Huge changes will roll out at Realtor.com this week. And it will surely be buzz-worthy.
I got the exclusive on what is about to change and how it will impact your listings during a one-on-one interview with Errol Samuelson, chief revenue officer of Move Inc. and president of Realtor.com.
Here’s what you need to know.
If you currently do not pay to enhance your listing on Realtor.com, within the next several weeks your standard free listings will significantly change.
A standard, free listing on Realtor.com now includes up to four photos along with the brokerage name and phone number.
Here’s the big change: Now every regular, free listing on Realtor.com may come with an opt-in form sponsored by a competing agent (from the same MLS) — if a competing agent has purchased the properties in a particular ZIP code.
The program, which began testing in select markets earlier this year, is called “Connections” — and it is intended to automatically enhance all of the free, non-enhanced listings on Realtor.com.
Connections will give agents the power to buy a particular ZIP code, and thereby place an opt-in form next to every listing within it, along with enhanced imagery. This means that every listing within that ZIP code is automatically enhanced with up to 25 pictures, thus increasing the value of the site for consumers.
The impact of this will be felt by both by the industry and consumer.
Here are the questions I asked Samuelson:
Q: Errol, looks like Realtor.com is rolling out a first for the site. Agents will have the ability to advertise next to the listing details of properties that are not theirs. Why now?
A: First I want to be very clear that the buyer’s agent is not advertising on the listing. No photos of the agent, or broker logo, will appear next to the listing. No competing branding appears in the listing details page because that’s not appropriate.
We have until now had two options. We look at Connections as a new third option.
First option currently is that everyone’s free listings come with four photos, as well as the broker name and broker phone number. We expose tens of millions of eyes to your listings — for free. If you think about that in comparison to classified sites, in say the apartment, jobs or auto sector, where the only way to list is to pay, it is significant and unique with no cost exposure. In Australia, for example, there are no free listings on real estate portals.
Our second option is to pay to showcase your listings. This enhances the listings, allowing for additional photos and text, while at the same time generating better click-through rates on the site. Basically, this option adds content, plus agent or brokerage branding, with an email opt-in form to the listing.
Connections is our third new option and lies in between the free and paid listing.
With Connections, our free option is still the same. But here’s what’s different: Your listings will now be enhanced further, including additional photos, when an agent from your MLS purchases Connections for a ZIP code from Realtor.com.
An email lead form will appear on your listing if you choose not to pay. That becomes the cost, as opposed to a dollar cost, for having this additional content around the listings.
Q: Was this a decision that was approved or blessed by NAR?
A: It has been discussed in-depth with NAR and is within the boundaries of the current operating agreement.
Q: How does this new product enhance the consumer experience on Realtor.com? How will having so many additional photos overnight impact your traffic battles with Zillow, Yahoo and Trulia?
A: We already have an edge, because we have every listing and update our data daily (often times every 15 minutes). With Connections, listings are now more current and have more content.
While every market is unique, we already saw this happen in Las Vegas. It doubled traffic year over year due to the additional content.
Q: Can a broker opt-out of this for their listings?
A: Yes. A broker can opt-out by contacting us. If they do that, their listings go back to four pictures and the email opt-in form goes away. It’s all about choice to the broker.
Q: Can a Realtor opt-out of this for their listings?
A: No. Ultimately the broker owns the listings, not the agent, so it is the broker’s decision to opt-out or not. The response in the eight test markets (including markets in Florida, Michigan, Texas, and Colorado) on this has been very positive, and only one broker has opted out thus far.
Q: How often do Realtors actually get both sides of a deal right now? Is this an effort to get listings sold more quickly, regardless of who gets the buyer lead?
A: The reality is that only 12 percent of the time do you get both sides. Listings will generate more and better leads due to more rich content, especially photos.
Q: Is this available for purchase now? When will it be live on the site?
A: We ran a trial in eight markets that started in July, and we’ll now begin rolling Connections out market by market (next up are New Orleans, St. Paul, Scottsdale, Tampa, Dallas, Denver and Albuquerque). Pre-sale is available nationally, and people can call in for availability in their area.
Q: How do you expect the general agent population to react to this change?
A: The key is information. It is hard to get people’s attention right now. Once it’s truly understood, and when people realize how it differs from what else is out there, the response will be positive. It is the right balance between the consumer experience, being industry-friendly, and monetization.
Getting homes sold more quickly is industry-friendly.
I want to thank Errol for sharing this news first with our savvy, smart and opinionated community members here at InmanNext.
I look forward to your thoughts about this breaking news from Realtor.com in the comments section below.