Joseph “Joe” Rand — a real estate executive, broker, attorney, speaker, book author and Inman contributor — is now the executive director of the Broker Public Portal, a company formed by a large group of brokers and multiple listing services to launch the nation’s first national public-facing MLS website. In January 2017, BPP and real estate tech firm Homesnap formed a 50-50 joint venture, the National Broker Portal, and Homesnap became that national public-facing site.
From its beginning, the BPP intended to compete with third-party portals such as Zillow and realtor.com, but to do it while following industry-defined “fair display guidelines,” which prohibit display ads from competing agents or brokers on listings and require all leads to be sent to the listing agent or broker for free.
In the past several years, Homesnap’s listing content has grown to cover more than 90 percent of all property listings nationwide from more than 240 MLSs representing more than 1 million agent and broker subscribers, according to a press release. Last month, Homesnap landed on the Inc. 5000 2020 list of fastest-growing companies at No. 510. The mobile-first portal experienced 917 percent revenue growth over three years. It was on the Inc. 5000 in 2019 at No. 38 and No. 43 in 2018.
Until now, the BPP had no designated head, while other listing sites such as Zillow and Redfin have widely-recognized leaders in Rich Barton and Glenn Kelman. The National Broker Portal’s board of managers appointed Rand to serve as the “face” of the BPP, according to the release.
“As the Broker Public Portal’s Executive Director, Rand will be the voice of the BPP at industry events, on stage and off, and serve as a spokesperson for the organization, contributing articles and opinion pieces about the BPP,” the release said.
“Rand will be the key industry liaison for the BPP, meeting with individual MLSs and brokers to encourage them to join the BPP and expand this rapidly-growing industry movement.”
Rand will remain the Chief Creative Officer for New York-based Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate (BHGRE) | Rand Realty, the 103rd largest brokerage in the U.S. by transaction sides last year, according to Real Trends. He will still lead the firm’s career development, educational and training programs for its 1,200 agents, but he will no longer serve as the firm’s general counsel.
That will free up some of his time to purse a lofty mission: “My two-year goal working with the BPP with Homesnap is to make it the number one real estate search site in the country. We have an opportunity to take the BPP to the forefront of the conversation about our industry’s future,” Rand said in a statement.
Currently, the most popular listing website in the U.S. is Zillow, the flagship website for Zillow Group, a publicly traded company with a market cap of $18.3 billion that has spent hundreds of millions on advertising the site.
Asked how he planned to make Homesnap the most popular listing website among consumers, Rand said, “When they offered me this job, one of the first things I did was grab two phones and put them side by side to compare the Zillow and Homesnap apps. And you know what? They’re both really great. But from using them, you can’t tell which one has all those eyeballs. The biggest difference is that Homesnap provides a client-friendly environment for real collaboration, without being corrupted by advertising. If people use Homesnap, they love Homesnap. My job is to get them to give it a try.”
Asked how he will get consumers to give Homesnap a try, Rand said, “I think a lot of people are confused about the BPP mission of creating a better portal for clients, agents, and brokers. We haven’t always explained it well. But I’ve been around the country talking to brokers and agents, and I know how much they need this. It’s a lot better to have an amazing product that we haven’t messaged or marketed well, than the other way around. When we do that side-by-side ‘taste test,’ agents will realize that they have to get the clients on this platform.”
Given that most consumers on real estate listing apps aren’t actually clients and are just browsing, if they have no need to contact an agent what will make the Homesnap app more attractive?
“Homesnap treats customers like clients, not a product to be sold to advertisers,” Rand replied.
“When that shopper is ready to become a buyer, and wants real information about the property she’s interested in, she doesn’t get re-directed to some random agent who has probably never seen the house. She goes right to the agent who knows that property best. That’s better for the client, and better for the agent.”
Rather than spending hundreds of millions to advertise to consumers, the BPP will spread the word on Homesnap via agents, according to Rand.
“It’s a lot easier and cheaper to market to a million real estate agents than 250 million raw consumers. If we get the agents, they’ll bring the consumers,” he said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional comments from Rand.