NAR will consider giving realtor.com more leeway to compete with rivals

Board urged to 'Cut the chains' and 'Let them soar" at special meeting in July

WASHINGTON — The National Association of Realtors’ board of directors will hold a special meeting in July to explore whether to give realtor.com operator Move Inc. more freedom to compete with other websites like Zillow and Trulia.

“Cut the chains. Let them soar,” said Danny Frank, a NAR director and chairman of the Houston Association of Realtors, before today’s vote approving the special board meeting. “Let’s make this happen soon.”

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The special meeting will take place July 23, 24 or 25th in Chicago, and NAR will cover directors’ expenses.

The resolution passed today states that the NAR leadership team will work with Move and its subsidiary RealSelect to develop recommendations for consideration by NAR’s board “to enrich and broaden the user experience” on NAR’s official website, realtor.com. The recommendations will be presented to the board at the closed meeting in July.

Briefing Realtor association executives Wednesday, NAR CEO Dale Stinton said the information available to consumers on realtor.com and third-party sites is “wildly different” because an operating agreement between NAR and Move restricts realtor.com from providing some  content that makes third-party sites popular with consumers.

NAR’s board of directors and Move can update the realtor.com operating agreement, which dates to 1996 and was last amended in 2010.

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“We (NAR leadership) ultimately do what they (the board) tell us to do or not to do. Realtor.com would look like other sites if we would let (Move) do it,” Stinton said Wednesday.

NAR and Move characterized changes made to the agreement in 2010 as having paved the way for innovation, by streamlining the process for developing improvements to realtor.com.

Some details of the Sept. 10, 2010, amendment were kept confidential, but became clear when Move announced the following year that it would run lead forms for buyer’s agents on realtor.com listing detail pages not unlike those employed by rivals Zillow and Trulia.

The “Connection for co-brokers” program, which provides perks like additional listing photos to participating brokers, proved controversial. Although brokerages can opt out of the program, last year HomeServices of America Inc. subsidiary Edina Realty Inc. announced it was pulling listings from realtor.com altogether, in part because it objected to the lead forms.

Addressing NAR’s board of directors today, Samuelson said realtor.com had “nailed” the No. 1 thing that consumers want in a real estate site: fresh and up-to-date data.

But the No. 2 thing they want is comprehensiveness. “That’s a challenge for us,” he said.

Samuelson said that less than a third of rental content (29 percent) is appearing on realtor.com “because of members’ wishes.” He noted that if he’s looking for new construction in Austin, he gets 41 properties if he goes to realtor.com, but more than 2,500 properties at New Home Source.

“We own 51 percent of that company. We could put that content on realtor.com” if members allow it, he said. “We have 17 years of history of winning and competing, but we need your help to make the site not just accurate, but comprehensive.”

Samuelson later told Inman News he was pleased by the board’s enthusiasm to improve consumer user experience on realtor.com.

“If you take what we’re already doing, especially on the technology front,” and add comprehensive content, “I think it’s going to be incredibly powerful. I’m jazzed,” he said.

Samuelson said NAR and Move were “pretty aligned” where realtor.com is concerned — they meet weekly via conference call, he said. “But I think this is going to energize the members. It’s great to have the members feeling that passion, that they have a stake in this,” he said.

He added that some Inman News articles this week had prompted calls from investors, concerned about Move’s relationship with NAR.

“We were able to explain to them the partnership has been strong, is strong,” he said.

Samuelson will be attending the special meeting in July.

This month, realtor.com announced that it’s started tracking information at the property level, allowing it to display information tied to specific properties like tax information, sale history and price changes, and collect housing data on a more frequent basis.

Move has also signed an agreement with Xceligent Inc. to bring “hundreds of thousands” of commercial listings to realtor.com by the third quarter of 2013, the companies said Wednesday.

Reporting by Inman News Associate Editor Andrea V. Brambila.


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