Househappy: A More Industry Friendly National Portal?
In many respects, today’s leading online real estate search portals are all starting to look alike. So much so, that consumers frequently skim through listings on more than one of these sites, thereby creating a gigantic number of eyeball visits on an aggregated basis relative to the actual number of home sales. If one adds the reported visits from the 4 top ranked portals by monthly traffic, the number exceeds 150 million unique visitors per month. And yet there are only about 5 million home sale transactions per year over the last few years.
While listing agents may be initially attracted to the appearance of national exposure of their listing asset on the more well known portals, the consumer often finds it easier to locate competing agents on the listing detail page than it is to find the listing agent — that is, unless the listing agent decides to lay out some marketing dollars for prime placement.
It seems the profit model of the large, national portals is based on selling online impression-based advertising to agents, where priority is given to the highest bidder rather than the agent with the listing. And the marketing fees seem to be rising and someday may reach as much as 40% of the commission on a closed sale, as noted in a recent Inman article.
Some brokerages like Edina Realty and Crye-Leike have viewed the business models of third party portals as a means to position the portal between the brokerage’s agents and the consumer — and the brokerages have demonstrated their distaste with these models by removing their listings from a few of the larger portals altogether in some markets, creating “black holes” where the portals do not have local listings to display.
With this Industry feedback in mind, several recently launched portals are trying to find new approaches to displaying listing data while giving proper credit to the listing agent.
So, what if there was a portal that prominently displayed only the listing agent’s name next to their listings—and what if this portal did this for free?
We found a site with a fresh new approach to displaying listings that does just that. Househappy has entered the market quietly — however, you may have seen them most recently in the news as an invited attendee at the Realogy FWD innovation summit where Househappy was described as a “visual real estate search engine that offers consumers an intuitive way to search homes for sale, and brokers and agents a free platform on which to advertise their properties.”
If you haven’t yet heard of Househappy, I encourage you to take a look at www.Househappy.com. You might notice that the home page is very different than what we are used to seeing with other national portals.
Here are a few other things that Househappy is doing differently for real estate professionals and in a manner consistent with Listing Rights Management principles:
- Cost—It’s free. No ads and no fees for real estate professionals or for buyers.
- Leads—All leads belong to the listing agent. Your listing, your leads. Leads flow directly to you. The buyers email you directly.
- Integrity—Clear ownership of listings. Your contact information (and no one else’s) is displayed next to your property post, along with a link to your agent profile.
- Agent Profile—You can build your brand presence online with a professional, dedicated profile page. All your properties are displayed on the agent profile and there is space to include your bio, expertise, specialties, and all forms of contact.
- Social Tools —Connect with buyers and share your properties with built-in social sharing tools on every property post.
Househappy may be flying under the radar for now, but based on what we have seen, not for long. It looks like a welcome addition to the online real estate search space.
Today, with the aid of the Internet, consumers can find timely and accurate information about homes available for sale, at the push of a button, at the speed of light…without the inconvenience of a conversation with a real estate agent. Millions of available properties are displayed on many different real estate sites, the largest being Zillow, Trulia, and REALTOR.com
In the United States, we have a real estate marketplace that is the envy of the Free World. It is not perfect, but billions of dollars of residential real estate business is transacted year after year). A KEY ingredient to the success of our real estate marketplace in North America is MLS, or Multiple Listing Service. What exactly is “MLS”?
MLS is the coming together of Brokers (competitors) to share their listing inventory. A listing is the contract with a seller, allowing the broker to offer the property for sale, and it includes an offer of commission. MLS provides access to its inventory to brokers who represent buyers as well as sellers. An MLS in not a publicly accessible data base, unless it elects to be such.
National Association of REALTORS MLS Model Rules states:
“A Multiple Listing Service is a means by which authorized Participants make blanket unilateral offers of compensation to other Participants (acting as subagents, buyer agents, or in other agency or nonagency capacities defined by law); by which information is accumulated and disseminated to enable authorized Participants (Real Estate Broker Licensees) to prepare appraisals and other valuations of real property; by which Participants engaging in real estate appraisal contribute to common databases; and is a facility for the orderly correlation and dissemination of listing information among the Participants so that they may better serve their clients and the public. Entitlement to compensation is determined by the cooperating broker’s performance as procuring cause of the sale (or lease).” (Amended 11/96) NAR MLS Model Rules.”
