal marketing. In this way the competitive arena becomes less of a fight between two competing real estate websites, and more about a single specialist real estate website matched up against an aggregation of consumer focused solutions all pointing their enquiries back to Trade Me and on thereby onto the appropriate agent.