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Questions and Answers About the Realtor.com® Vote

July 31, 2013

On July 24, 2013, the NAR Board of Directors assembled for a special meeting in Chicago to talk about the future of realtor.com®. At the meeting, the board recommended several fundamental changes for the site. The association is gathering and responding to REALTORS®’ questions about realtor.com® and the decisions made at that meeting.

Questions & Answers

This page will be updated as new questions arise and new information becomes available.
 

Why does it matter to REALTORS® whether realtor.com® succeeds?

Find out in this 60-minute recorded webinar session, featuring Realtor.com® President Errol Samuelson, NAR CEO Dale Stinton, and 2013 NAR President Gary Thomas. You'll also learn about exciting innovations at realtor.com® that will ensure the site stays top of mind with serious buyers and sellers.


What was the vote about?

The board recommended the removal of some restrictions from the agreement that governs the operation of realtor.com®. Specifically, board members recommended adding content to www.realtor.com and its mobile apps in order to enrich the consumer experience and make realtor.com® more competitive in the online listing space. The changes will enable realtor.com® to:

  • Display unlisted new homes and new-home communities.
  • Display unlisted rentals.
  • Obtain listings from entities that are not REALTOR®-owned and controlled, as well as from brokers who are not REALTORS®.
  • Identify and flag properties where a notice of default has been recorded, auctions of distressed properties, short sales, foreclosures, and bank-owned properties. (Brokers will have the right to opt out by calling realtor.com® customer care.)
     

What about FSBOs?

The agreement was not changed on that point. Consumer for-sale-by-owner properties are still precluded from the site.
 

If the site is called realtor.com®, why are we allowing listings from real estate practitioners who aren’t REALTORS® and builders who aren’t represented by REALTORS®?

In today’s digital world, consumers get what consumers want. If a real estate listing site is not meeting consumer needs, other providers will step in to fill the void. That’s what we’re seeing in the listing aggregation space. For 14 years, realtor.com® was the undisputed traffic leader among buyers and sellers. But within the past several years, aggressive entrants into the listing aggregation market have developed business models that display listings, as well as unlisted properties, from a wider variety of sources and combine those listings and unlisted properties with tools that consumers want, such as valuations.

These sites have drawn a wide circle of consumers — not just current buyers and sellers but everyone, from curious renters to homeowners seeking to track property values in their neighborhood. These changes will enable REALTORS® to better serve consumers — and possibly even earn commission income from these additional sources — while reinforcing the REALTOR® brand.

Also of note, some REALTOR® MLSs accept listings from practitioners who are not REALTORS®. As a result, since its inception, realtor.com® has displayed listings from non-members who were participants in REALTOR® MLSs that chose to include those listings in their data feeds.
 

In what way will the site reinforce the REALTOR® brand?

Besides the name, which will remain realtor.com®, the site will show the value of using a REALTOR® when buying, selling or investing in real estate; it will give consumers tools to differentiate between REALTORS® and real estate agents who are not REALTORS®; and it will visually identify listings that are represented by REALTORS® by marking them with the REALTOR® logo. The site will also help consumers understand the work and advocacy being done by NAR and members to protect homeowners’ rights. These changes make it more important than ever for REALTORS® to claim their individual Find-a-REALTOR® profile pages on realtor.com® to ensure that their listings are clearly marked as REALTOR® listings.
 

How can REALTORS® take advantage of the benefits of claiming their free profile?

Member agents and offices can locate their profile in the Find-a-REALTOR® directory and select the link to “Login to Control Panel,” or visit http://marketing.realtor.com/engage/realtor-profile.php for more detailed instructions. Members operating as a team can also create a team profile.
 

With the changes at realtor.com®, why should I continue to be a REALTOR®?

While realtor.com® will continue to offer many great benefits to members (see list below) and reinforce the REALTOR® brand in the mind of consumers, it is not the primary reason to be a REALTOR®.  The REALTOR® mark stands for professionalism and identifies members who have agreed to abide by a Code of Ethics. NAR’s Code of Ethics, which celebrated its 100th birthday in July, sets you apart from practitioners who are not members.

