MLS & Associations

Movoto making headway in quest to play in portal big leagues

Online brokerage Movoto now getting IDX listings from 100 MLSs

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Online real estate brokerage and referral site Movoto is now displaying for-sale listings from 100 multiple listing services, including more than a dozen new markets, as part of what the company says is a $20 million nationwide expansion.

Tokyo-based Recruit Holdings Company Ltd. acquired Movoto a year ago, vowing to make it the No. 1 online real estate service in the U.S. It’s made some headway: Movoto.com was the sixth-most visited real estate-related U.S. site in November, up from 18th in January, according to figures from Experian Marketing Services.

Movoto.com was also the sixth most-visited real estate website network in October, according to comScore, which captures total unique visitors from desktop computers and mobile devices, including mobile apps.

Top 6 real estate networks by Web traffic, October 2014

Real estate network Total unique visitors in October Desktop unique visitors Mobile unique visitors
All sites 98.7 million 63 million 58.5 million
Zillow (Yahoo) network 55.7 million 28.8 million 33.9 million
Trulia (RentPath) network 29.9 million 15.5 million 17.3 million
Move Inc. network 24.4 million 12.8 million 13.8 million
Homes.com (ForRent.com) network 10.5 million 5.7 million 5.3 million
Redfin 7.2 million 3.2 million 4.4 million
Movoto.com 4.8 million 2.6 million 2.3 million

Source: comScore  

Shortly after Movoto was purchased, the firm was a member of nearly 90 MLSs in 37 states. Now, it’s a member of 100 MLSs in 48 states and has plans to expand to 200 MLSs in all 50 states, according to Movoto spokesman Nick Johnson.

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The San Mateo, California-based company estimates the 100 MLSs in Movoto’s current footprint cover 80 to 85 percent of the U.S. market. The next 100 MLSs it plans to target are much smaller and will bring Movoto’s coverage up to about 95 percent of the market, Johnson said.

Unlike all of its main traffic rivals above except for Redfin, Movoto is a licensed brokerage and can display MLS listings as other brokerages do — via access to a pooled set of Internet data exchange (IDX) listings virtually all brokers make available to each other within individual MLS markets.

In the vast majority of its markets, Movoto appears to operate under what is sometimes described as a “paper brokerage” model.

Companies that join an MLS to obtain access to its IDX listing feed without providing brokerage services by directly representing a buyer or a seller in a transaction are sometimes described as paper brokerages. Such firms often use IDX listings to capture consumer leads through websites or mobile apps and then send those consumers to agents at other brokerages for a referral fee.

Henry Shao, Movoto’s founder and CEO, has previously said the company is not a paper brokerage.

Johnson noted Movoto has brokers on the ground and usually starts working in a market by building a network of partner agents and then hiring local agents.

Movoto has between 6,000 and 7,000 partner agents and “less than a dozen total in-house agents in a handful of markets, mainly in Northern California and the New York City metro area,” he said.

Movoto partner agents, called Movoto Certified Agents, are required to have minimum of three years of experience in local real estate and to negotiate at least 10 real estate transactions per year, according to Movoto’s website.

Selected agents can never pay to be certified, a practice Movoto says sets it apart from other real estate sites, including Zillow and Trulia, “who promote the highest bidder.”

New markets Movoto has recently entered include Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Honolulu, Maui, and Kauai in Hawaii; Montgomery, Greene, Preble County and Warren in Ohio; Spartanburg and surrounding areas in South Carolina; Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Gallup in New Mexico; Fort Walton Beach and Naples, Florida; Anchorage, Alaska; and Clive, Iowa.

“As we begin serving these new regions, we’re committed to delivering a great all-around experience for future homeowners across the country,” said Mark Brandemuehl, COO of Movoto, in a statement.

Movoto signed a referral agreement with Houses.com, another apparent paper brokerage, in May to generate business.

Movoto has also launched what it says is the “most trafficked real estate blog in the world” — its new Insider blog. The blog combines in one place Movoto’s previous, 2-year-old blog, and content that was previously scattered around the website, Johnson said. According to the company’s internal Google Analytics numbers, the blog and website content get about 18 million visits per month.

That traffic likely does not do much to contribute to the comScore rankings, Johnson said, because the company’s engineering team doesn’t embed the snippets required to track traffic to the content due to loading issues.