SAN FRANCISCO — With a new chief executive officer at the helm, Move Inc. is looking to evolve Realtor.com from a site known primarily for its comprehensive listings to a destination site for property information, in order to attract consumers through the entire "homeownership life cycle."
Move will not only aggregate property information from multiple listing services (MLSs) and public records, but help real estate agents and brokers market themselves to consumers by "adding value" to that data, Move CEO Steve Berkowitz said at the Inman Real Estate Connect conference this week.
The slowdown in many housing markets has created a much longer "transaction window" for homebuyers and sellers, Berkowitz said, and additional opportunities for real estate agents and brokers to market to them.
"The world is moving beyond what’s for sale at any one time," Berkowitz said. "We can give Realtors a way to market on homes that are not for sale."
Sellers are monitoring market conditions before putting their homes up for sale, and buyers are sifting through the wealth of data available to them in search of the best deal. Once they find a home, the difficulty of obtaining financing may also lengthen the transaction window.
Even homeowners who aren’t planning to move anytime soon are interested in property values, taxes, and other related news and content that affects their home and community.
Move wants to meet all of these consumer needs, allowing the company to better serve its real estate professional and advertising partners, Berkowitz said in a recent conference call with investors.
Berkowitz elaborated on those plans in a one-on-one discussion with Inman News founder Bradley Inman before an audience of several hundred real estate professionals in the Grand Ballroom at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
Since taking the helm at Move in January, the former Ask.com CEO said he’s been "drinking from the fire hose" — immersing himself in the company’s operations through discussions with managers. Now, he said it’s time to implement changes by "turning the fire hose on them."
Berkowitz promised to deliver "a richer experience to both sides" — the consumers who come to Realtor.com and the real estate professionals who get leads from the site and manage them with Move’s Top Producer sales and marketing software.
Move has "a couple hundred" software engineers, he said, who in addition to "plugging holes in the dike" — fixing problems in legacy systems — are working on "some innovations you haven’t seen before," which will be rolled out in the next six to 12 months.
In a conference call with investors Wednesday, Berkowitz said Move is testing new search capabilities that will "dramatically improve the user experience" at Realtor.com, portions of which will be launched in the second half of the year. …CONTINUED
He said Move is also boosting its investment in content, and is focused on its relationships with MLSs to use more sold data and expand Realtor.com’s existing capabilities that allow consumers to see home values in relationship to other properties.
Move has begun positioning itself as a source of expertise and tools for generating and managing leads through Realtor.com, Top Producer, blogging and social networking.
To sell more agents and brokers on Top Producer products, Move is integrating its Top Producer and Realtor.com sales forces. In the past, an events team that puts on more than 150 events a year for real estate professionals has sold only Realtor.com services. Recently, they’ve begun pitching Top Producer as well, "creating what has effectively become a more consultative sales approach," Berkowitz said.
"I don’t care where the leads come from, we want to help them manage leads anywhere in the cycle — that’s where I see this industry going," Berkowitz said in a follow-up interview.
The move from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market means Realtors must market themselves in a "dramatically different" way, he said.
One way to do that, he said, is by helping Realtors provide consumers with the market data and other information they are looking for, and adding additional context and value to that information — such as insight and commentary agents already create for e-mail blasts and blog posts.
Realtor.com and Top Producer already offer many such tools, but they could be made more obvious and easily accessible, Berkowitz said.
Berkowitz hinted that some of the ways to expand the universe of information on Realtor.com might help agents and brokers market themselves in the future.
Imagine if consumers could call up a recently sold home and see who represented the buyer and the seller in the transaction, he said. Or what if they could see all the transactions a particular Realtor has handled — a sort of online "resume" of their work?
In order to provide that information, Move could build on its existing relationships with 900 MLSs and Realtor associations, or give agents and brokers the ability to enter such information themselves, he said.
The bottom line, Berkowitz said, is that Move is looking for more innovative ways to connect Realtors and consumers, while maintaining the balance between serving consumers and advertisers.
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