Technology

Owners.com relaunches as national discount brokerage and listing portal

Revamped by Altisource, Owners.com unbundles 'what was traditionally a bundled offering'

Watch out, Xome.

Owners.com has relaunched as a national real estate brokerage and listing portal.

Growing from its roots as a for-sale-by-owner website, Owners.com now offers buyers and sellers an a la carte menu of brokerage services, including remote support from in-house real estate agents.

“We’re empowering consumers and providing them with a choice … by unbundling what was traditionally a bundled offering,” said Eric Eckardt, vice president of online real estate at Altisource. Altisource owns Owners.com and a variety of other real estate services, including real estate auction platform Hubzu.

buyer

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The debut of the new Owners.com represents the latest bid to provide an online end-to-end platform capable of shepherding consumers through the entire home sales process. It comes on the heels of the launch of competitor Xome, a real estate marketplace operated by Nationstar Mortgage Holdings.

Like Xome, Owners.com offers rebates to buyers. If legal and permitted by a lender, a buyer working with Owners.com gets to claim as much as 50 percent of a buyer’s agent’s commission split.

But one crucial difference between Xome and Owners.com is that Owners.com connects buyers and sellers with in-house real estate agents who communicate with clients remotely, while Xome refers buyers to partner agents who will work with customers in person.

The new Owners.com reveals what Altisource had in mind when it purchased Owners.com for up to $27 million in December 2014.

Owners.com continues to help consumer sell their homes without real estate agents. Homeowners can use the site’s most popular option, a six-month multiple listing services package for $395 to sell, if they like.

Sellers who want more help can use Owners.com’s real estate agents to price their homes, negotiate and complete a contract, for an additional fee of $395.

seller service

Owners.com’s agents are a different breed than their traditional counterparts. For one, they are called “advisers” and they communicate with their clients remotely, by phone or email only.

They also don’t earn traditional commissions. They are salaried employees who earn bonuses based on customer satisfaction and the number of deals that they close — a compensation model pioneered by Redfin.

Owners.com is launching with 50 agents, and plans to bring on many more over the coming months.

About half of Owners.com’s current agents previously worked for the brokerage REALHome Services and Solutions, an Altisource subsidiary that listed properties only on Hubzu, the online real estate auction platform that’s also owned by Altisource.

As part of the relaunch of Owners.com, Altisource has rebranded REALHome Services to Owners.com and brought on another 25 agents or so.

Owners.com’s agents have, on average, 15 to 20 years’ experience, Eckardt said, including “hands-on experience in the trenches, facilitating working with buyers on sales and sell-side transactions.”

On Owners.com, buyers can search nearly all listings available in the top 50 metro areas, according to Eckardt. He said Owners.com is a licensed brokerage in 49 states and belongs to over 200 multiple listing services. It already gets IDX (Internet data exchange) feeds from 100 of those MLSs, he said.

“It’s a process that takes time,” Eckardt said about getting direct feeds from the other MLSs that it’s a member of.

As a buyer, using the site works something like this:

You find a property you like on Owners.com or another listing portal, schedule a showing on Owners.com, claim a rebate and connect with an Owners.com adviser, who will interact with you only online or by phone.

Using software that isn’t integrated into Owners.com, an Owners.com buyer’s adviser helps you make an offer, plus negotiate and complete all paperwork.

Much like Hubzu, Owners.com will eventually enable buyers to complete most, if not all, paperwork online, rather than on a separate platform, Eckardt said.

Owners.com will also incorporate Altisource’s portfolio of real estate services into its offering.

The brokerage’s advisers will refer clients to appraisal, auction, mortgage, home warranty, handyman, and home inspection and repair services that all fall under Altisource’s umbrella.

Though advisers will make it clear to clients that they aren’t required to use ancillary services owned by Altisource, those who do will enjoy “highly competitive” rates, Eckardt said.

They’ll also be able to glide smoothly through a transaction, he said, “because it’s not an independent third party that we’re engaging with to help facilitate a closing.”

Owners.com joins a number of other companies that are racing to build a platform capable of guiding consumers through the entire homebuying or selling process, including Xome, Opendoor and Auction.com.

Though some have predicted that the emergence of such products would chip away at the relevance of real estate agents, they all currently incorporate support from real estate agents into their service models.

Email Teke Wiggin.


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