Realogy announced Wednesday the expansion of its iBuyer program and upcoming launch of a service that will give buyers cash backing.
The iBuyer program is an expansion of cataLIST, which Realogy launched last year in a partnership with lease-to-own company Home Partners of America. Initially, cataLIST was only available as a pilot program for NRT agents in Atlanta, Dallas and Tampa.
However, Realogy now plans to expand cataLIST to all Realogy agents in those three cities, the company announced at its RGX conference in Las Vegas.
In addition, the company will gradually expand the program to new cities “throughout 2019,” NRT president and CEO Ryan Gorman told Inman Wednesday. He declined to say which cities exactly will get cataLIST next but described the 40 markets where Home Partners of America current operates as “a good candidate list.”
The program also will be available to all agents across Realogy’s brands — which include Coldwell Banker, Century 21, Better Homes and Gardens and others — in the to-be-announced expansion cities.
Gorman told Inman that pilot version of cataLIST has been well received so far. It differs from other iBuyer offerings by requiring participants to have a signed agreement in place with an agent. The agent then presents the cash offer to the seller, who can choose to accept it or instead move forward with a conventional sale.
If the seller accepts the offer, Home Partners of America fronts the cash to actually acquire the home, while the Realogy agent handles the transaction.
Gorman told Inman Wednesday that “more than a quarter of the agents” who have used cataLIST “have come back and told us they’ve landed listings that they wouldn’t have gotten if they didn’t have the product.”
Gorman also said cataLIST has an acceptance rate “way above” other iBuyers such as Zillow.
“It’s almost perplexing how low their acceptance rate is relative to what we’re seeing,” he added.
In recent months, both Zillow and Redfin have framed their iBuying programs as relatively niche products with low acceptance rates. However, both companies have also framed the programs important parts of their larger repertoires, in part because they help generate leads and connect people to other parts of the business.
Though executives involved with cataLIST claim to have higher acceptance rates for their version of iBuying, they too see the concept as useful even if everyone doesn’t ultimately accept the offers.
“I think it’s very important information to help an agent provide more value to their customers,” Bill Young, co-founder of Home Partners of America, told Inman in a conversation Wednesday.
However, Gorman added that while other companies appear to be positioning iBuying as a “loss leader, we’re not.”
“We do think it’s hugely valuable,” he added. “The reason why I think it’s most valuable is because these kinds of things are already available in the marketplace but not one that’s coupled with an adviser who can actually stick with you through the entire process. Ours has that.”
Like other iBuyers, cataLIST includes price caps — typically around $500,000 — based on their markets. That practice will remain in place for the expanded version of the program.
In addition to expanding its iBuyer program, Realogy also announced Wednesday that it will work to disrupt the other side of the transaction by offering buyers cash backing.
That program, called OfferBOOST, will provide buyers with enough money to make a cash offer on a home, thus making them more competitive in markets that are especially hot or have low inventory.
The program is similar to what Ribbon, which describes itself as “the credit card swipe for real estate,” currently offers in a handful of markets.
Gorman said that people using the program will pay a “modest fee,” though he did not say what exactly the cost would ultimately be.
OfferBOOST will first be available this summer in a pilot version, though Realogy has not named the markets where it will launch first. Buyers interested in using the program must have a signed contract in place with a Realogy agent.
Finally, Realogy also announced Wednesday a program called Fast Track, which according to a company statement is “designed to underwrite a seller’s home and lock in mortgage and insurance for qualified buyers.”
Gorman described the program to Inman as a kind of merging of services provided by cataLIST and OfferBOOST, adding that it is designed to provide assurances for people on both sides of a transaction that a deal will close.
Speaking later on stage at RGX, Gorman added that “Fast Track will bring speed, simplicity and certainty” to closings.
Young also appeared with Gorman on stage and characterized Fast Track as “almost like a push-button home purchase.” He said that the program should allow for closings in as little as a week, which Home Partners of America will facilitate by quickly underwriting a home, as well as lining up mortgage and title insurance.
And if the buyer falls through, Young’s company steps in.
“The buyer can then buy the home normally, but if the transaction doesn’t close for any reason, we will buy the house,” he explained.
As is the case with Realogy’s other new or expanded programs, sellers wanting to use Fast Track need to have a signed contract with a Realogy agent. The company hopes to make Fast Track available before the summer.
Speaking of Fast Track, OfferBOOST and cataLIST, Gorman said Wednesday onstage that Realogy was making significant investments in technology that are “ground-breaking, game-changing.” But while many of these innovations already exist in one form or another, Gorman added that Realogy’s versions are unique.
“Real estate agents,” he said to an applauding crowd, “will be protected and at the center of every transaction.”