Technology

Homes.com has new leader

Changing real estate search landscape presents challenges, opportunities for David Mele

Don't miss Hacker Connect SF
Take a deep real estate technology dive, Aug 7, 2017

Homes.com, the fifth most popular real estate site in the U.S., has a new leader.

David Mele takes over leadership of the portal this week as president as competitors Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com are moving forward with merger deals that could heat up competition in the space, presenting challenges and opportunities for Homes.com.

Zillow is set to acquire Trulia sometime next year if the deal passes muster with regulators. Global media giant News Corp has an agreement to buy realtor.com operator Move Inc. that’s expected to close by the end of the year.

Mele comes to Homes.com after a two-year stint as publisher of Pilot Media, whose publications include The Virginian-Pilot. Homes.com’s parent company, Dominion Enterprises, and Pilot Media are both owned by Norfolk-based Landmark Media Enterprises LLC.

David Mele.

David Mele

As head of Homes.com, Mele fills the shoes of Brock MacLean, who previously oversaw Homes.com while also serving as executive vice president at ForRent.com. MacLean will now focus solely on ForRent.com.

Why switching websites is more costly than you think
Shiny new tools appeal, but they have hidden costs READ MORE

In September, Homes.com attracted 11.9 million visits from desktop computers, ranking it as the fifth most visited real estate site, according to Experian Marketing Services data. Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com and Yahoo Homes registered more hits.

Top five most visited real estate sites in the U.S. from desktop computers, September 2014

Portal Total visits from desktop computers in September Market share
Zillow 94.8 million 21.4%
Trulia 40.2 million 9.1%
realtor.com 32.1 million 7.2%
Yahoo Homes* 15.0 million 3.4%
Homes.com 11.9 million 2.7%

Source: Experian Marketing Services *Part of Zillow’s real estate network

Homes.com launched a national marketing campaign in August 2013 that included a TV ad that aired on national cable channels. But Mele says the firm will not be competing with the larger portals’ mass marketing campaigns to grow its audience.

Instead, Mele says Homes.com will continue to target transaction-ready buyers and sellers using targeted search engine marketing and other means.

In the rapidly changing online real estate environment, Mele says Homes.com will redouble the efforts that have made the company successful so far. It will focus on continuing to build an accurate listing database, generating high-quality leads for its advertisers and maintaining an industry-friendly marketing option for real estate pros, he said.

Homes.com currently gets listings through direct feeds with 404 multiple listing services, according to Homes.com’s director of marketing, Patty McNeese.

Those direct feeds give Homes.com a leg up on accuracy over Zillow and Trulia in some markets, but not realtor.com.

Thanks to its relationship with the National Association of Realtors, realtor.com gets direct feeds from more than 800 MLSs across the U.S., allowing it to claim it has the most accurate listings in many markets.

Zillow and Trulia get listings from a variety of sources, including brokers, agents, franchisors, MLSs and syndication platforms, which can hamper accuracy. Both companies are making a strong push to get direct feeds from MLSs, franchisors and brokers.

Mele, who saw the newspaper industry transition from classified-based business model to one that revolves around digital marketing services, says Homes.com will also continue to build out its broker- and agent-focused marketing tools like Internet data exchange (IDX) websites and social media marketing.

The way Homes.com treats agent ads is friendlier to agents and brokers than the way its competitors do, Mele said. In this, Homes.com might have some competition. Execs at both Zillow and Move say their strategy for market dominance includes an effort to win the industry’s affections.

Homes-com

Listing detail pages on unadvertised Homes.com listings have unbranded lead forms, and the lead always goes to the listing agent or broker, in addition to another Homes.com advertiser.

The portal doesn’t put branding from competing agents’ on the site’s property detail pages and always sends a lead to the listing agent (in addition to one advertiser) when a consumer clicks the unbranded lead form on the page, whether the listing broker or agent is an advertiser or not, McNease pointed out.

Zillow and Trulia place other agents’ branding on listing detail pages on unadvertised listings and realtor.com doesn’t send leads to brokers and agents who don’t advertise.