Realtor.com CEO delivers full-throated speech in support of NAR


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Realtor.com operator Move Inc. typically sends a senior vice president to talk to multiple listing service executives at the National Association of Realtors’ midyear conference.

This year was different. On Monday afternoon, Move CEO Damian Eales addressed a standing-room only crowd of some 750 or so attendees at the MLS Forum of the Realtors Legislative Meetings in Washington, D.C. Eales’ main message? We are with you.

“The National Association of Realtors and MLSs will need to deliver more for members to remain relevant” under new commission rules, Eales said.

“In our discussions with the NAR and MLSs, we have never felt more aligned.”

“We are genuinely in this together,” he added. “Realtor.com does not seek to disintermediate either the MLS or Realtors.”

Kathryn Johnson

Katie Johnson

According to Eales, he spoke at the conference at the invitation of NAR Chief Legal Officer Katie Johnson.

Move, a News Corp. subsidiary, licenses the Realtor.com name from NAR for about $2 million in royalties annually and operates the site under an operating agreement that dates back to 1996 and has been revised multiple times since then. Realtor.com is NAR’s official listing site.

In March, NAR inked a deal to settle multiple antitrust commission lawsuits nationwide, agreeing to change its rules regarding buyer broker commissions. If the settlement receives final approval from the court, sellers or listing brokers would no longer be able to offer buyer brokers compensation using the MLS, though they could do so elsewhere.

Last month, Realtor.com announced a new marketing campaign that frames the portal as a champion of buyers’ agents, in contrast to its rival CoStar, which has primarily been courting listing agents through a “Your Listing, Your Lead” approach.

“We’re doing our best to lead from the front,” Eales said at the MLS Forum.

During his speech, Eales took the opportunity to once again refute claims from rival CoStar that its residential portal, Homes.com, has surpassed Realtor.com as the second most-trafficked home search site.

According to Eales, a CoStar SEC filing reveals that “[its traffic] number includes 17 separate websites, 16 of which are not associated with Homes.com.”

Based on independent sources, “Homes.com is No. 4 and their audience is about one-fifth what they claim,” Eales added. Later, Move clarified to Inman that Eales’s was incorrect – that Homes.com’s traffic is actually one-fourth of what CoStar claims, per Comscore data.

When Inman asked Move which SEC filing Eales was referring to, the company pointed to a first-quarter 2024 investor presentation in which CoStar says, “The Homes.com site surpassed 110 million monthly unique visitors and the Residential Network exceeded 156M, according to Google Analytics for March 2024.”

The presentation lists 17 sites included in the “Residential Network,” including Homes.com, Apartments.com, Homesnap and CitySnap. But CoStar has used a traffic figure specifically for Homes.com, not its Residential Network traffic figure, to claim it is second in popularity.

Asked why Eales said that Homes.com’s traffic number includes 17 different websites and in what way CoStar separately reporting its Residential Network traffic refutes CoStar’s claim that Homes.com is the second-most popular listing site, a Realtor.com spokesperson told Inman, “Ads on Inman and other real estate sites say they have an audience of 156M for Homes.com, but that number is actually their Residential Network traffic, which includes 17 URLS.”

CoStar’s Homes.com ads do prominently feature that 156 million traffic figure, but include a disclaimer in fine print: “Based on unique visits in March 2024 to the Homes.com Residential Network (which includes the Homes Network and the Apartments Network), and the Land Network, according to Google Analytics, exceeding Realtor.com’s 66 million monthly average unique users for its fiscal second quarter as reported in its earnings release on February 7, 2024.”

A CoStar Group spokesperson blasted Eales’ comments in a statement to Inman Tuesday.

“Move CEO Damian Eales’ comments about Homes.com web traffic at the MLS Forum of the Realtors Legislative Meetings were defamatory and frankly desperate,” the spokesperson said.

“Homes.com had more monthly unique visitors than Realtor.com, whether you look at our Homes.com Network or just Homes.com alone. For March 2024, our Homes.com Network (which includes Homes.com, the Apartments Network and the Land Network), had 156 million monthly unique visitors, according to Google Analytics, which is more than double, and Homes.com alone had 110,000,000 monthly unique visitors, according to Google Analytics, which is substantially more, than what Move has self-reported based on its own ‘internal data.’

“Although there are different services that measure web traffic, Google Analytics is the preferred measure among the online residential portals in the United States — and it is what Zillow, Redfin, and CoStar all publicly disclose when reporting web traffic data.

“What is Realtor.com hiding? Why does Realtor.com refuse to disclose how it comes up with its numbers? Why is Realtor.com not using the market leader, Google Analytics? We call on Mr. Eales to come clean immediately so the market can evaluate the numbers for itself.”

Inman has asked Realtor.com for its latest traffic number per Google Analytics and will update this story if and when a response is received.

At the MLS Forum, Eales contended that Realtor.com is a better partner to Realtors.

“The National Association of Realtors, MLSs, and Realtor.com have a lot aligned,” Eales said. “We all want a strong Realtor brand, a strong leadership base … a system that supports both buyer’s agents and listing agents. We want to improve the professionalism of our industry.”

Eales, an Australian, told attendees “the U.S. market is nothing like the Australian market,” despite comparisons between the two by some analyses, some of which have appeared in the commission suits.

“We think Realtors are heroes worth celebrating, pillars of the community,” Eales said.

“We can all do a better job to tell our story,” he added.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a correction and additional comments from Realtor.com, comments from CoStar, and details about CoStar’s Homes.com ads.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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