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Will Realtor.com be Required to be a VOW? Should It?

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Baseball and Real Estate

I don’t particularly care for baseball, but I appreciate a level playing field.

Doubtful due to their exclusive contract with the NAR, but one has to wonder … why does Realtor.com get to play by different rules than the Realtors supplying their most valuable content?

This recent article from >Inman was striking, if only for its boldness (bolding mine):

He said Move is also boosting its investment in content, and is focused on its relationships with MLSs to use more sold data and expand Realtor.com’s existing capabilities that allow consumers to see home values in relationship to other properties.

Move.com positioning

Move has begun positioning itself as a source of expertise and tools for generating and managing leads through Realtor.com, Top Producer, blogging and social networking.

To sell more agents and brokers on Top Producer products, Move is integrating its Top Producer and Realtor.com sales forces. In the past, an events team that puts on more than 150 events a year for real estate professionals has sold only Realtor.com services. Recently, they’ve begun pitching Top Producer as well, “creating what has effectively become a more consultative sales approach,” Berkowitz said.

“I don’t care where the leads come from, we want to help them manage leads anywhere in the cycle — that’s where I see this industry going,” Berkowitz said in a follow-up interview.

What a great idea!

Display sold data in a way that is consumer-friendly, that adds value to your site and creates a sticky, valuable consumer experience.

Wait a minute…

My first thought as a Realtor and partner in a brokerage upon reading the above article was, “I want to do that too!” My second thought is – why do they play by such different rules than Realtors?

And AVMs, too?!

It’s funny that many Realtors have spent time discrediting Zillow’s AVMs but rarely is a peep heard about Realtor.com doing almost the exact same thing.

Why this is troubling

The relationship that NAR has with Move/Realtor.com is troubling for (at least) one reason – regular old, run-of-the-mill Realtors have to abide by some remarkably rigid regulations in order to display sold data, among other things.

Why the different rules?

NAR is enabling Realtor.com/Move.com to compete against NAR members – the ones who are generating the data that allows Realtor.com to be profitable – whether via ads or traffic or “upsell” opportunities to the Realtor members.

Lamentably, the members are the ones allowing this to happen. Our collective complacency, combined with a general ignorance about the contract that allows Move to operate Realtor.com, is a recipe for disaster, if not an unfair playing field.

Answer these three questions:

1 – Would you ever sign a lifetime contract – for anything?

Homestore signed an exclusive lifetime deal with the National Association of Realtors in 1996. Under the agreement, Homestore operates the NAR’s Realtor.com official Web site, which includes home listings from real estate agents nationwide. The company’s previous agreement called for Homestore to pay the NAR a 15 percent royalty on the revenue it earned through Realtor.com.

2 – Does the NAR/Move/Realtor.com partnership/relationship seem anti-competitive to you?

3 – If the answer to #2 is no, why not? If yes, what are you willing to do about it?

My proposed solution – Realtor.com needs to stop with the games and play by the same rules as everybody else – and work to earn Realtors’ business in the way that Cyberhomes, Zillow and Trulia are – provide value for their customers – from a level playing field.


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Dad, Husband, Charlottesville Realtor, real estate Blogger, occasional speaker - Inman Connects, NAR Conferences - based in Charlottesville, Virginia. A native Virginian, I graduated from VMI in 1998, am a third generation Realtor (since 2001) and have been "publishing" as a real estate blogger since January 2005. I've chosen to get involved in Realtor Associations on the local, state & national levels, having served on the NAR's RPR & MLS groups. Find me in Charlottesville, Crozet and Twitter.

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26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Roberta Murphy

    August 18, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Applause, Jim Duncan!

    I find myself in the uncomfortable position of both paying Realtor.com a small fortune each month–and competing against them in search engine rankings as well.

    Oddly, both Trulia and Zillow offer agents tremendous free exposure. Far more so than Realtor.com

  2. Ken Brand

    August 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Here’s my beef.

    We/you/us/our agents provide all meat and potato content, Realtor.com garnishes the dish with gee-gaws and sprigs of green…all this to attract more buyers. So far so good.

    Then it gets bitter, ironic and moronic, Realtor.com sez, “hey look at all this traffic, it’s awesome. Wanna a slice? Dear agent, all you have to do is pay us big fat fees and we’ll enhance your site and share some of the benefits that your own listings created.”

