- Suzanne Mueller considers herself "the dynamic partner" in the relationship between the real estate industry and Move Inc.
- Feedback she gathers from the industry will go into Move products. Email her at Suzanne.Mueller@move.com.
EMERYVILLE, California — Got praise, gripes, suggestions or questions about how realtor.com and its parent company, Move Inc., can help you in your business? You now have someone new to contact: Suzanne Mueller, Move’s senior vice president of industry relations.
She’s been on the job four weeks so far and considers herself “the dynamic partner in the relationship between the industry and the company.” Inman interviewed her at Inman headquarters this week to find out what she thinks of agents, the Move-Zillow rivalry, and realtor.com’s role in the industry.
Why did you decide to work for Move?
It’s a company on the rise. I love what they’re doing. I love the way they continually advocate for the industry. I truly believe we’re in a watershed moment for the industry as a whole, be it the individual technology trying to “disrupt” it, be it just data in general and the state of data and how it’s all going to be treated.
I think we’re all going to look back and say “This was the time, this was the formulation point,” and to be a part of that and to be on the national scene for that, especially with a company that is so forward thinking, [I] loved it. There was no down side.
You were chief marketing officer at a brokerage, Coldwell Banker Bain Seal, before coming to Move. How is it different?
I love looking at things from a larger lens and having the broader strategic scope. I used to work on national businesses in the past and I clearly have been missing it, especially real estate. It’s so complex and there are so many different constituencies and groups that all work together and play off each other, so I’ve really enjoyed getting a whole other perspective on it from a much higher level.
But it still comes down to the agent selling a house, right? So there are some things that never change.
How does that perspective color what you’re doing at Move?
I think being steeped in the whole day-to-day Realtor experience is huge. It absolutely provides the foundation for communication to the industry, be it the MLSs, the associations and the brokers, as well as back into the company and being the voice of the industry inside the company, be it in the planning stages or the product development stages or in the C-suite.
You mentioned that real estate is complex. Can you expand on that?
You’re always on a learning curve, and it’s in such a state of change right now. It’s just fascinating and it’s exciting at the same time because I truly believe that Realtors will always be necessary and important professionals in the real estate transaction because for most of the citizens of the United States it will be the largest financial transaction of their entire life. And I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon.
You’re the senior vice president of industry relations at Move. To the regular agent on the ground, what does that mean, exactly?
I think it means being the dynamic partner in the relationship between the industry and the company. What I’m very busy doing right now is connecting and reconnecting with different leaders throughout the nation that I know or I’m getting to know, working closely with my team, working with the advisory boards that Move has, as well as working with the [National Association of Realtors] and that relationship.
At the same time, [it means] communicating [that information] back into the company and constantly making sure that the balance is there.
Does that go into the products that Move eventually releases?
That’s the plan.
You’re going to be doing a lot of traveling. Where do you go and what do you do?
Well, for example, in two weeks we’ll be in New York for a very special conference coming up [Inman Connect] and then there’s obviously the key larger events throughout the industry. Clareity, NAR Midyear.
But then there’s the really important one-on-one conversations, meetings, and absolutely they have to be face-to-face because just like in the broker world, at this level, relationships are important. Allegiances count.
You came from the brokerage world. What was your perception of Move? And when you got to Move, was there a surprise there? Did anything change?
No, I can’t say anything’s changed. My lens was maybe slightly different in Seattle because we had this 800-pound gorilla portal in the backyard [i.e. Zillow]. So my perspective of Move was the industry partner who really brought perspective to the discussion as well as gave us great breadth and depth for exposure for our listings and our agents.
I always trusted my data as a brokerage with Move because they have the strictest privacy policies and data standardizations in the industry.
What do you think the agent’s perspective in general is about Move?
I think they see Move as a provider of tools that gives them great solutions for their business. And [with] realtor.com, I think there’s a lot of trust in realtor.com at the Realtor level and how they regard [it] in the industry. I think that there tends to be a lumping together as “it’s one of the portals” when I think it has so much more going for it than just “it’s one of the portals.”
One of its stated goals is to keep the Realtor at the center of the transaction. And so they don’t do FSBOs [for-sale-by-owner properties], they protect the data, they don’t do pre-foreclosures. All these sort of things that they really look out for and are conscientious about are taking place there and maybe not necessarily in other arenas.
What differentiates Move from Zillow? They are your No. 1 competitor, right?
[Yes.] I think it’s all the things I mentioned previously about looking to keep the Realtor at the center of the transaction, absolutely valuing that relationship, connecting consumers with the value of a Realtor, providing insight into the brand “Realtor.”
Zillow is seen as a more consumer-friendly brand than realtor.com, whereas realtor.com is seen as more industry-friendly. What do you think of that particular debate?
All I can say is that realtor.com has more data [and] higher-quality data everywhere than the Zillow-Trulia combination. [Realtor.com has] higher-quality leads, and we know that from talking to the customers, our agents. And there wouldn’t be higher-quality leads if maybe the consumer wasn’t having a more satisfactory experience and more engaging experience.
Should we expect a settlement in the Move-Zillow lawsuit anytime soon?
I’m not allowed to comment.
What are your goals for the next few months?
Really that outreach component. Working really closely with the team, the advisory boards, the NAR. We already have the quarterly NAR meeting coming up this week here in San Jose, so connecting, re-connecting with the industry, key leaders, the really forward-thinking members of the group as well as solidifying a plan. Building a plan based on the feedback I get from that group as well as internally.
A plan for what exactly?
Continuing to grow the value of Move with the industry.
In terms of products? Or services?
If our readers have any questions for you, what’s the best way to contact you?
Probably email. Old school. It’s Suzanne.Mueller@move.com. That would be great.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity, readability and length.