We are planning to launch a web site for real estate ads. Actually, it's a web site where real estate agents can post properties(houses, flat, land) to sell or to rent.
Then other people can look for properties available on the platform. Basically, it's something like zillow.
Now, we have almost ended the 1st version the code powering this platform. But, for now, even if we have contacted some real estate agents, we still have no properties on the platform.
So, should we release now and let real estate agents post their data progressively, or should we wait for real estate agents to post a significant amount of properties so the product will show up to the world ready-to-use?
Thanks for your help.
Don't wait. Ever.
Go through your newspaper and post whatever you find there. Go to other sites and post their postings (with full contact info, so they cannot claim you somehow did them harm). If you are worried about legalities, make up listings and post them on your site. Contact three real estate agents and give them the service for free. What the hell, give it away to everyone for free for the first three months or whatever. Do anything you need to do to populate your site.
Go. The world does not belong to those who wait.
EDIT : Brian's point about the legality of taking some listings from other sources and posting them on your site is well-taken. I personally would not care to do it (and it does not "feel wrong" to me), since everyone wins (more exposure for the advertisers). Anyway that listing up there of things you could do is a "version 0", 30-second brain dump. you should of course actually think about the possibilities, risks, etc more thoroughly than any third person would.
I agree with aspects of what @gmagana is saying, but not everything.
Don't wait to launch...Consider it a soft-launch to work things out, and once the site has enough content then you do your marketing blitz or whatever you have planned. Get the site out there, and get eyes on it as soon as possible.
I have an issue with just grabbing random listings you find in a local paper, or just making up listings. This seems wrong, and while may not be in anyway illegal, if it feels wrong, it probably is, and you don't want to end up creating a bad experience for even one user if you can avoid it.
I do like the idea of contacting Real Estate agents, and offering the service to them for free for 3-6 months in order to build the content on your site. Once again, this gets people using the site, and brings customers to the site, which is ultimately what you want, even if you aren't making money off of them initially.
You're in a bit of a catch 22.
I agree that you shouldn't wait to launch, but you need to find a way to get a critical mass of both listings and potential buyers and renters as soon as possible. What distinguishes your site from the competition? Why will agents list on your site? Why will buyers/renters come visit your site?
What is the scope of your site? Are you targeting real estate around the globe? a whole country? a specific region?
Would it work for you to focus on a small region to get started? It should be much easier to get a significant amount of listings for a small area and then add other regions later. If your site can be the complete listing site for one small region, that would be a competitive edge over other sites that have a broader reach.
Also, don't be afraid of the "Beta" label. I think average web users are getting used to that and know what it means. Google has proven that millions of people will use a Beta site. They have also mastered the art of using a limited access beta to create huge buzz around a new site. Take Google Wave for instance. I still don't really know what I'll ever use it for, but since everyone needed to be invited to the site, I asked a friend for an invite and went to check it out. Of course, they're Google, so something like that may not work for you, but I think it's something to consider. Does your site have a compelling enough story to launch as a limited, invite-only, beta?