Realtor.com operator and News Corp. subsidiary Move Inc. started 2020 in upheaval, shuffling its leadership and then grappling with a pandemic that first shook, and then bolstered, the real estate market.
In January 2020, David Doctorow, a former eBay executive, took the helm of Move after former CEO Ryan O’Hara departed from the company in June 2019. Shortly thereafter, Doctorow made some major changes at Move, elevating two leaders of Opcity, a tech startup Move acquired in 2018, and ousting two longtime leaders at the company.
The promotions reflected a continued shift in business strategy for realtor.com. In 2019, realtor.com began outright replacing its traditional lead generation platform with the lead referral service from Opcity in some markets, where agents pay the company a portion of their commission when they close a warm lead, rather than pay upfront for impressions.
In response to the housing market’s hit at the beginning of the pandemic, realtor.com gave agents significant billing reductions for its agent advertising platform in March and April. In May, Move announced layoffs, partially due to COVID-19 but also part of a larger realtor.com restructuring.
In December, Move acquired Avail, a software company that provides tools for landlords, further expanding into the rental space. In January, realtor.com and Qualia announced that they have teamed up to give agents who participate in realtor.com’s ReadyConnect Concierge network access to Qualia’s digital title and notarization services.
To observers, the changes at realtor.com suggest that the long-dormant caterpillar may be emerging from its cocoon. In May, real estate tech advisor and Inman contributor Mike DelPrete told Inman, “realtor.com has suffered from lackluster performance for years,” but that the leadership changes signal “that the company might be up to something interesting for the first time since really News Corp acquired them” in November 2014.
Last month, Inman publisher Brad Inman speculated that realtor.com’s turnaround makes the company ripe for acquisition. “A buffed-up realtor.com begs the question: Is it the next target for a big acquisition by some company such as CoStar,” Inman wrote.
Regardless, realtor.com’s star appears to be rising. Here are five key leaders to watch as the industry attends the company’s next move.
Mickey Neuberger, chief marketing officer
In last month’s News Corp. earnings call, CEO Robert Thomson touted realtor.com’s growing profits and booming traffic, noting that the site had contributed more to News Corp.’s profit growth than REA in Australia.
Also in March, Move sold off software product Top Producer to Constellation Real Estate Group — an asset that didn’t support its mission of chasing Zillow’s commanding consumer traffic lead, Inman noted.
Neuberger joined Move in June after more than eight years as an executive at eBay. As CMO, he is responsible for realtor.com’s brand strategy, creative development, digital and performance marketing, public relations, editorial and economics content, B2B marketing and industry relations, a company spokesperson told Inman.
“In the 10 months since he joined the company, Mickey has created a transformational new approach to digital advertising that has realtor.com showing up in fresh and more relevant ways to consumers, ultimately driving more home shoppers to agent/broker listings on realtor.com,” the spokesperson said.
“By applying best-in-class digital marketing techniques, Mickey has helped realtor.com drive faster growth than its closest competitor every month since he joined the company, reaching a record 94 million unique users in January.”
Chris Patalano, chief technology officer
At Inman Connect Now in June, Doctorow listed growing traffic and leads, the Realtor brand, and “great data” as a foundation for realtor.com to build on. He said in the next year realtor.com would continue to focus on bringing more consumers to the site in new ways and “to create a consumer experience that really stands out.”
Then, at Connect Now in January, Doctorow vowed to not become a broker, lender or iBuyer — unlike archrival Zillow — but said the company would use data science and prediction models to match consumers with agents and other service providers, including lenders and title companies, in order to improve the consumer experience.
As part of Move’s C-suite reshuffle, Move brought on Patalano in July in order to define and lead implementation of the company’s tech roadmap and to optimize the company’s overall tech infrastructure while ensuring it has the right processes and tech in place for product development. He had previously served as senior vice president of engineering at Pandora and held senior engineering roles at Apple and Beats Music.