The National Association of REALTORS MLS Handbook states:
“Through the facility of multiple listing, information concerning individual listings can be made known to all Realtors® who participate in the activity. In associations of Realtors® with few members, the actual operation can be very simple. Each Realtor® can duplicate enough copies of the information concerning his listing to distribute to all other participants. However, when many Realtors® are involved, the distribution of information becomes more burdensome and may require reasonable rules of procedure and efficient central office management to expedite the service. Regardless of the method, however, the basis of the multiple listing activity is the creation of a facility whereby Realtors® may most effectively invite other brokers to enter into cooperative agreements with them for the sale of their listings and provide information necessary to permit such cooperation; by which information is accumulated and disseminated to enable authorized participants to prepare appraisals and other valuations of real property; and by which participants engaging in real estate appraisal contribute to common databases. (Amended 4/92) “
MLS was created decades, maybe a century before the Internet. It was not created for the purpose of distributing MLS data for advertising, or for the creation of revenue streams with third party vendors.
Since the introduction of the Internet as a means of providing MLS information to consumers in the early 1990s, some MLSs across the country have gone beyond the original stated purpose of MLS, to the benefit and pleasure of some, as well as to the dismay and disapproval of others. In addition, the movement toward larger MLSs and regionalization has been fueled by promises of economies of scale and other potential benefits to MLS users, which may or may not materialize and there really is a question as to the power of the data, who should control it, and how, for the benefit of whom.
New Consumer portals featuring inventory received by the MLS are being met with great consumer success, making many MLSs ponder the idea of making some of their database of inventory, directly accessible to the public?
Public MLS Portals are controversial…but, if done right, they can make sense, as the Houston Association of REALTORS (HAR) and Bob Hale, its CEO, continue to advise the Industry at every opportunity (Bob is one of my industry heroes, and he introduced me to Uber when we spent a week in the Las Vegas Airport one day!).
HAR claims that it is the number one real estate portal in its market. While that may be disputed by some, it is an impressive feat to be close to first, if not first.
Might MLS public portals, within well-defined criteria, be the next step in the never-ending saga of syndication and data distribution?
The recent conversations of the NAR MLS Committee regarding MLS levels of service, and the Realty Alliance Fair Display Guidelines have brought the subject of MLS and Association Public Portals “front and center.”
Is it possible to build a Public Portal that:
1. Benefits Brokers
2. Benefits Agents
3. Benefits MLSs
4. Benefits Associations
5. Benefits Franchisers
In other words, benefits all major stakeholders, and…
6. A portal that Consumers love with robust and relevant data, true search, less advertising, mobile, parcel based (property wiki), cool technology, with acceptable privacy terms.
A number of major entities, including Point2, think so, and are creating Public Portal products for associations and MLSs. The Point2 Public Portal product is a world-class website that complies with the Fair Display Guidelines and does not require dues dollars for support, but instead shares advertising revenue with the MLSs and Associations.
Competition in the MLS Public-facing Website space includes big name players –
Not a true public facing portal until recently; in the past it integrated find a home and find a realtor into its member site. Here’s a demo of their new comprehensive Rapattoni Integrated Website Service (IWS) – http://www.rapattoni.com/multimedia/player/player.asp?v=IWSDemoVideoShortVersion.mp4&w=864&h=540&title=Rapattoni+Integrated+Website+Service
New Orleans Metro looks like their first true public facing portal http://www.nomar.org/
As noted in Vendor Alley, Rapattoni is entering the public facing website game with its Rapattoni Integrated Website Service (IWS). “As with their other product the new IWS works with their existing applications, which seems to be an advantage over non-MLS vendor solutions. More and more MLS vendors are adding this type of solution to their offerings. In some cases, like Solid Earth, it is becoming a “tent pole” type of product.”
Real Estate Digital (RED) – LPS
• Operated by former LPS executives; MLS consultants
• Entering the public-facing website arena – http://realestatedigital.com/consumer-portal/
Notice the similarity with the promotional message offered by the various public portal competitors –
From RED: “Why should national real estate websites monopolize all the money from your Broker, Agent and MLS listings?
Create your own public website that displays and promotes listings and open houses – and more importantly drives traffic and leads to your member sites and REVENUE to your organization.