    It’s the biggest rip-off around…or at least one of em. It makes me ill. We provide the most important part for free and then it’s repackaged and sold back to us. I know, I know, the additional exposure is great for sellers, yada, yada, but our own association should come up with a way to make the goodies at least as affordable as 3rd party competitors.

    So, my friends, what is the solution? Good question. My lame, this is what I do now solution, tell Realtor.com they can pound-sand, I’ not buying there BS add-ons or their Top Producer solution.

    My 13 cents.

  3. Laurie Manny

    August 18, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    It’s really easy. Cut them off. Stop paying them.

    This is a service that was once offered to Realtor’s as a part of their dues. They now charge exorbitant fees, over and above your dues, and run a shabby service.

    Their relationship with Top Producer and their proximity to the leads is beyond frightening.

    Cut them both off. Many of us have done so already. You really don’t need either of them. There are viable alternatives to Top Producer that are far more functional and work better.

    Want to know what happens when you don’t pay Realtor.com? They still publish your listings but they send any leads to your broker.

    How does your broker handle the incoming realtor.com leads? Mine refers them into the office for a 25% fee to agents who want them.

  4. Linsey

    August 18, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    I may have taken my frustration a bit far by referring to one of Realtor.com’s sales guys as a ‘Tool’ on Twitter. Not proud of myself, but satisfying at the time.

    Ditto on everything said already. I told Realtor.com that I would no longer be paying. The response from the sales dude was that I was essentially a fool for missing all that great buyer traffic. Huh?

    The real irony is that as more and more agents say ‘no’ to the costs and quit enhancing their listings, the quality of their content diminishes. Already, I find that serious buyers quickly move on from that site to those that provide real, meaningful, thorough information. What’s the old adage, ‘Content is king.’ When we quit paying them to provide OUR content, maybe they will tune in.

  5. Madison real estate

    August 18, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    I subscribed to enhanced listings at Realtor.com twice for one year each time, several years apart. Took me getting burned twice to learn that I wasn’t getting any leads off their site and probably never would. If I’d relied on Realtor.com to sell me back my own info, i’d have starved to death long ago! If they want to send me leads for non-enhanced listings, that’s fine cuz I’m the principle broker! Figured out any other way was the biggest rip-off of them all. So let’s ALL all stop paying Realtor.com to sell our listings back to us and show our clients how we create REAL, not imaginary or manufactured, value-added services.

  6. Jim Duncan

    August 19, 2009 at 6:22 am

    I like a good rant about Realtor.com as anyone, but I have a further question – should they have to play by the same rules as the rest of us?

  7. Bob

    August 19, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    “If they want to send me leads for non-enhanced listings, that’s fine cuz I’m the principle broker!”

    If you are the broker, you can do your agents a favor, while earning some serious brownie points.

    Tell your agents that any lead that comes into the broker from R.com will go straight to the listing agent at no charge. Empower your agents, save them a few bucks, and make your money off the split.

  8. Russell Shaw

    August 20, 2009 at 5:12 am

    This is another excellent post, Jim. I so appreciate you keeping this issue alive – and reminding me that I need to continue to write about this subject.

  9. John Wake

    August 20, 2009 at 5:14 am

    A lifetime contract! Gawd, NAR has been unbelievably stupid regarding all things internet.

    Anyone know what the contract really says? I’m suspicious of a 7-year old press report based on a “Move” press release. But I’m sure NAR wants to keep the issue buried and won’t volunteer any information about it.

    Nevertheless, anyone know what the contract with Move really says? A pdf of the contract would be nice for the membership to see. Is that too much to ask?

    Yeah, and a copy of that doozy of a contract from 1996 that supposedly sold, more or less, the rights to the domain name “Realtor.com” to Move’s predecessor.

  10. Joe Spake

    August 20, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Jim, thanks for this post. I will never pay realtor.com another penny. The comment that stated Zillow and Trulia and many of the other RE sites provide much more FREE exposure is right on. Here’s a little exercise: Pretend you are a consumer and visit realtor.com, trulia, zillow, front door and others. The newer sites are cutting edge and consumer friendly, while realtor.com rests on its laurels, emphasizing push-type advertising.