At NAR’s website, read about other key benefits of membership in the national association. And consider the many benefits from your state and local association. For a more comprehensive look, visit the Member Center.
 

Who is on the NAR Board of Directors?

There are currently 756 directors. The number fluctuates as a result of resignations and vacancies. A total of 625 directors attended the July 24 meeting, well within the number needed for a quorum. National director entitlements are outlined in Article IV of the NAR Constitution:

  • Local associations with 2,000+ members are entitled to one director for every 2,000 members.
  • Each state association is automatically entitled to two directors. Additional directors are allocated one for every 2,000 members (after subtracting the first 4,000 from the total member count). However, if a local board within the state is allocated a director, that number is subtracted from the state’s total. 
  • Additional categories for directorship are elected officers, committee liaisons, regional vice presidents, Executive Committee members, affiliate presidents, Distinguished Service Award winners, and national past presidents.
  • There are a number of presidential appointments.
     

Why did the changes require a board vote?

The realtor.com® domain is owned by NAR, but the website is operated by technology company Move, Inc., based in San Jose, Calif. In 1996, NAR partnered with Move for the core purpose of aggregating real property ads on the internet. The operating agreement that governs that partnership is between subsidiaries of NAR (REALTORS® Information Network, or RIN) and Move (RealSelect), but because of the nature of the changes, the RIN board sought a recommendation from the NAR board before moving forward with the changes.
 

What is the relationship between NAR and Move?

It is a strategic business relationship based on the realtor.com® operating agreement (see above). It is not a “partnership” in the legal sense. NAR is a holder of common stock in Move and the owner of the sole share of Series A Preferred Stock in Move. However, NAR’s total share of Move common stock is only in the 2.5 percent to 3 percent range. One voting NAR representative serves on the Move board. That is 2003 NAR President Cathy Whatley. No member dues have ever funded the operation of the public website realtor.com®, and NAR does not collect revenue when members purchase realtor.com® products and services.
 

What exactly does the operating agreement between RIN and RealSelect do?

The agreement is to protect the interests of REALTORS® in the aggregation of real property ads on the Internet. It governs the operation of the site, including guidelines on data-sharing. The agreement requires RealSelect to display basic listings for free. Today, third-party sites also offer free basic listings, but that would not likely be the case if realtor.com® had not been first to market and made free basic listings available. In other countries, real estate practitioners must pay to list properties on listing aggregators’ sites. Additionally, the other large third-party sites display their paid listings first, meaning that their free listings often remain unseen. On realtor.com®, free and paid listings are displayed on an equal basis.

Some members have questioned why realtor.com® has been allowed to use the term REALTOR® in lowercase in its new site design. NAR counsel approved this use of the trademark, recognizing that Internet usage varies from what’s acceptable in print. NAR trademark rules also allow members to use the term REALTOR® in lower case in their domain names.

Among the other provisions, the agreement prohibits certain advertising, such as liquor ads and political ads. There is also an exclusivity clause: RIN and NAR can’t have a consumer property-listing site without RealSelect and Move, and RealSelect/Move can’t have one without RIN/NAR.

The agreement has been updated several times over the years. For example, until 2010, NAR had the right to approve home-page design and layout. Eliminating that requirement enabled realtor.com® to move more nimbly in a fast-paced business.
 

Can I see a copy of this operating agreement?

The operating agreement has been filed with the SEC by Move.
 

Why does the NAR restrict realtor.com® at all?  Why not just let Move operate realtor.com® according to the site’s best interests?

The operating agreement is critical to provide MLSs and brokers with ultimate control of their listings. It’s an agreement between two large organizations—one that represents the nation’s 1 million REALTORS® and another that strives to bring consumers the best, most comprehensive aggregation of property ads online. Those interests are not mutually exclusive, but as with any business relationship, each party needs to be mindful of the goals and objectives of the other.
 

