Technology

Tech-focused brokerages gain national prominence

Redfin, Movoto and Estately climb in Web traffic rankings

Three tech-oriented brokerages — Redfin, Movoto and Estately — all grew their traffic notably in 2014, and are beginning to create a national presence for themselves. All three have sleek websites and powerful mobile apps, with Movoto and Estately employing referral-based business models in which they hand buyers and sellers off to other brokers rather than providing brokerage services themselves.

Redfin has seen an explosion of growth this year, launching in more than a dozen new markets. Consequently, it has grown desktop traffic to redfin.com 35 percent, from a share of 1.14 percent in January to a share of 1.54 percent in November, according to Experian.

Redfin grew its unique visitors to its network by 13.2 percent over the same 11-month period, tallying 6 million visitors to its website in November, making it real estate’s fifth most popular network, according to comScore.

Traffic to Movoto has surged this year on the back of the firm’s $20 million-fueled expansion to more than 100 markets, a blog-focused traffic strategy and a business model in many of its markets that may fall squarely in the definition of “paper brokerage.”

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. Paper brokerages use IDX listings to attract consumers to websites or mobile apps, and then convert them into leads they can hand off to agents at other brokerages for a referral fee.

Movoto gets listings from MLSs it joins as a member broker, but it has less than a dozen in-house agents to cover all of the markets where it displays IDX listings. A bulk of the homebuyers who come to the site are handed off as leads to a network of vetted partner agents. Movoto charges agents a referral fee equal to 25 to 35 percent of the agent’s commission when they close deals from leads it send them.

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In January, Movoto was No. 18 by visits from desktop computers. By November, it had leapfrogged to No. 6 in the U.S. with a 166 percent growth in traffic over that period, according to Experian.

ComScore shows Movoto’s share of unique visitors had a similar jump over that period. In November, it captured 3.8 million unique visitors to its site, making it the eighth most popular real estate site that month. It started the year as the eight most popular site by unique visitors.

From January to November, Estately grew desktop traffic to its website by 345 percent, capturing 0.89 percent of all visits to real estate sites in November, according to Experian. It started the year at No. 65 and climbed all the way up to No. 14 in November.

That growth is all the more remarkable in that Estately, which expanded to six new states in 2013, did not announce any new markets in 2014.

Estately CEO Galen Ward attributes the growth to three things:

  • IDX-sourced listings, giving it accurate data.
  • Additional information accompanying each listing, like financing requirements.
  • Less advertising and design clutter on its site than its competitors.

“We are for homebuyers and people interested in homes,” Ward said. “We aren’t trying to be everything to everyone, and we don’t compete with Pinterest, Houzz and rental sites.”

Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com maintained their positions as the most popular sites in real estate in 2014.

From January to November, Zillow grew its Web market share of visits from desktop computers a notable 6 percentage points, but unique visitor traffic to its network actually dipped slightly over that time period. Trulia and realtor.com saw slight increases in desktop traffic in that timespan; Trulia also dipped in unique visitors, while realtor.com held steady.

Prominent MLS site loses ground

The website of the Houston Association of Realtors, har.com, has long been the poster child for public-facing MLS sites. While some brokers see public-facing MLS sites as unwanted competition, advocates of HAR’s approach say most brokers don’t have the size and scale to take on national portals like Zillow and Trulia. Public-facing MLSs, they say, can help brokers raise their collective profile in a given market.

HAR.com has long been a fixture constant in Experian’s top 20 rankings, but in November it fell to No. 22 with a Web market share of 0.57 percent. It started the year at No. 19 with a share of 0.83 percent.

That drop in traffic could be attributable to a diversion of traffic to a new Texas-wide website HAR is developing, which is still in beta, an Experian spokesman told Inman.

Taking har.com’s place in the top 20 is the website of the U.S.’s largest MLS, California Regional MLS (imrmls.com). Desktop traffic to its site jumped by 140 percent from January to November, according to Experian.

Nicole Aguilar, director of marketing and communications at CRMLS, said the firm has been promoting its webinars on social media more heavily this year, but other than that it hasn’t taken any steps that would account for the jump in traffic.

Despite, har.com’s drop in traffic on the national scale, it’s still the No. 1 site in the Houston metro area in November by unique visitors as measured by comScore, according to HAR spokesman David Mendel.

January to November Web traffic data

Unlike Web traffic data from Experian Marketing Services, which tallies Web traffic by specific Web addresses and total hits from desktop computers, comScore measures Web traffic by associated networks, unique visitors and includes mobile traffic (from both mobile apps and the mobile Web). A unique visitor, by comScore’s definition, is a user who visits the sites in a network at least once in the month in question from either a desktop computer, mobile device or both — multiple visits are not counted.

In addition, comScore’s tally reflects visitor overlap by network and by device, which explains why the total unique visitor count for real estate is less than the sum of the visitors to Zillow, Trulia and Move’s networks and the sum of desktop and mobile visitors surpasses the total visitor count.

Most popular real estate sites by total visits, November 2014* 

Website Visits share, Jan. 2014 Visits share, Nov. 2014 Percentage point difference
zillow.com 15.71% 21.76% 6.05 percentage points
trulia.com 8.31% 8.67% 0.36 percentage points
realtor.com 7.21% 7.74% 0.53 percentage points
homes.yahoo.com 5.85% 2.81% -3.04 percentage points
homes.com 2.78% 2.81% 0.03 percentage points
movoto.com 0.88% 2.34% 1.46 percentage points
apartmentguide.com 1.90% 1.69% -0.21 percentage points
redfin.com 1.14% 1.54% 0.40 percentage points
apartments.com 1.18% 1.46% 0.28 percentage points
loopnet.com 1.17% 1.26% 0.09 percentage points
forrent.com 1.12% 1.16% 0.04 percentage points
rent.com 1.42% 1.09% 0.33 percentage points
hotpads.com 0.82% 1.01% 0.19 percentage points
estately.com 0.20% 0.89% 0.69 percentage points
ziprealty.com 1.02% 0.87% 0.15 percentage points
century21.com 0.84% 0.96% 0.12 percentage points
remax.com 0.74% 0.81% 0.07 percentage points
imrmls.com (California Regional MLS website) 0.27% 0.65% 0.38 percentage points
apartmentfinder.com 0.89% 0.63% -0.26 percentage points
rentals.com 0.49% 0.60% 0.11 percentage points

Source: Experian Marketing Services *Includes traffic just from desktop computers

Most popular real estate sites by unique visitors, November 2014*

Network Unique visitors share, Jan. 2014 Unique visitors share, Nov. 2014 Percentage point difference
Zillow 54.9% 54.0% -0.9 percentage points
Trulia 31.5% 29.2% -2.3 percentage points
realtor.com 23.7% 23.8% 0.1 percentage points
Homes.com 10.1% 10.3% 0.2 percentage points
Redfin 5.3% 6.0% 0.7 percentage points
Apartments.com 4.7% 4.8% 0.1 percentage points
Coldwell Banker 4.7% 3.8% -0.9 percentage points
Movoto 2.4% 3.8% 1.4 percentage points
LoopNet 3.5% 3.5% No change
Century 21 3.4% 2.8% -0.6 percentage points
Curbed N/A 2.1% N/A
NCI Interactive 2.3% 1.9% -0.4 percentage points
Uhaul N/A 1.9% N/A
NJ.com Real Estate N/A 1.9% N/A
Re/Max 1.8% 1.8% No change

Source: comScore. *Includes traffic from desktop, mobile Web and mobile apps