SAN FRANCISCO — The National Association of Realtors and realtor.com operator Move Inc. have not always seen eye to eye. But the trade group seems to have reached a turning point in its attitude toward realtor.com since approving changes to the site’s operating agreement in July.
At the trade group’s annual conference this week, NAR CEO Dale Stinton told attendees that NAR’s consumer advertising campaign had previously focused on pointing people toward HouseLogic, NAR’s homeownership website. But not anymore.
“Our consumer website is realtor.com. Point blank. That is our consumer-facing website,” he said.
Steve Brown, NAR’s president-elect, said NAR had good reasons not to promote realtor.com before.
“There was a point in which we weren’t sure if they were on the same page as us. So we needed to look at other venues,” including HouseLogic, Brown said.
“But I think the lesson learned as realtor.com fell to third place [in Web traffic rankings] is that the importance of a consumer website is critical to our members.”
Brown suggested that HouseLogic would soon be embedded in realtor.com, though NAR spokeswoman Stephanie Singer later said that wasn’t exactly accurate.
“We’re currently exploring different ways in which we can collaborate with realtor.com coming out of the July (board of directors) meeting, one of which is to explore content-sharing opportunities with HouseLogic, to engage consumers across the homeownership life cycle,” she said. “That’s pretty much it at this point. Just exploring possibilities.”
Move declined to comment, saying, “Terms of the agreement between realtor.com and NAR for HouseLogic are still being finalized.”
NAR board member Danny Frank has called HouseLogic “a loser,” saying NAR spends tens of millions on the site despite the fact that it is not popular with consumers and lacks repeat users.
Launched in 2010, HouseLogic does not carry listings, and attracts only about 5 percent as many unique visitors as realtor.com, according to comScore reports.
On stage at the conference, Stinton showed off several commercials NAR had created to promote the Realtor brand. Each ended with the tagline, “Every market’s different, call a Realtor today and visit realtor.com.”
“What we want to talk about is extending our brand and extending our message. The first and best way is through realtor.com,” Stinton said.
He displayed screen shots of what Realtor political advocacy awareness messages could look like on realtor.com. Rectangular boxes at the tops of listing pages would say something like, “Realtors fought against a proposed property tax rate hike ” in a particular geographic area pertinent to the site visitor, at the city, county, state or national level. The boxes would have “Read more” links to more information.
“We think this will be a very, very effective way to begin to explain to homeowners that we are the conscience of real estate … that we are looking out for them more than anybody else,” Stinton said.
In July, the NAR board of directors voted to allow Move to incorporate new-home listings, rental properties, and listings from non-Realtor sources in realtor.com. Some members feared that the changes would dilute the Realtor brand. Less than a month later, Move added Realtor-branded listings to the site and has now rolled out content promoting Realtors.
“We have built content pages and ad campaigns to drive awareness about Realtor differentiation and illustrate the value of working with a Realtor,” Realtor.com President Errol Samuelson told Inman News.
Samuelson noted that traffic to realtor.com has been steadily increasing.
“Unique users are up 22 percent year over year in the third quarter of 2013, compared [with] an 18 percent year-over-year increase in the second quarter and a 10 percent increase in the first quarter,” he said.
NAR President Gary Thomas noted that the realtor.com team was “getting the things they wanted out there and it’s starting to work.”
He said NAR’s relationship with Move had vastly improved.
“We’re in constant communication now,” he said.
“They have done most of the things we’ve asked them to do. They make changes to [realtor.com] constantly. They should be finished by the end of the year,” he added.
One of the changes NAR asked for was to realtor.com’s advertising pricing. In August, Move introduced a new pricing scheme that features the introduction of market-specific pricing and an increased number of pricing tiers.
Samuelson said the new pricing better addressed the needs of its customers.
“Several additional pricing tiers were added in order to better tailor our services to individual agent volume, we better aligned agent pricing with broker pricing, and our pricing structure was geotargeted to account for market variances across the country,” he said.
“We simply broadened our offerings to improve our ability to customize services to each individual agent, broker and geography.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to delete an erroneous reference to July’s ammendments to the realtor.com operating agreement being the first in 17 years. The agreement has been amended several times, including changes made in 2010.