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“We don’t want to be part of the transaction,” says Mark Tepper, senior vice president of sales and marketing at HomeFinder.com. “Our goal is to facilitate the transaction and make the agent’s job easier. We are a marketing organization. We want to get consumers to come to our site and then get them to brokers.”

Andy Woolley, vice president of Homes Media Solutions, explains his company’s business model: “We provide advertising and solutions to help brokers communicate with their customers. The only interaction we have with consumers is to convert them into a lead for our advertisers.” Woolley asserts that brokers and agents provide a level of local expertise that can’t be replaced by technology. “It’s a massive leap from our technology to providing the local market expertise and personal services brokers do. We have a completely different role in the process.”

The reality is, most brokers say, that real estate portals have given them good exposure, and that the arrangements they have with portals largely support their businesses. Still, others grumble that certain portals are pricing REALTORS® out of the market, using information that REALTORS® actually own.

What can real estate brokers do to protect their continued value in the real estate transaction? Experts recommend the following:

1. Be educated about portals and how they affect your business.
Assuming a brokerage decides to list with a portal, it’s important to consider how and where you want to spend your advertising dollars. For example, are you comfortable with the advertising practices of the portal(s)? Does the company prominently display unwanted information, such as ads from competitors, on your listings? Some sites, such as Homes.com, don’t display any competitive agent or broker information on the listing detail page, while others do. What options does the portal offer to enhance listings? Have these been effective for you? If you’re investing in enhanced listings, tracking metrics is important.

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