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RealtorDotCom and the Free Agent-Branded Mobile App: Flexing Strategic Muscle, Building Interdependence (Realtor.com)

Realtor.com free agent-branded appIn case you haven’t read it yet, Realtor.com is planning to release a new version of its mobile app that is branded for the individual agent–and it’s going to be free.  You can read Inman’s review of the upcoming product but, to put it simply, an individual agent can have their clients download one of the best mobile apps available for iPad, iPhone, or Android, and all of the app’s contact features, including the ability to schedule appointments and chat about a property in real-time, will be linked directly to that agent’s contact information.

I’ve written before about the top two apps by the big players in this arena, as well as the strategic advantages that Zillow and Realtor.com are employing as mobile becomes a much larger part of the real estate search landscape.  There are plenty of other mobile apps available from Homes.com, Trulia, Redfin, ZipRealty, etc, as well as brokerage-branded apps like Coldwell Banker’s, but their share of the market really doesn’t compare to the top two.

Realtor.com’s app, in my opinion, is slightly superior to Zillow’s in terms of functionality, but they are both neck-and-neck as highly sophisticated, easy-to-use products. I haven’t found a user who hasn’t loved both interfaces when they tried them.

Realtor.com has two main advantages over their competitors, which they’re looking to capitalize on:

  • Listing and data accuracy from MLS feed
  • Somewhat dedicated Realtor members of over 1,000,000

Accurate Listings

Realtor.com’s online advantage always been their relationship with the National Association of Realtors, which gives them direct access to MLS listings across the country.  In terms of data accuracy, they are worlds apart from any other non-MLS app.  Zillow, Trulia, etc have up to twice as many “listings” showing available, which simply means that close to half of those listings are already sold, expired, duplicated, or are those pesky fake foreclosure listings.

While this is a huge advantage, consumers usually don’t know this when they download an app.  They don’t find out until they make a phone call or send an email on a dead listing, and at that point the responding company has already achieved their goal of creating a lead.  There is no way to leverage this data advantage outright without more consumer knowledge, meaning more users.

Realtor Membership

Realtor.com’s other big advantage is the membership of the National Association of Realtors:  over 1 million professionals.  There are some rifts in the relationship between the two companies (Realtor.com is technically an independent site run by Move, Inc under an agreement with the NAR), and certainly not all members are supporting the organization directly with advertising dollars, but that is the genius behind the move to give agents something for free and bring them into the fold.  As of today, there are 2,000 Realtors signed up for the first chance to brand their own app.  This list has only been available for two days.

Even an agent who has had a bad relationship with Realtor.com on a sales/advertising level in the past has to see this as a positive.  Very few agents spend the time and money to create their own branded app.  The majority of agents nationwide, in fact, have no mobile app whatsoever for their clients, unless it is a generic brokerage-branded app.  Realtor.com has taken away the barriers of time, money, and technical skills and laid an app at their feet.  If it works as advertised, any agent with a website would be foolish to not offer it their clients, knowing that they would otherwise simply download another company’s app with someone else’s phone number.

This brings us to the interdependence that I believe Realtor.com is attempting to create with the new app.  Far fewer than the 1 million Realtor members are actually working regularly with Realtor.com.  Every agent who signs up for this app will be tying their clients, and their paychecks at some level, into a Realtor.com system.  There may be some future upgrade options.  There is a potential that they create some advertising/marketing/premium features in a package for app users.  No matter what, a large number of real estate professionals will gain a benefit from Realtor.com, and the business relationship will become stronger across that network.

Just imagine having over 1 million salespeople working the phones and the internet every day asking their clients to download your app.  If this app delivers as promised, that’s what Realtor.com has just done.  That is the strategy of an industry titan in a nutshell.  Leverage the assets that your competitors cannot.  Realtor.com has the opportunity to dominate the mobile market if this rollout goes as planned.  If most real estate agents are anything like those on my team, there are a lot of people nationwide waiting anxiously to start signing up their clients.

About Sam DeBord

Sam DeBord is a former management consultant and web developer who writes for for Inman News and REALTOR® Magazine. He is Managing Broker for Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth, and 2016 President-Elect of Seattle King County REALTORS®. His team sells Seattle homes, condos, and Bellevue homes.

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  • Very smart strategic move by Realtor.com. As you said, they are tapping into thousands and thousands of agents/brokers to market R.com for them.

    I believe that similar to how Zillow’s low price point for their website is going to price much of the website competition out of the market — R.com is pricing much of the mobile competition out (very hard to compete with free) by releasing this as a free app.

    • Good point. Very few competitors can compete with Zillow’s website pricing. They’re probably taking a loss on it as a strategic move. A company would need to have some other revenue stream to be able to afford those sites.

  • Victoria Posthuma

    I have an android and i’m watching all realtors surrounding me with iphones get a jump on informing their clients about this. i feel bound by the wait.. HURRY and give us some android love!

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