How will the changes affect realtor.com®’s accuracy?

Realtor.com® is the most accurate national listing aggregator, posting updates to more than 90 percent of all listings every 15 minutes. That is a key differentiator for realtor.com®. Move will continue to be impeccably diligent when evaluating additional content to be added to realtor.com® to ensure that comprehensiveness doesn’t come at the expense of accuracy.
 

What will change on realtor.com®?

With the board recommendations (which were adopted by the RIN Board immediately following the NAR special meeting), Move is evaluating opportunities for expansion in both the rental and new-home space. Move is also working on ways to create greater differentiation for REALTORS® and their listings and help highlight the advocacy work REALTORS® do on behalf of all homeowners. In the coming months, you may see changes on the website and mobile apps centered on those areas.
 

How many additional properties will realtor.com® now have in rentals, new homes, and in total? How does this compare to Zillow and Trulia?

Move is beginning to explore these options, but it is difficult to estimate a number at this time. While specific numbers are uncertain, there are certain areas of the country where you’ll see great growth in the number of properties.
 

Are there any content advantages that realtor.com® has, or do these changes just bring parity to all three major portals—realtor.com®, Zillow, and Trulia?

The accuracy of realtor.com®’s website and mobile apps, its REALTOR-friendly business practices, and its work to highlight REALTOR® value are key differentiators between realtor.com® and Zillow and Trulia. Consumers can expect to have expanded content that meets the realtor.com® standard of accuracy and freshness. At the same time, there’s tremendous value to being tied to NAR and the REALTOR® brand as the trusted source of information. The brand ensures consumers can identify and work with a real estate professional who subscribes to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.
 

In what way do REALTORS® benefit if realtor.com® wins the market-share war?

When realtor.com® has the resources and flexibility to give consumers what they want—an accurate, credible, and comprehensive source of market data—that helps create a strong tie between consumers and REALTORS® as the source of that data. The other huge benefit: A competitive realtor.com® attracts more consumers to the site and therefore more traffic to REALTORS®’ listings and helps consumers understand the value of working with a REALTOR® and the work that NAR does on their behalf to protect homeownership.
 

Isn’t Move just trying to earn money from REALTORS®?

Move is a for-profit company whose revenue model is based on advertising to consumers and providing real estate professionals with listing enhancement products. But while Move is in business to earn money, it is important to know that (a) it is the only aggregator committed to promoting the REALTOR® brand, and (b) no NAR member dues have ever gone to pay for any portion of realtor.com® operation.
 

What advantages does realtor.com® offer NAR members?

Thanks to Move’s strategic agreement with NAR, REALTORS® get a broad array of free benefits through realtor.com®, including:

  • All of your listings displayed on www.realtor.com with the REALTOR® Block-R
  • Find-a-REALTOR® profile
  • Recommendation tools to capture, monitor, and post recommendations
  • Branded mobile tools
  • Seminar and webinar training
  • Exceptional customer support
  • Facebook business pages
  • Mobile listings websites with QR code references
  • International exposure through realtor.com/International
  • Listings on approved co-branded sites, such as MSN

Besides displaying the freshest most accurate data, realtor.com® also actively protects your data from scraping. More information on all of realtor.com®’s free benefits for members is available at http://realtor.com/engage.
 

Will rental inventory be required to include a commission or “finder’s fee” to the REALTOR®?

No, there will not be a requirement that rental inventory include a finder’s fee or a REALTOR® commission.
 

With this new inventory coming in, will Move be providing favorable pricing for REALTORS®?

Move has agreed to provide differentiated pricing for NAR members vs. non-members. Move is currently reviewing its product pricing, and any changes will be implemented at a later date.


Will the new homes inventory on realtor.com® have co-op commission opportunities between REALTORS® and builders?

The majority of new homes on realtor.com®, based on current experience, will involve co-op commission opportunities for REALTORS®. Please reach out to the applicable builder directly, however, to confirm that and to understand that builder’s available commission structure and details.