For anyone not familiar with the vast expanse that is the state of Texas, just driving from east to west on I-10 can take you 13 and a half hours, according to Microsoft Streets and Trips. The state offers 268,820 square miles of land and is home to some of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation, all in one state. It’s big. Really big.
The Houston Association of Realtors (HAR), led by Bob Hale, has set out to create a consumer facing website, featuring listings across the entire state, and they’re asking all Texas Realtors to display their listings on the new site, Homes and Realtors, another play on the HAR acronym.
According to their beta site, currently staged on blogs.har.com/ and being referred to as “HAR.com” (which is presently used as the homepage of the Houston Association of Realtors and the consumer-facing Houston MLS search portal), it is an “industry-friendly website that works to connect consumers with REALTORS®.”
They are rounding up brokers’ listings from across the state to be featured on the site, and 11 regional pages will feature listings hosted and promoted by HAR.com. The company says there will be no cost to display listings and leads are sent only to the listing agent and listing broker, and there will be no competing ads on the listings, both of which address the common complaint against third party sites who sell leads to and advertise for multiple agents, not necessarily the listing agent.
The site offers no FSBO listings, no re-syndication, it posts re-direct links, provides metrics, refreshes daily, and claims timely support and timely listing removal, again directly addressing common complaints against third party listing sites.
So how will they pull this all together?
If you’re imagining Bob Hale on a roadtrip across Texas with a clipboard marking off every broker, that’s not how it works. Although he and his team have and will spend a tremendous amount of time appealing directly to brokers, the key to this statewide portal is through ListHub, owned by Move, Inc. They say they are the first ListHub Publisher joining the network as a Real Estate Network (REN) Publisher, and will offer data accuracy by following the strict REN rules, available on the ListHub site. This means that brokers may opt to syndicate by check-marking a box in the backend of their ListHub account.
One source tells us that “the site is to be powered by Move, the ink is dry.” In the future, HAR.com will feature a “powered by Move” badge.
Luke Glass, VP & GM of ListHub clarifies, “The website is fully operated by Houston. There is no “powered by Move” banner on the site. We only deliver the listing data for those brokers who have opt-in.”
Glass added, “I think the confusion is because we are powering syndication/reporting for Houston brokers. A new product being rolled out for Houston brokers specifically is a new dashboard and reporting system to control and track their syndication (Zillow, Trulia, Homes.com, etc…). This new dashboard and reporting within Houston will be HAR branded with a “powered by ListHub” moniker. Totally separate deal from HAR becoming a destination for data.”
Currently, the beta site boasts HAR.com traffic, as it attracts millions of visitors each month, but the math is a little fuzzy, given that it is currently the Association’s site and a local portal. The traffic will surely grow as the listings grow to other cities, but it should be noted that the traffic claims don’t address the product of the future, rather of the past, both of which appear to have the same destination URL.
The timing is complex, because there is a movement gaining steam wherein independent brokers are pulling their listings out of all syndication, particularly in Austin – data that the HAR.com team needs. Time will tell how they will appeal to the brokers who have sworn off syndication and are rallying for others to follow suit.
Praise for HAR.com
Mark Willis, CEO of Keller Williams Realty said, “As the largest real estate franchise in Texas, we’re thrilled that our associates have this new opportunity to reach prospective homebuyers on HAR.com. We’re even more excited that Bob Hale and HAR are doing it right – ensuring that all leads go directly to the listing agent.”
Krisstina Wise, CEO of GoodLife Companies (which stopped syndicating to Trulia in 2012 for their sending leads on their listings elsewhere) noted, “I plan to add all our goodLife Realty listings to HAR.com as another place to expose our listings for our sellers, but that doesn’t require a third-party syndicator who doesn’t serve the agent, or the consumer for that matter. I especially love this because all of my listing calls will come back to me, the listing agent, so that I/we can offer the consumer the information they want on our sellers’ homes. This is what I call a win-win.”
This story was originally published on AGBeat on March 25, 2014.