Editor’s note: This story has been edited to reflect Move Inc.’s position that it plans to provide international search capabilities on Realtor.com in 2011, but has not committed to launching those services during the first quarter.
Realtor.com operator Move Inc. is building international property search capabilities with language translation and other tools, and plans to begin publishing property listings it receives from the National Association of Realtors’ bilateral partner associations in 60 countries sometime next year.
In a related development, on Nov. 1 NAR submitted its resignation to the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations (ICREA), a global consortium of real estate associations, effective Dec. 31.
NAR — a founding member of ICREA 10 years ago — says that under the terms of an agreement with Move Inc. governing the operation of Realtor.com, NAR is barred from participating either directly or indirectly in any site that displays U.S. residential properties for sale.
ICREA, which operates the international property listings portal WorldProperties.com, had previously limited the display of U.S. property listings on the site to framed results from Realtor.com.
ICREA has developed a new business-to-business and business-to-consumer listings exchange and referral system that allows for the public display of residential listings and member-to-member posting of residential listings, said ICREA CEO Thijs Stoffer.
"NAR can’t remain (an ICREA) member without violating that agreement," Stoffer said. "So (NAR) notified ICREA that it wanted to terminate membership and change to a sponsoring role."
But Stoffer said ICREA’s board of directors turned down NAR’s sponsorship proposal, which called for WorldProperties.com to provide a listings feed to Realtor.com.
Discussions with NAR continue, Stoffer said, but the link between WorldProperties.com and Realtor.com will be deactivated at the end of the year, when NAR’s membership in ICREA expires.
In the meantime, ICREA will enter into agreements with NAR member associations and Realtor-affiliated MLSs that wish to syndicate listings to WorldProperties.com.
"We are lining up direct property and agent feeds from our member associations around the world," Stoffer said, and currently have 2 million property listings on the site translated into 19 languages.
Janet Branton, NAR’s senior vice president for global business and alliances, called the split with ICREA "congenial."
In the end, the decision came down to how to get the most bang for the buck for members. ICREA membership dues are based on the number of members in each country, she said, and NAR was paying about $200,000 a year in ICREA dues.
"We’ve been paying a lot of money to belong to ICREA, and when you look at the (site) traffic, it was on Realtor.com," Branton said.
She said NAR’s leadership team asked Move to develop international listings capability for Realtor.com, after determining "that we should find a way to serve our membership by providing them with effective global listing tools."
Realtor.com already gets an average of 570,000 unique visits from web surfers outside of the U.S., Branton said. That traffic correlates closely with NAR research tracking overseas and immigrant investments in U.S. real estate from countries accounting for $66 billion in sales in the last 12 months.
"This means our members will have global exposure through Realtor.com" while also retaining the option to explore a contract directly with WorldProperties.com if they choose to syndicate U.S. listings to the site, Branton said.
Branton acknowledged that NAR’s proposal to pay ICREA to feed international listings from WorldProperties.com to Realtor.com would have simplified the process of launching Realtor.com’s global listings capabilities, because the listings would already have been aggregated.
But NAR has 81 bilateral partner association in 60 countries, Branton said, and "partners we spoke with (at NAR’s annual convention) in New Orleans are thrilled about the prospect of having their listings on a site with over 13 million visits per month."
With the decision to leave ICREA, NAR will no longer track ICREA’s Transnational Referral Certification in member records, or promote the certification on Realtor.org and Realtor.com.
In a newsletter to ICREA members, Stoffer said more than 12,000 real estate professionals around the world have obtained the TRC certification, which WorldProperties.com will continue to support.