With NAR’s blessing, realtor.com is on the hunt for its first chief economist

Zillow and Trulia's in-house experts have become media fixtures

Realtor.com, the official consumer website of the National Association of Realtors, is on the hunt for what will be the first chief economist in its 18-year history.

NAR had previously barred Move Inc., which operates realtor.com under an exclusive license with NAR that dates back to 1996, from hiring a chief economist to interpret housing market trends.

Economist image via Shutterstock.
Economist image via Shutterstock.

The trade group employs a stable of analysts, including NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, who help Realtors interpret housing trends for their clients.

“As the real estate industry and our relationship with realtor.com continue to evolve, both organizations agreed that two voices are stronger than one,” NAR spokeswoman Sara Wiskerchen told Inman News.

The hire will give the portal a seat at the real estate media table now occupied by Zillow and Trulia, who have had chief economists since 2009 and 2011, respectively.

Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries and Trulia’s Jed Kolko have become high-profile sources in media stories and housing forums, which gives their firms added exposure and credibility with consumers.

“I don’t think NAR wants to be (one-upped),” Pearland, Texas-based Realtor and NAR board member Danny Frank told Inman News last July, when the prohibition on realtor.com having a chief economist became public. “They are afraid that Move will show them up!”

Move had been lobbying NAR for years behind closed doors for the right to install a chief economist, industry sources have told Inman News. However, the “historic” changes to the realtor.com operating agreement that NAR signed off on in July were not related to Move’s ability to now pursue a chief economist.

“Our decision to hire a real estate chief economist at realtor.com is not related to changes in the Operating Agreement, but rather the result of conversations between Move and NAR about the best way to increase consumer awareness of the Realtor brand, and emphasize that Realtors and realtor.com are the most accurate, comprehensive and timely source of market information,” Move Chief Strategy Officer and realtor.com President Errol Samuelson told Inman News.

Having a chief economist could help realtor.com get the most out of a consumer-focused marketing effort it launched last March. The “Find It First” marketing campaign is aimed at helping the portal regain some of the consumer Web market share realtor.com lost to Zillow and Trulia over the past year. Move is set to launch its first-ever national TV campaign this month.

NAR declined to comment further on its change of heart.

An advertisement for the position posted to LinkedIn’s job board in early January showed 15 applicants.

“Move’s and realtor.com’s chief economist will be responsible for developing and translating real estate data and trends into consumer and industry insights in an engaging and easy-to-digest way for a variety of audiences,” a portion of the job description reads. Realtor.com’s chief economist “will be expected to become known as a ‘must talk to’ or ‘must check in with’ before a news article or broadcast is considered complete.”

The ideal candidate “should be very comfortable speaking with influential audiences, on television and radio, and in front of large crowds with sufficient media presence for use in presentations, speeches and media relations.”


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