In less than two months, the National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors will meet in private to talk about the future of REALTOR.com. As I documented in my special report, Zillow and Trulia have made significant gains over the last five years and now outrank realtor.com in unique monthly traffic. Both NAR and Move Inc want to put Realtor.com back in the lead, but it won’t be easy. They have unique challenges that they need to overcome.
Just because the board is meeting in private, doesn’t mean we can’t brainstorm about REALTOR.com’s future in public. I hope you will consider adding your own ideas in the comments, or write a blog post and I’ll link to it. Let’s have a conversation about taking back REALTOR.com and upgrading it to compete with Zillow and Trulia.
I’ll start with a few ideas.
Idea 1: Use the Consumer Advertising Campaign to fund premium listings.
This is an idea that Houston Association of REALTORS Chairman, Danny Frank has been sharing on social media channels. First, reallocate the money that NAR spends on TV and Radio ads that drive consumers to NAR’s public advocacy efforts on HouseLogic.com to REALTOR.com. In exchange, REALTOR.com gives every member fully featured ‘premium’ listings with no competing agents on listing property pages, equal ranking for all listings, and the maximum amount of pictures. In addition, HouseLogic would either enjoy additional placement on REALTOR.com, or could possibly be folded into REALTOR.com altogether; making REALTOR.com the central hub for virtually all of NAR’s consumer communications.
This idea eliminates the biggest gripe that REALTORS® have about Realtor.com: the premise that, “we give listings to REALTOR.com, only to have them charge us for leads back.” While it marks a retreat from traditional media advertising for NAR, it’s possible that an all digital advocacy campaign could be more effective.
Idea 2: Dump Move Inc, and contract Trulia or Zillow to run Realtor.com
Categorize this as a truly crazy idea, but we’re brainstorming, right? The idea here is to let one of the portals build a member friendly site with no competing ads on property detail pages. In exchange, the portal who builds it gets agent access marketing, and possibly even rights to the listing data being sent to REALTOR.com. I don’t know that Spencer Rascoff or Pete Flint would be anymore comfortable partnering with NAR than the association would be partnering with them, but this would be a way to build a great site with no competing ads for members, without encroaching on the budget.
Idea 3: Give Realtor.com more autonomy in populating content on the site
I believe this is what the folks at Move would prefer. Let them provide the content that consumers want to see. This includes off-MLS listings like new construction, distressed properties and rentals. Hey, maybe even go so far as to allow FSBO’s. Okay, maybe not. This idea gives Move a fighting chance at regaining the lead in attracting consumer eyeballs, and doesn’t cost the association any money. The downside is that some members are not going to want non-member content on the site.
Idea 4: Keep your friends close, and the portals, closer
Perhaps NAR is going about this the wrong way. If the ultimate goal is to help its members affordably market their listings online, why should they limit their efforts to one portal? There’s a great deal of pride around the use of REALTOR.com, and it should be the association’s official consumer channel, but perhaps it’s time to start building relationships with Zillow and Trulia as well.
Mix and match as you see fit
Maybe some of these ideas will be combined. Maybe you have better ideas. Now is the time to air them. I guarantee that NAR is listening. Share your ideas!
Photo: Creative Commons license via Flickr user Javier Q.