Editor’s note: There are dozens of online lead services in real estate and brokers and agents are still sorting out what’s what and which works best for their budget and needs. This three-part series examines the nuts and bolts of three major companies in the space, including HouseValues, Move Inc. (formerly Homestore) and HomeGain.

Editor’s note: There are dozens of online lead services in real estate and brokers and agents are still sorting out what’s what and which works best for their budget and needs. This three-part series examines the nuts and bolts of three major companies in the space, including HouseValues, Move Inc. (formerly Homestore) and HomeGain. (See Part 1 and Part 3.)

Homestore Inc., which has re-branded and is now doing business as Move Inc., has a range of lead-generation initiatives in the works for its property-search Web sites.

The company has announced the development of Top Marketer, a lead-generation service that is intended to generate business for real estate professionals from consumers who request home valuation information. That product is tied in with the HomeInsight.com Web site and with Top Producer 7i, a Homestore-developed suite of contact management and listing management tools.

With slowing market conditions in some parts of the country and more consumers turning to the Internet as the starting point for real estate searches, brokers and agents are sorting out the best ways for them to connect with consumers online. There are dozens of online lead services in real estate, but this three-part series examines the nuts and bolts of three major companies.

Move Inc. officials declined to answer any Inman News questions about the company’s lead-generation pursuits, though officials have made some public statements about the company’s services and planned offerings.

Top Marketer is expected to launch in August and Realtors who sign up for the Top Marketer program will receive calls on their mobile phones when consumers submit their contact information online. The consumer information is automatically stored in the Realtor’s Top Producer 7i customer database.

Realtors can select a maximum number of leads to receive per billing period, and can also set a number of leads per ZIP code that they wish to receive, according to an online demonstration of the system. The system also reportedly notifies Realtors about how many leads they have received in a given billing period, and how many total leads they have received since signing up for the service.

At HomeInsight.com, consumers can get basic information on home values without entering any registration information. For example, consumers can enter a property address and find information on recent home sales in that area. Consumers who want a more detailed report can register at the site, and an area Realtor who subscribes to Top Marketer prepares the report and responds to the consumer.

Homestore announced that it was initially offering the Top Marketer product to subscribers of its Top Producer tools, which have an estimated 60,000 subscribers.

In February, Homestore announced that it is adding cost-per-click “Featured Listings” advertising opportunities and text-based cost-per-click ads at its premier property listings site, Realtor.com, and at its other sites. This cost-per-click service will also be available to home builders and rental property owners, and the company’s acquisition of Moving.com includes cost-per-lead services for moving quotes, truck rentals and self-storage facilities.

In addition to Featured Listings, Move also offers another form of listing enhancement called “Showcase Listings.”

The company’s HomeBuilder.com and RentNet.com Web sites have historically only included content that was paid for by builders and rental property owners, though Move has announced plans to aggregate this content with other listings with the intent to “drive more consumers to our sites and make our properties more attractive.” Move is working to integrate its sites as a sort of vertical search engine for properties of all kinds.

According to the February announcement, “With the proliferation and general acceptance of many types of performance-based pricing for online marketing business models, including cost-per-lead, cost-per-click and cost-per-acquired-customer, we are in the process of broadening our offerings to include more performance-based solutions.”

The company also has noted that the introduction of cost-per-click advertising, also known as performance-based advertising, can increase its flexibility in developing relationships with distribution providers “because they provide a more transparent means for compensating these partners for their traffic.”

While Homestore plans to offer some services on a cost-per-click basis, it “will still receive a majority of … revenue from subscription-based products,” the company has stated.

In addition to the new Featured Listings at Realtor.com, Homestore is also adding new mapping technologies, free virtual tour distribution for some customers, and a Featured Comparative Market Analysis product that can serve as a lead-generation tool for Realtors.

In February 2005, NRT Inc., the largest real estate brokerage company in the nation, signed an agreement with Homestore to feature all of the company’s property listings displayed at Realtor.com as enhanced listings so that they receive preferential placement and display. In March 2006, NRT extended that marketing agreement for another two years.

Nick Johnson, a Realtor for Coldwell Banker Noriega in San Francisco, said all of his listings are enhanced at Realtor.com through this agreement. About 80 percent of the consumer calls he receives are generated through Realtor.com, he said. “Mostly they are folks who are looking to buy, who are mostly in the early stages,” said Johnson, who specializes in single-family homes in San Francisco’s Sunset District and condos in the South Beach area.

Johnson said he has tried other online lead-generation sources, such as JustListed.com, a HouseValues service, though he said Realtor.com is his best source for leads. The sheer volume of property listings at the site is definitely a factor in drawing consumers in, he said.

Realtor.com is affiliated with the National Association of Realtors, and Realtor-affiliated multiple listing services across the country supply property information to the site.

According to comScore Media Metrix, a company that monitors online traffic, Move Inc. Web sites routinely draw the highest number of unique visitors among all companies in the online category, and Realtor.com is the company’s most popular Web site. In March, Move Inc. sites attracted 9.63 million unique visitors, comScore reported.

Move Inc. officials have announced that the company will be working to ramp up user-generated online content, which can also be a source of new business, as some real estate bloggers have discovered.

***

Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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