Steve Berkowitz, left, and Russ Cofano speak to REALTORS® at NAR’s Leadership Summit.
Realtor.com® has had its ups and downs this year as it works to reclaim its once-top spot as the go-to site for consumers. While its traffic has grown 18 percent over the past year, the site faces some stiff competition and an evolving industry landscape.
In response, parent company Move Inc. has launched an aggressive “Accuracy Matters” campaign, and senior executives were on hand at the National Association of REALTORS®’ Leadership Summit in Chicago with a message for REALTORS®: Work with us as we move forward.
At the summit, an annual gathering of incoming state and local association presidents and executive staff, Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Move, and Russ Cofano, the company’s senior vice president of industry relations, implored REALTORS® to get more involved in helping shape the future of realtor.com®.
“We need your help to look forward and not backward,” Cofano said. “What has happened in the past doesn’t really matter. What matters is what we do from here.
“The one thing we know about this industry is that change is constant. If we’re going to keep moving along that process, we need dialogue with you. We need you to tell us what you need.”
Berkowitz also said that realtor.com® would be stepping up its efforts to communicate to state and local associations so they can, in turn, communicate its message to members.
“We want every REALTOR® to know what’s true and not true about our site, and we’re looking to you to deliver that message,” Berkowitz said. “We want dialogue, and when things aren’t going right, we need you to tell us and we’ll try and fix them.”
Monday’s session included a Q&A segment. These were some of the topics covered:
Realtor.com®’s Top Priorities
- Branding: “One of the things we need to do is help consumers understand who you all are before they meet you,” Berkowitz said. “That first cocktail-party conversation doesn’t happen at a cocktail party anymore.” Berkowitz added that realtor.com® is focused on communicating to consumers the level of professional integrity, training, and development it takes to be a REALTOR®. “If two agents came in the room and laid down business cards, and one had an ‘R’ on it and the other didn’t, we want the consumer to know why they should choose the one with the ‘R’ on it,” he said.
- Data: “Big data exists in our business as a thought but not a reality,” Cofano said. “Data is fragmented, and until we find a clearinghouse for all that data in one place, this industry will never be able to reap the rewards of that data.” Berkowitz said he envisions realtor.com® as that clearinghouse, adding that “if you have a single pipeline with all that data coming through, you can control it more.” He touted the industry standards that realtor.com® abides by — which its competitors do not — and said the site is focused on making all its content as accurate as possible.
- User experience: Berkowitz and Cofano acknowledged that competitor sites have a user-friendly product attracting a lot of eyeballs and said realtor.com® needs to jazz up its site. “Calling some of our competitors ‘entertainment sites’ is not necessarily derogation to them,” Cofano said. “We have to make [realtor.com®] more fun.”
At one point, an audience member asked Berkowitz about the fees for enhanced listings.
“Realtor.com® was set up as a for-profit business, and we’re looking for the best way to make money so we can go out and spend money to build a brand,” Berkowitz said. When pressed to explain why advertising on realtor.com® is more beneficial than advertising on other sites, Berkowitz said that besides adhering to industry standards — such as not accepting FSBO listings or competitors’ ads adjacent to agent listings — realtor.com® is rolling out new agent profiles that will allow agents and brokers to be more prominent on their pages. The new profiles will allow practitioners to highlight information such as transaction data, team info, and client recommendations.
“We’re helping the consumer to trust you before they meet you,” Berkowitz said.
Realtor.com®’s agent-search tool pilot, which ended last year after a brief trial in two markets, is now in a new phase and has a new name: AgentDiscovery. Berkowitz said it’s clear consumers want this deeper information about agents’ experience and service. When the new tool rolls out, agents will have control over how to present their information in context.
Berkowitz acknowledged the feedback to last year’s pilot test of the search tool, then dubbed AgentMatch. “We’re respectful of your wishes. We’ve learned, and we continue to learn” as the company moves toward delivering the kind of rich search experience consumers are demanding, he said.