  11. Todd Carpenter

    August 20, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    “Nevertheless, anyone know what the contract with Move really says? A pdf of the contract would be nice for the membership to see. Is that too much to ask?”

    I will ask around to see if it can be made public. I honestly don’t know. I do know that the contract is evergreen.

    In my personal opinion, if I were a REALTOR, I would never pay Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow, or any other lead generation company a dime to compete with me online. But that’s just me.

    NAR’s near future focus is to provide tools that will help it’s members create a great user experience on their own web sites. Hopefully, the first of these tools will roll out this fall.

  12. Todd Carpenter

    August 20, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    John Wake – I was just told that all the key elements of the deal are contained in the S1 filing that is required since Move is a public company. So I guess if you or someone else wanted to dig through that, they could.

  13. Bob

    August 21, 2009 at 1:16 am

    “In my personal opinion, if I were a REALTOR, I would never pay Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow, or any other lead generation company a dime to compete with me online. But that’s just me.”

    Sage advice.

  14. Paula Henry

    August 22, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Last week I had dinner with a broker friend and his wife. We were talking about R.com. Besides our “dislike” for r.com, the other factor (and most telling) we had in common – neither of us has received a lead from R.com. He quit paying for the premium service a couple of years ago.

    So where do the leads go? I would like to know how many leads people actually receive from r.com.

    If given the same benefits as R.com. no Realtor would have to compete with them on our own listings.

    Todd – I hope we see some real change in November – I’m counting on it. And…thanks for your wise advice. If we quit allowing everyone else access, then buying back the leads and actually own the responsibility to market on our own sites, then……… we will have the freedom to operate our business more profitably.

  15. Paula Henry

    August 22, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    I like a good rant about Realtor.com as anyone, but I have a further question – should they have to play by the same rules as the rest of us?

    Yes, they should!

  16. Fred Romano

    August 23, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    We get tons of leads from Realtor.com but they all go direct to our sellers! When I was doing the “full serv” gig, I got lots of leads and turned quite a few into paying clients. It does work if you use it.

    I think if you are serious and have a bunch of listings, it’s important to not only “showcase” them for your seller, but it’s a great way to meet buyers.

  17. Lisa

    August 25, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    yes they should and I am my Chairman of the Board for our mls and we have now discontinued our mls rets feed to r.com and have now put them on our listhub list and our members can decide just like any other aggregator or vendor if they want their listings to go to r.com, not the board. Also, we had issues with the use of sold data going into Top Producer and then coming out into r.com as a market snapshot and confusion with our membership on this. We have had to ask r.com to stop doing many thing in the past, like selling ad space to non area realtor’s who were then taking those leads and referring them back to our membership and saying this broker in another board had exclusives for this zip code and our members couldn’t purchase the ad space. We cut them off then too! They did comply, but after many instances like this it is much easier to allow our membership to make that determination and to discuss with R.com their business practices. Now they get the same data as any other aggregator and our membership will be able through their IDX or VOW’s to display more information putting our members sites on the search engines.

  18. Laurie Manny

    August 25, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Lisa,

    You are amazing! Thinking for a minute here………have I ever told anybody online that they were amazing before?………I don’t think so!

    We can only hope that the rest of the industry has the best interests of the agents at heart as you obviously do.

    Thank you for pioneering!

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Business Marketing

“House has spark” – burning up the MLS with typos and other bloopers

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The year is starting a march toward its natural ending, friends…and it seems a few real estate careers may be also. This week I found some real head-scratchers in local real estate ads and the MLS.  However, I get submissions from all over the U.S., so no one is safe from the eyes of  the Blooper Scooper. Check out these blunders:

Do You Smell Smoke?

“House has spark” (Apparently your real estate career isn’t the only thing going up in smoke.)

“Big pep area in kitchen” (Is that the cookie jar where Mommy Dearest stashes her uppers?) 

“Dull Viking ovens” (Methinks there’s something in the cookie jar that will perk up those dull Vikings.)

“Large greenhose in back” (Large, naked Jolly Green Giant in yard.)

“Mush added to this house” (Was that the overflow from between your ears?)

I Think I See Flames

“Beautifully remolded guest” (Another cosmetically-altered Barbie hits the Hollywood party circuit.)

“Enjoy a drink poolslide” ( Hell, if the pool is sliding, I’ll need a whole pint of Jack.)

