Marking a win in Move, Inc.’s column, Washington State Superior Court Judge Barbara Linde has granted a preliminary injunction in the case of Move, Inc. and the National Association of REALTORS® et al. vs. Zillow, Inc. and Errol Samuelson et al.
On March 5th of this year, Zillow announced that Errol Samuelson, former President of realtor.com and Chief Strategy Officer at Move, Inc. became their new Chief Industry Development Officer on the same day he resigned from Move, Inc. without notice.
Samuelson had a long-standing appointment with Steve Berkowitz, CEO at Move, Inc. on March 6th to review his past and future goals where he could have resigned in person, but instead, he did so over the phone during an investor meeting that required Berkowitz’s attendance.
Move quickly promoted Samuelson’s number two, Curt Beardsley to fill his shoes, and days later, it was announced that Beardsley too, had accepted a gig at Zillow. Both figures left on the heels of Trulia announcing that they had recruited John Whitney, the VP of ListHub (a Move company).
We asked 12 pointed questions of Samuelson which summarize the contentious resignation. Those questions remain unanswered.
Samuelson misappropriated trade secrets
Judge Linde has found Samuelson to have misappropriated trade secrets by acquiring it using improper means, and by copying it without authorization. It also enjoins Samuelson, a former Move employee, from using and sharing any trade secret and confidential information gained while employed at Move, Inc., and from specific activities relating to his new position.
The injunction prohibits activities relating to obtaining direct data feeds of listing data, prohibits activities relating to developing contact relationship management (CRM) tools, and prohibits activities which would circumvent ListHub.
News Corp performing well, led by 35% growth at Move, Inc.
More buyers will use the Internet than agents and even the home buyers using agents still use the Internet to supplement their home search. As the old saying goes, “It’s good to be king.” And right now, News Corp finds itself in the enviable position of being “the world’s largest player” in online real estate.
More buyers will use the Internet than agents and even the home buyers using agents still use the Internet to supplement their home search.
As the old saying goes, “It’s good to be king.” And right now, News Corp, which in November 2014 purchased Move Inc., which in turn operates Realtor.com for the National Association of Realtors, finds itself in the enviable position of being “the world’s largest player” in online real estate.
Internet use on the increase
Lest you think online real estate is some pseudo term that looks impressive on paper but nothing in real life than think again. According to the National Association of Realtors, “nearly 74% of home buyers polled answered that they would use the Internet as part of their home search.” Think about the significance of this in terms of growth: More buyers will use the Internet than agents and even the home buyers using agents still use the Internet to supplement their home search. NAR points out further that “while online real estate research sites have not put real estate agents out of business, they have taken viewers away from the old traditional sources of information.”
This increased use of the internet as a real estate tool has fueled the growth of Realtor.com and as a result explains an article in businesswire.com, “News Corp is evolving rapidly into a more digital and increasingly global company with a diverse revenue mix that will drive long-term growth in profits and shareholder returns.”
News Corp Chief Executive Officer Robert Thomson proudly remarked that “The Company is, by most measures, the world’s largest player in digital real estate, a position certainly enhanced by the rapid growth in the U.S. of realtor.com.”
To the victor goes the spoils
News Corp said that the growth was driven by 57% growth in mobile users. News Corp also said that Realtor.com’s traffic accelerated in January to 50 million monthly unique users, or 34% growth year-over-year.
More specifically, in the second quarter, Move’s revenues increased 35% on a stand-alone basis to $87 million from $65 million in the prior year.
Not only that, based on Move’s internal data, average monthly unique users of realtor.com’s web and mobile sites for the quarter grew 37% year-over-year to approximately 39 million, which was driven by 57% growth in mobile users. Further, traffic accelerated in January to 50 million monthly unique users, or 34% growth year-over-year.
Coulda been a contender
Depending on which side of the river you want to water your horse, Zillow (which has been Realtor.com’s main competition for like, ever) claims that it actually represents more than 70% market share of all mobile-exclusive visitors to the real estate category. This despite a July 2015 report from Barclay’s that states Zillow is experiencing slow traffic growth due to a “function of audience saturation and new competition.
Comparatively, recent comScore data also showed that Realtor.com’s traffic in June 2015 surpassed Trulia’s traffic for the first time in two years.
Superficially it seems like tit-for-tat, but the truth is, competition is good for the real estate marketplace and for the time being, realtor.com is wearing the crown.
For the first time ever, realtor.com will pipe in third party real estate agent ratings and reviews
Realtor ratings is a hot button issue, but NAR has set standards, and realtor.com announces how they’re meeting, perhaps exceeding those standards.
Finding an agent is a big challenge for consumers, and offering some semblance of accuracy in ratings and reviews is a tremendous challenge for real estate search sites – a challenge that has a long, convoluted history. Today, realtor.com is announcing their next move, confident that they’re appealing to both consumers and industry insiders, in yet another push to assert the superiority of their offering.
They’ve inked agreements to integrate content from Quality Service Certification, Inc. (QSC), RealSatisfied, and Testimonial Tree to agent profiles on realtor.com®, becoming the first online real estate website to offer a consolidated view of reliable information for consumers researching potential agents online.
