Realtor.com is venturing into what some industry commentators say is a space ripe for innovation: seller lead generation. Realtor.com operator Move Inc. will launch a “Connections for Sellers” ad product this month in a subset of small test markets nationwide.
- Realtor.com will start testing a new seller lead generation product this month.
- The ad product will offer potential sellers an AVM, market trends, and the ability to connect with up to three agents.
- Other sites, including Zillow and Redfin, have recently launched their own products to rake in seller leads.
Realtor.com operator Move Inc. will launch a “Connections for Sellers” ad product this month in a subset of small test markets nationwide.
On realtor.com’s off-market listing pages, the product will feature market trend data on area home prices, an automated valuation model (AVM), and up to three agents offering a free home value and market analysis.
“One of the things we’ve found looking at our pages for off-market properties [is] that approximately 30 percent of people who submitted a lead from that address, with the address of the off-market property, actually ended up selling the house within a year,” Tapan Bhat, Move’s chief product officer, told Inman.
“So they were really high quality prospects. It was definitely something [where] we said, ‘Hmm, there must be some opportunity here.’”
Just one AVM
Move conducted “kitchen table” interviews with sellers as well as with listing agents in order to come up with the product’s design, Bhat said.
This feedback informed the company’s decision to do away with the three home value estimates it had previously displayed for off-market properties and instead go with an AVM with “high reliability” from CoreLogic, he said.
“What we found from the kitchen table interviews is that people did not want multiple AVMs. They didn’t want a range,” Bhat said.
The site will show the AVM, but it will also let consumers know that the tool has a margin of error and the most accurate estimate will come from an agent, he said.
“Some people say the AVMs are 90 percent accurate within 10 percentage points. That’s great in statistics, but when I’m trying to sell my house, that’s a big range, and people get upset about that,” Bhat said.
“The only person who really knows that data are the agents — the people on the ground who have real-time, up-to-the-minute information on what things are selling.
“They know, ‘Oh, yeah, that place went on the market.’ Through their contacts they may know there were 17 offers [and] it went this [much] over asking. That’s not captured in other AVM models. The agent has that in their head.”
There is a branding value to Connections for Sellers in addition to actual leads, according to Bhat.
Even if a homeowner can’t sell right away, “if they know that Judy Smith in this area actually is one of the top agents and is a five-star agent and she can give me information — because people check their home value multiple times — soon when it comes time for them to call an agent, guess who’s top of mind? Judy Smith,” he said.
Like agents who purchase realtor.com’s flagship ad product, Connection for Co-Brokerage, agents will be able to see how many people saw their ad and how many leads they got out of it, according to Bhat.
Will these agents really be local experts?
Last week, WAV Group’s Marilyn Wilson authored a blog post titled “I Didn’t Hire FOUR Listing Agents!” in which she described calling all of the agents displayed next to her for-sale home on Zillow.
“I was very disappointed to find out that NONE of the [advertising Premier Agents] had been in the house or even in the neighborhood recently,” she wrote.
“They knew nothing about the property. They were simply using my property to troll for potential buyers. They were not experts in any way regarding the community or property they were representing.”
“I came away very angry,” she added.
When asked whether realtor.com would do anything to make sure the agents displayed on Connections for Sellers were local experts, Bhat said, “A lot of this is self-policing because if she does the work, calls those people and those people don’t know anything about it, is she going to list the house with them? No.”
Realtor.com will also make it easier for people to find out whether someone is a local expert by linking to agents’ profiles, he added. Consumers can also use a map view on the site to find Realtors that have recently sold or listed homes in a particular area.
“We were the first to come up with a map view on [agent] profiles and one of the reasons why we did that was precisely to help a consumer solve that problem,” Bhat said.
“It gives you a validational tool so you can do the research,” he added.
Move declined to name the markets in which Connections for Sellers will test or give a timeline for the product’s official launch. The product will be launching marketwide, not with specific brokerages or MLSs, Bhat said.
Not the only game in town
Realtor.com is not the only real estate website eyeing sellers. At the beginning of March, realtor.com’s chief rival, Zillow, launched a “Best Time to List” tool that estimates how much the timing of when a property is listed will influence its sales price, based on the sales history of the property’s local market. It’s designed to generate seller leads for Zillow’s agent advertisers.
Zillow debuted another tool in December that can capture seller leads for agents: “Price This Home.” It builds on Zillow’s automated home value estimates, Zestimates, by allowing users to create more customized valuations and request professional estimates from agent advertisers.
Also in December, tech-focused brokerage Redfin debuted what it claims is the most accurate AVM the industry has ever seen in an effort to compete with Zestimates.
The firm features its home value estimates front and center on its home page and, after visitors enter an address, offers to connect them to an agent if they are interested in selling their home.
Big Philadelphia-area brokerage Berkshire Hathaway HomesServices (BHHS) Fox & Roach rolled out a “What’s Your Home Worth” tool on its home page last month, hoping the tool would generate a flow of new listing leads in its low-inventory market.
Designed by real estate consulting firm 1000watt, the site offers three AVMs, the chance to contact a specific agent, estimated demand in the area, recent buyer habits, market trends and recent sales.
Homeowners can also sign up for an e-property watch, which will give them monthly updates on the value of their home, recent sales in their area and how many people are in the market for a home like theirs based on MLS data, plus recent buyer activity, showings by price range, public record information and recent sales.