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Targeting Consumers, Serving REALTORS®

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by Maria Patterson

online_real_estate_searchWith the word ‘REALTOR®’ embedded in its DNA, realtor.com® was clearly born and bred in the real estate industry, for the real estate industry. And to that end, as the real estate business has evolved, so has realtor.com®. By balancing the changing demands of the modern-day real estate consumer with the needs of brokers and REALTORS®, realtor.com® is moving forward with a strategy that brings value to everyone in the real estate lifecycle—and they have the right team in place to do just that. Here, Move CEO Steve Berkowitz, ListHub Executive Vice President of Industry Platforms Luke Glass, and MOVE EVP of Sales Ray Picard, share the thought process that helped lead to a game plan where everyone wins.

Value for All
Steve Berkowitz, CEO

Maria Patterson: In the past five years, we have seen you reframe your agreement with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and also get more involved with the industry in general. How is the relationship between you, NAR, and REALTORS® overall?
Steve Berkowitz:
The relationship with NAR is in a really strong and healthy place. Support from NAR is at its highest level ever. In fact, they’re tagging all of their advertising with a call to action to go to realtor.com®. We work closely with NAR, state and local associations, brokers, REALTORS®, third-party solution providers and MLSs. We also balance REALTOR® needs with consumer needs and expectations. Frequent and transparent communication is key so that all parties are informed and understand our actions. We’re seeing more collaboration between us and all our various business partners, and as a result, we’re seeing more productive outcomes.

MP: Can you give me an example of how you balance the needs of these groups and still add value to the various constituencies?
The expanded content agreement with NAR is a good case in point. We heard encouragement from REALTORS® and NAR to keep realtor.com® competitive. Maintaining a leadership position in the online environment mandates we listen to and respond to partners, consumers, and customers. To keep buyers and sellers returning to realtor.com®, we created a more comprehensive inventory of properties and partnered with NAR, brokers, and MLSs to do so. We are the only major portal that focuses on, and provides, a value exchange with all entities in the value chain.

We conducted numerous consumer research studies that told us again and again that our audience values accuracy, timeliness, and comprehensiveness above all else. And of course, they expect this in a mobile experience as well.

Being the only national portal that updates listings every 15 minutes, removes listings immediately upon sale, and does not take FSBOs, is part of our differentiation and enormous value on the consumer front.

Once people find a home on our website or mobile apps, they can be assured it is still available for sale. We also don’t provide estimates on homes for sale since we believe REALTORS® are the best people to work with to determine the asking price. We bring the best of what data-rich online information can do and combine it with the human aspect of a REALTOR® to provide a robust and comprehensive experience; from content to connection to close.

When consumers are ready, realtor.com® connects them with a REALTOR® who can help them with the home-buying or -selling process.
REALTORS® add a tremendous amount of local and neighborhood information, and can help negotiate the best deal for the consumer. They also perform a great deal of work on behalf of consumers before, during, and after any transaction. Additionally, REALTORS® work on an ongoing basis with lobbying and advocacy to protect the homeowners’ investment in their property. Maintaining the right balance between what is good for consumers and what serves the needs of REALTORS® takes cooperation and understanding. It is our ultimate goal and we take it very seriously.

MP: Does the industry make a distinction between realtor.com® and other online aggregation websites?
More of our industry partners now understand that we support the REALTOR® brand, “their brand,” and we continue to be recognized as a better REALTOR® advocate than other sites. It’s in the interest of REALTORS® to help build a brand that is tied to being a REALTOR®. Realtor.com® is the REALTORS®’ brand in a digital world. Having the name REALTOR® positioned in the consumer’s mind as the “go to” name when buying, selling or renting is a good thing for the industry. Where can you search for homes? Through REALTORS® and realtor.com®. Who has the most accurate information and the local market expertise? We are the only site whose name is on every REALTOR® business card, so we can introduce consumers to the concept and value of a REALTOR® long before a consumer is ready to meet with one.

MP: How are you making sure this information is getting out there?
Our brand marketing campaign, Accuracy Matters, is one way we’re driving these messages home. Consumers are learning that you can search for homes on realtor.com® and then when you’re ready, contact a REALTOR® for the expertise and human touch. Algorithms, estimates and data cannot replace this human element. In fact, we supply more than 5 billion impressions for the brand name “REALTOR®” each year—something that would cost millions to duplicate by purchasing impressions in the online marketplace. We don’t want to displace REALTORS® or brokers in the transaction like other sites suggest. We know how important it is to consumers to have a professional on their side in the middle of this large transaction.

We also value the role the broker and MLSs play in the real estate ecosystem. We’ve worked together successfully as an industry in the past to provide tools and information to them and continue to enhance this value. Luke Glass can explain how.

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