Dave Liniger, RE/MAX International co-founder and chairman, faced an audience of hundreds of RE/MAX broker-owners Thursday during a series of company meetings, and discussed revolutionary plans to bring together RE/MAX and other property listings online through the remax.com Web site.
The company had unveiled some details about this national collection of property listings earlier this week, and Liniger met with RE/MAX affiliates on Thursday to discuss the new system.
“It met with a standing ovation,” Liniger said. In a separate meeting with members of a RE/MAX leadership advisory council, “They were all ecstatic about it,” he added.
Other real estate companies have worked to pool various collections of real estate listings for consumes to view online, and RE/MAX moves in the same direction represent a major groundswell in consumer access to real estate listings information. The company, which operates in 57 countries, has a network of 5,600 independently owned offices and about 111,500 sales associates.
While the National Association of Realtors trade group has worked to change its online property listings policies in response to a Justice Department investigation over whether the policies are too restrictive, RE/MAX officials aren’t waiting for the formal outcome.
“The consumer wants unlimited information,” Liniger said. “The more informed the customer is, the better off we are. It’s absolutely what the customer wants. It’s no different than what many of our competitors have done. I believe all of my major competitors will go to the same concept – it will not surprise me. With the change in (the Realtor association’s) attitude…it’s inevitable.”
Liniger said he expects the new National Association of Realtors policy to allow far more open access to property listings information than an earlier approved policy, and he said the association appears to be “very close” to an agreement in finalizing policies for the sharing online property listings.
RE/MAX will be adding about 50 employees to its information technology staff at its headquarters, and every region will likely hire two to three employees to serve in support and training roles for the new property listings platform, Liniger said. “It is a huge commitment of time and effort.” The planning for the new system began about six months ago, he said. “It was a natural progression when I realized, ‘It is inevitable that this is going to happen,'” he said.
The RE/MAX system will rely on property listings available through Internet data exchange, or IDX, broker Web sites. IDX is a standard for the sharing of property listings among brokers. Despite the new venture, RE/MAX will continue to have a relationship with Realtor.com, a home-search site affiliated with the National Association of Realtors, Liniger said. “We are meeting with them, brainstorming how we can continue to work with them and take advantage of both their site and our site. They are a huge search engine. We want a huge presence with them.”
Local brokers must sign agreements allowing their data to be aggregated into the national system, Liniger said. He expects that about 60 percent of all RE/MAX property listings will be available through the new system by February 2006, he said, when the system is expected to formally launch.
RE/MAX International is covering some of the costs for the new system, and the company’s national ad fund and regions will also contribute money for the effort, he said. “In major cities like a Denver or Dallas they will actually encounter expenses of (information technology) staff,” he said.
RE/MAX regions in New Jersey and Northern Illinois have been pioneers in the development effort.
The system, while allowing consumers to search a wide cross-section of properties for sale across the country, is also intended to generate leads for RE/MAX agents by linking consumes with local agents, Liniger said.
Leads will be provided free of charge to agents, and each RE/MAX office will set up a policy for handling leads received through the national IDX system. Consumer inquiries about specific properties will generally be routed to listing agents, Liniger said, and agents will immediately receive leads via telephone or another communications tool of their choosing. For more general leads, the company will take a “round-robin approach” in passing the leads along to local agents.
RE/MAX is working with Siegent, Inc., which offers home and neighborhood information for the real estate industry through its eNeighborhoods and HomeData divisions, to assist in the national IDX undertaking.
Stu Siegel, CEO and co-founder of eNeighborhoods, said the company worked on a similar effort with Help-U-Sell Real Estate. “We’re excited to be working with them on this project,” he said. “The goal is to get as much coverage (in property listings) as we can get nationally.” The company will be working within the industry-established framework for IDX sites, he said. “We’re totally working within the IDX criteria.”
Liniger said that real estate technology has come a long way from the days when printed MLS books were the primary way that brokers and agents kept up with property listings. “The speed of technological change has become phenomenal and we haven’t seen the end of it.”
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