Create a Lead-Generating Engine for Non-Dues Revenue. The MLS Consumer Portal is a customizable, public-facing website, where consumers can search for Open Houses and Active listings, find their Agent or research local school and neighborhood information. Best of all, the leads and inquiries go directly back to the Agent and/or Broker of Record. Include our REALM Advertising Network and now your MLS Portal is generating revenue and working for you!
• sample site: http://www.recolorado.com/
• Offers a Value Estimates tool “What’s your home worth?”
“A public multiple listing website that not only delivers added value to brokers and agents, it provides consumers with something they cannot get from many other sites—truly localized listings and information. Make your association’s public website the one-stop shop for real estate in your market with a custom-designed Website from CoreLogic. Detailed listings, frequent updates, highly accurate “locals only” information, agent searches and much more provide a comprehensive picture of your local real estate market.
Become the #1 Provider of Public Property Information in Your Market. An effective public multiple listing web site can deliver real value to your brokers and agents by promoting REALTORS® to the public and providing a friendly, consumer-centric real estate portal with the best property information on the Internet. Stop other web sites from stealing your members’ leads! Your multiple listing organization should be the one-stop real estate web site in your market. This service is available to real estate boards/associations and multiple listing organizations.”
–http://homelasvegas.com – CoreLogic embeds the local market statistics they provide.
• Advertising Network – http://www.corelogic.com/products/corelogic-real-estate-ad-network.aspx
- The large Mid Florida MLS announced to its members that it was going to include “neutral” advertising – “The ads will appear on the home page, search results, find-an-agent page and property detail pages. While consumers will see premier brands, they’ll never see ads from brokerages, agents or real estate franchises.” Advertising launch announcement: http://www.mfrmls.com/news/815-myfloridahomesmlscom-advertising-launch
We are partnering with clients to make technology accessible, useful, and valuable to real estate professionals.
- Other Services:
SpringAPI – The Spring API will connect developers and vendors interested in serving the Real Estate industry with real-time access to the data sets our clients have created. (marketingHYPERLINK “http://solidearth.com/products/spring/” page)
They service 24 MLSs mostly in Alabama, southeast) – http://solidearth.com/about/ including Staten Island
,Charleston, North Alabama Regional.
- Sample public portal sites:
Chattanooga – https://homes.gcar.net/
Emerald Coast – http://www.emeraldcoasthomesonline.com/(S(pzwwbymtt4ym2nahljscm3y4))/default.aspx
- Other Products/Services: APIs
-Spring: Pay-For-Use Business Model – Spring will allow client organizations a way out of the aging $/user model and into a more stable, sustainable pay-for-use approach. High-end users invest in necessary services and low-end users are shielded from waste expense. An attractive bolt-on opportunity – Client organizations need not purchase “all or nothing” with Spring. Spring can grow slowly along side a legacy product allowing an organization wishing to avoid mass upheaval among membership to offer Spring to eager early adopters. Complete Ad Network where Ad Revenue will be supplemental to the Spring business model and allow for meaningful revenue share opportunities back to the client organization. Built on an Application Programming Interface (API) – Solid Earth maintains relationships with 27 outside vendors; all of whom access the underlying database.
MLS Direct Syndication — http://www.big-llc.com/index.jsp
A big supporter is the Huntsville Alabama MLS and their public-facing website is http://www.valleymls.com/(S(fn5g120bgxx2ltqt5ef2f1bk))/default.aspx
Their message: It is time for MLS and Brokers to take full control of their valuable content. MLS Direct Syndication puts power in your hands in several important ways:
•Direct feeds to each recipient ensure that you know who has legitimate access to your listing feed, and therefore who should not.
•Listing feed recipients must abide by MLS terms and conditions for use. MLS can immediately suspend feeds to any group found to be out of compliance.
•MLS and MLS members decide where leads and links are directed.
•MLS Direct Syndication allows data managers and creators to charge for data access if desired. Our MLS Direct Syndication solution provides an automated process for billing.
•MLS members can determine precisely where their listings will appear, and changes can be made easily at any time.
All of these active players in the MLS public-facing website space have a common goal, namely helping the MLS in the area of competing with the large national portals for consumer traffic and agent lead generation.
DREAM? REALITY? or SOMETHING IN BETWEEN?