The specific dollar amount that a consumer receives is based on a sliding scale. If the property is worth $150,000, the consumer will get back roughly $400, but on a $4 million property, the consumer gets back around $12,000 according to Nate Johnson, CMO of realtor.com.

Could extra cash make homebuyers more loyal to an agent found through a lead generation platform? That’s the hope of Realtor.com and Opcity: Both companies, which are owned by News Corp.’s real estate subsidiary Move Inc., are launching a new cash rebate effort on Opcity’s online lead-gen platform with the goal of increasing the rate of connections leading to closings.

Homebuyers who select the real estate agent that connected with them through Opcity’s lead referral platform are eligible to receive cash back if the home is worth more than $150,000.

Nate Johnson, CMO of realtor.com | Photo credit: realtor.com

“We’re super excited about it from the perspective that it really aligns incentives,” realtor.com’s chief marketing officer Nate Johnson told Inman. “In particular for the consumer, it really helps keep them motivated to close and stick with the agent that we connected them to do.”

The initial launch of the test program will only go live in less than a dozen markets across the country.

The specific dollar amount that a consumer receives is based on a sliding scale. If the property is worth $150,000, the consumer will get back roughly $400, but on a $4 million property, the consumer gets back around $12,000 according to Johnson.

The incentive program was born out of researching what agents like the best about referral platforms with high conversion rates, according to Opcity founder and CEO Ben Rubenstein. Outside of great service and a great experience, Opcity found that some sort of rewards program is a great incentive for consumers to stick with the agents with which the Opcity platform matches them.

Ben Rubenstein, CEO of Opcity | Photo credit: Opcity

“Opcity has always been about connecting the right consumer to the right agent at the right time and making a great match so both sides have a wonderful experience,” Rubenstein said. “In addition to that, if we can give an extra cherry on the top to the consumer they’re going to more likely be happy with this entire experience because they’re getting some money back, and work with the agent partner that we’ve connected them with.”

Opcity works on a referral fee, so the company only gets paid when an agent closes a deal with one of the leads the platform provides. Rubenstein declined to disclose the fee, but real estate tech advisor Mike DelPrete has estimated it to be somewhere in the range of 30-35 percent of the buyer agent’s commission.

Getting connected with a cash rewards client will cost the agent slightly more of their commission, according to Rubenstein, who declined to disclose how much that increase will be, only characterizing it as, “slight.”

Agents in the test markets will have the option to work with the cash rewards clients or not, Rubenstein explained. When an agent receives a push notification about a new lead opportunity, they will see right in the Opcity app whether or not that client is a cash rewards client.

The program will be open to all agents in those specific test markets. Opcity declined to specify which markets will be first for the test.

The test area, will be small at the outset and there’s a small chance that Opcity and realtor.com decide not to pursue this avenue if it doesn’t work as the companies are hoping.

The new platform comes on the heels of realtor.com and Opcity’s efforts to test replacing realtor.com’s traditional lead generation platform with the lead qualification and referral platform from Opcity.

Realtor.com’s operator Move Inc., a subsidiary of Newscorp, finalized the acquisition of Opcity for $210 million in October 2018.

Opcity declined to provide current conversion rates for its platform — although it hopes the cash rewards platform will increase those rates.

However, the test of eliminating realtor.com’s traditional lead generation platform in more than a dozen markets angered many brokers who pay for the traditional service, according to Inman’s reporting.

The change follows closely what Zillow attempted last year with its Zillow Premier Agent paid online advertising program, switching from supplying agents with unvetted leads to leads to only those vetted by Zillow customer service over the phone, a process Zillow said would lead to higher lead quality (and presumably a better customer experience for home searchers). Following churn in its Premier Agent advertiser program, Zillow eventually walked back this change and now offers unvetted leads alongside vetted ones.

Instead of sending agents the contact information of prospective homeowners who ask to be connected with an agent on realtor.com’s listing website, the consumer is first vetted and then connected directly with the agent.

“Following our acquisition last October of Opcity, the leading real estate technology platform that quickly and effectively matches qualified homebuyers and sellers with real estate professionals, we’ve focused on gaining hands-on experience with the platform and testing its business model in several small to mid-size markets,” a spokesperson for Move Inc., told Inman in a statement.

Realtor.com and Opcity aren’t the first platform to offer cash back incentives for consumers, meaning those consumers are winning big when brokerages and platforms fight for their business.

Relocation firm Cartus — a subsidiary of Realogy — offers cash rewards when you buy or sell through a recommended firm or agent. Opendoor has a credit for using one of its partner agents and a few real estate startups offer a cash back credit or a commission refund.

Email Patrick Kearns

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