For the last couple of years, buyers searching for homes on realtor.com haven’t seen the forms that listing portals sometimes employ to generate leads for buyer’s agents around any of the listings represented by Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.
Nor have they seen ads for services that the brokerage wants to provide to clients itself, including mortgages, title insurance and appraisals.
Now the Pittsburgh-based firm, the sixth-largest real estate brokerage in the U.S. by 2013 sales volume, according to statistics compiled by Real Trends, has renewed its marketing agreement with the popular real estate portal that provides even more perks than the last deal Howard Hanna negotiated with realtor.com in 2012.
In re-upping with realtor.com’s Showcase Listing Enhancements program, Howard Hanna got a guarantee that no ads from any firm, whether real estate-related or not, would show up next to the company’s roughly 21,000 listings on realtor.com, said Helen Hanna Casey, president of family-owned Howard Hanna.
“Consumers can’t get anywhere from a Howard Hanna listing on realtor.com that’s not a Howard Hanna site or a Howard Hanna listing agent,” Casey said.
Removing ads from all non-Howard Hanna companies leads to a better consumer experience and better symmetry with the brokerage’s brand, said Adam Bauer, Howard Hanna’s director of digital marketing.
Other features of Howard Hanna’s renewed realtor.com agreement include:
- Agent contact details and photos next to their listings on realtor.com.
- Branded listing detail pages, featuring both Howard Hanna’s brand and its new brand, William E. Woods and Associates, Realtors.
- Premium listing placement in search results.
- Ads for Howard Hanna’s mortgage companies, Howard Hanna Mortgage Services and Towne Mortgage, show up on the firm’s realtor.com listings.
- Listings will show up on realtor.com’s international site.
- Traffic performance reports for each listing.
- Open house and virtual tour promotions.
- Detailed neighborhood info.
Casey said the company will announce a renewed marketing agreement with Zillow in the coming months that includes some of the same new perks.
Earlier this week, Zillow signed a marketing agreement with New York City-based brokerage giant Douglas Elliman Real Estate, the fourth-largest brokerage in the U.S. by 2013 sales volume. Douglas Elliman listing agents will get exclusive placement next to their listings on Zillow under the deal.
The continuation of Howard Hanna’s marketing agreement with realtor.com is part of a larger syndication strategy that the firm began implementing in 2012, when it paid a combined seven figures to market its listings on realtor.com and Zillow in separate agreements, Casey said. The same year it began feeding its listings to Trulia, as well, but has not paid to enhance them.
Before then, Howard Hanna had removed its listings from all portals, Casey said. That year, it made a conscious decision to go all in on putting its listings on the top listing sites, with some conditions, she said.
Howard Hanna’s syndication strategy has been a success, Casey said.
Overall website traffic was up 14.5 percent from full-year 2011 to full-year 2013, Bauer said. In addition, referral traffic from realtor.com was up 600 percent over the same time period, he said.
“We wanted to ensure that our agents get leads on their own listings,” Casey said. That’s the primary condition for the brokerage putting listings on other sites, she said. By advertising with both realtor.com and Zillow, Howard Hanna ensures that its listing agents capture the leads off their listings.
A key condition for sending its listings out to other sites were that the firm’s listing agents exclusively captured the leads off their own listings, Casey said. Trulia’s broker ad product does not give listing agents exclusive presence on their listings, which is why Howard Hanna does not pay to enhance its listings on the portal, she said.
“I think we (as a brokerage) have leverage with the portals,” Casey said. “We can control our destiny.”
The practice of sending leads to Howard Hanna listing agents was one of the founding principles of the firm her father, Howard Hanna Jr., founded in Pittsburgh in 1957, Casey said. Therefore, it’s a core of the firm’s syndication strategy, she said.
The new agreement also rolls in the listings of Howard Hanna’s new brand, Virginia-based William E. Woods and Associates, Realtors, the 700-agent firm it acquired in January.
Realtor.com operator Move Inc. revealed at its investor and analyst day in May that it’s considering raising prices on Showcase Listing Enhancements, whose pricing was revamped last year. Prices are currently determined by home prices at the metro level and are sold to brokers and agents by different amounts of listings.
The specific features of the Showcase Listing Enhancements product vary from broker client to broker client, Move spokeswoman Christie Wilfley told Inman News.
For example, some brokerage Showcase Listing Enhancement products feature the listing agent next to the listing and some don’t. Some, like Howard Hanna’s, include branded backgrounds, known as “skins,” as seen on this Howard Hanna listing. Others, like this Coldwell Banker Real Estate Services – Cranberry Township listing, don’t.
Ads that currently show up on some Howard Hanna realtor.com listings for the home improvement site Porch, which Move established a partnership with in March, will be removed, Bauer said. Unbranded versions of Move’s moving calculator, which provides leads to moving companies in Move’s network, will remain on the Howard Hanna listings because the brokerage considers them a consumer resource, he said.
Wilfley said Howard Hanna pays for those additional perks and others, which fall outside of the typical Showcase Listing Enhancement product.
In its first-quarter 2014 earnings call with investors, Move revealed that 42 percent of realtor.com listings were enrolled in the Showcase Listing Enhancement program during the first three months of the year.