“Each bedroom has own bedrooom” (Hello-o-o, Alice, how are things down there in the rabbit hole?)

“Separate pod to build GH” (That should please my pea-sized buyers.)

“Play room for the kiss” (Something tells me this is the back seat of a ’67 Chevy.)

Still Smoldering…

“Ideal for gusts” (That’s great…if you want to live in a wind sock.)

“Impaccably detailed” (Incredibly challenged)

“Stylish pewder room” (Try burning a match.)

“Stone pillars flake driveway” (Flakey agent got stoned in driveway.)

Nothing But Embers (This Week’s Fave):

“From a bygone error” (You have just written your own epitaph.)

 

 

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Point & Purpose

What makes a top producer in real estate?

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What makes a top producer?

Stop and think for a few minutes about who the top producers are in your market?

Ok, now think about what they doing that has allowed them to continue to consistently produce in a down market, when everyday REALTORS are throwing in the towel.

Every day I scan the MLS to see, what has sold, what is active, and what went under contract (I assume that is something most agents do every day.)

Over and over again the same names pop up as the listing agent with the home that sold or the actual buying agent that sold the home.

Teams

Except for one agent in my area, all the top producers have teams. Now it may be a two person, husband and wife team or a well oiled team with a team leader, several assistants, a listing coordinator or a closing coordinator. But, they all have HELP.

In my area, the names that keep popping up are on Teams. I believe it is virtually impossible to be a top producer without help. Well, you could do it alone but if you do how is that effecting time with your family? Realistically how many transactions can you juggle and give good service?

Running a Business

The second thing I notice about those top producers is the fact that they treat their business like a business. Real Estate to them is not just selling a house, but something they brand, allocate resources for, grow and manage. Not only are they thinking of ways to grow their business but they also thinking of the future and how to sell it down the road.

I remember being told by a entrepreneur friend of mine years ago, “all businesses are built to be sold.”

Far to many REALTORS, think of Real Estate as a job they do and someday when they retire then all the hard work of creating and nurturing relationships they have built is gone. (I’m outta here)

Focused and Positive

One other observation I have observed with top producers is they are focused and positive. I never see them “hanging out at the office”, or attending broker opens, or really for that matter, serving much at all on their local boards. Oh there are a few, but really very few.

Finally, I don’t see many top producers in my market on Twitter, Facebook, Empire Avenue or other social media sites during the day. I don’t see them at every conference known to man around the country.

What I do see is they work everyday, on their business and in their business.

How ‘bout you?

Think of the top REALTORS in your market, what characteristics do you see?

Flickr Photo Credit

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Business Marketing

“New bd pans inc” – Making a Splash on the MLS

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I have two things to say this week: 1. When you drink, you can’t think. 2. When you drink you can’t- … uh, what was I saying? Oh, yes – the MLS.  It was so full of bloopers this week that I am led to conclude that happy hour started Monday and never stopped. Read these and tell me if it is any wonder I was driven to throw back a few martinis myself:

Booze ‘N’ Fools

“Free membership to gin inc” (It seems someone else beat us to it, Martini Mary.)

“Grab now use imagination” (That’s what Arnold said to his housekeeper.)

“House has new edition” (Agent lacks erudition.)

“Babblying broke runs in back” (Bumbling buffoon runs amuck.)

“Drop by for cocktail ho” (Oh, is the Sunset Strip for sale?)

Puff ‘N’ Stuff

“Near Sacramento airpot” (I believe his name is Jerry Brown.)

“Claw me for selling” (I’m too busy clawing my eyes out over your spelling.)

“Reduction on mid-century ner Holywod” (Another mid-sixties porn star is looking for work.)

“We can sake your home” (Can I get fried rice with my sake?)

Proof or Goof

“Nice streem” (Said Grandma to Grandpa after his diaper  exploded.)

“Nice for dog kids” (Uh, they’re called ‘puppies,” pal.)

“New bd pans included” (Thank you, Nurse Nancy – can you warm those first?)

“Good stable in neighborhood.” (Have you contacted Mary and Joseph?)

“Drawing for plasma” (Is this a blood-bank?)

And This Week’s Winner Is:

“Good school in areola” (Thanks for keeping me abreast of things.)

PROOF OR GOOF, FRIENDS – I’M WATCHING EWE 🙂

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