Adhering to stringent policies
The information will appear on realtor.com’s revamped agent profiles and ratings and reviews system, offering very specific data. In fact, they’re the first to base these standards on the National Association of Realtors (NAR) guidelines for professional evaluation, established last year. The ultimate goal is to insure that ratings and reviews are by clients who have closed a transaction with a particular Realtor only – they say they’re the only real estate search portal to offer this.
One source tells us that the realtor.com policies were so stringent, that it was actually a struggle to find any vendors that met their standards.
Separately, the system allows a recommendation section which can be provided by colleagues, friends, and so forth. In a statement, realtor.com states, “The combined system provides a standard for transaction-based information while allowing all agents to showcase their professionalism.”
The industry has demanded a solution
“Buyers and sellers of homes rely on an agent with one of the biggest investments in their lives, and they spend inordinate amounts of time doing their due diligence to select someone they can feel confident about,” said Tapan Bhat, chief product officer at Move. “It’s important for them to have a resource they can trust – one that offers consistent quantifiable metrics around an agent’s performance and that provides a clear and reliable portrayal of the qualitative aspects as well.”
“Brokers and agents have consistently communicated that they want and need a solution that allows them to easily syndicate the ratings and recommendations they collect as part of their customer satisfaction programs,” said Jeff Turner, president of RealSatisfied. “From the very beginning, realtor.com® has supported this notion and their decision to continue to support this as part of their new platform is a testament to their forward-thinking approach to agent performance evaluation data. We are proud to be a part of this solution.”
Leveraging the abundance of data
In a press release, the company notes, “Leveraging the abundance of reliable data collected by trusted affiliates while carefully managing the integrity of the new solution was no small challenge. The integration of third-party, transaction-based ratings and reviews content into the realtor.com® system is made possible by matching the external data to the criteria established by realtor.com® for display where possible.”
QSC has decades of experience as a proactive performance management platform that helps brokers spot agent performance issues early. Realtor.com calls the affiliation a “natural fit,” having over 1.5 million surveys in the field to date – today more than 95 percent of buyers and sellers are ‘satisfied or very satisfied’ with agents participating in QSC’s program, including 84 percent that are very satisfied, compared to a national average of approximately 58 percent.
“QSC was the first to offer consumers reliable information to make better, more informed decisions by collecting feedback only from real customers and after every closed transaction,” said Kevin Romito, president and COO of QSC. “Through this agreement, realtor.com® will provide millions of consumers access to a level of accuracy and transparency not available anywhere else, and for participating brokers and agents, this will be a powerful differentiator and competitive advantage.”
Realtor.com®’s recent agreement with Testimonial Tree will enable testimonials collected by real estate professionals to be integrated within recommendations at realtor.com®, and adds a social element to agents’ profiles.
R.com expects this to increase leads for agents
As credible and reliable content makes its way onto the realtor.com® profile platform over the coming months from these partners and through realtor.com®’s built-in evaluation system, the company expects to see a boost in traffic, engagement and high quality leads for agents.
“The resulting virtuous circle of visibility, combined with the reliability of the content we are gathering, fulfills our vision for this solution: to meet the needs of the consumer for a trustworthy resource while addressing the complexities of the industry which we are uniquely positioned to understand,” said Bhat. “We are delivering a solution that works – not just today, but for the years ahead.”
STORY UPDATE: It is important to note that Real Satisfied and Testimonial Tree are feeding the recommendations section, and QSC is feeding the ratings and reviews.
Have you seen realtor.com’s aggressively anti-Zillow ad campaign?
For years, real estate listings sites have fought about who’s more accurate, but realtor.com is taking the fight to consumers to help them understand the urgency of data accuracy.
While many brands allude gently to their competitors, or simply call themselves the best, realtor.com is going for their competitor’s jugular, tapping into the real estate industry’s concern regarding listing accuracy, presenting it to consumers in a visually meaningful way.
Today, the company wrapped a real home for sale in Austin, Texas, leaving a giant blank spot on the block, asserting that if you only search Zillow, you may be missing out on y our dream home. The experential ad is part of a broader, ballsy campaign wherein realtor.com appears hellbent to finally illustrate the value of accuracy in listing data.
Drawing attention to accuracy
Realtor.com says that their campaign is based on statistical analysis from October, which estimates that they have 20 percent more MLS-listed for-sale homes than Zillow. They note that the gap is much bigger in some markets than others.
To further illustrate their “listings advantage,” they’ve offered some data to back up their claims:
“Buying a home is one of the biggest commitments many of us will ever make, so it’s not a decision we enter into lightly,” said Nate Johnson, chief marketing officer for realtor.com®. “This advertising campaign draws attention to the fact that, unlike our competitors, realtor.com® provides the most comprehensive view of MLS-listed, for-sale homes.”
Digital and static ads will also run
The home will remain wrapped through Saturday, and they’ll also be running these digital ads:
In addition to the digital ads, static ads on major sites and platforms from Google and Curbed to Spotify and Twitter. The ads feature headlines such as:
- “There are more homes for sale than Zillow’s showing you. Realtor.com® – search more homes for sale”
- “If you’re looking to buy your perfect home, Zillow might not have it. Realtor.com® – search more homes for sale”
- “More homes on realtor.com® means more homes that could be yours. Realtor.com® – search more homes for sale”
If you thought changing their logo to red was aggressive, we’re betting this is yet another move away from the soft, friendly brand. Under new ownership, they’re clearly serious about connecting with consumers and planting their flag.
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