Patalano is also in charge of enhancing the consumer experience on realtor.com and ensuring the company’s date integrity, according to the company.
“Since joining realtor.com in July 2020, Chris has driven investment in realtor.com’s mobile app talent and technology, and doubled-down on the company’s investment in machine-learning and data science to power a more personalized user experience, enable industry-leading property recommendations, and make stronger-than-ever agent-consumer connections,” the spokesperson said.
“He’s also helping refine data collection across realtor.com products to drive insight-driven decision making for realtor.com customers and the consumers we all serve.”
Leslie Jordan, senior vice president of product strategy
Jordan, whose mother is a real estate agent, came to Move through its acquisition of Opcity in October 2018. She oversees realtor.com’s product marketing and strategy. When Move promoted Jordan to SVP of product strategy in December, CPO Rachel Morley said one of Jordan’s “ninja strengths” was “to assess, shape and drive successful change in our products” and that her new role would create the bandwidth to “more deeply support high priority strategic goals, across our whole portfolio.”
“Leslie will also help drive improvements across our product organization — in pursuit of solving problems that make it hard to get stuff done, difficult to prioritize, etc; and get involved in acquisitions to ensure any companies we purchase are soundly assessed,” Morley said at the time.
According to a company spokesperson, over the past year Jordan and her team have developed and enhanced products that have helped improve connection and close rates, including the Opcity Referral Manager app, which agents and brokers in the ReadyConnect Concierge network use to manage and communicate with customer and client contacts.
Jordan also spearheaded a collaboration with nonprofit research and technology group First Street Foundation to create a flood risk score for properties on realtor.com, which the company said was “a first-of-its-kind feature in online search.”
Homes on and off the market receive a score between 1 to 10 on their risk of flooding over a 30-year mortgage and realtor.com also displays a property’s flood zone as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Historically, determining a property’s flood risk was an onerous process — in some cases, potential buyers would have no idea a property was in a flood zone until it was flagged by the mortgage company before closing, or in some cases not at all,” Jordan said when the feature launched in August.
“By surfacing this information upfront, consumers can avoid surprises and have all the information they need to make informed decisions and feel confident about the home buying process.”
Tricia Smith, senior vice president of channel sales and operations
Smith is a 15-year veteran at Move, coming to the company after its acquisition of Moving.com. She’s got fingers in many pots throughout the company, leading the Media, Moving, Mortgage and New Homes teams as well as overseeing relationships with many of realtor.com’s Fortune 500 partners, according to the company. She’s grown realtor.com’s Media business by more than 150 percent over the past five years, the company said.
Smith also grew and nurtured realtor.com relationship with lender Veterans United “from a small test client to one of our largest strategic partners across multiple product offerings,” the spokesperson said. The two companies have offered seven homebuyer giveaways together to military families in the past four years.
“More recently, Tricia led the team that launched realtor.com’s New Construction Go-Direct initiative,” the spokesperson said. “The initiative sources new construction listings directly from builders as we collaborate to understand builders’ needs and pain points to create specific solutions to address those issues.”
Danielle Hale, chief economist
Before joining the official listing site of the National Association of Realtors in July 2017, Hale was NAR’s managing director of housing research for more than nine years.
Since then, Hale has lead realtor.com’s team of analysts and economists, which “analyzes vast amounts of listing data, search trends, lending patterns, demographics and consumer behavior on realtor.com to produce valuable market intelligence” for consumers, industry professionals and thought leaders, according to the company.
News outlets, including Inman, call on Hale to offer insights on a variety of real estate-related topics, including what consumers think about the housing market, whether rents nationally are rising or falling and why there are so few homes for sale in America.
“Danielle Hale is a nationally recognized expert on the residential housing market,” the spokesperson said.
“Major media outlets including CNBC, NPR, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times rely on her ability to develop and translate real estate trends data into consumer and industry insights, and communicate those insights in a way that’s relevant to a wide variety of audiences.”