Where Real Estate Gets Its Dirt

Ziltorfin just peed in its pants

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Homes.com was #2 portal in September

CoStar’s Homes.com beats Redfin, Realtor.com to become No. 2 portal

“In a monumental sign of the real estate listing portal’s growing influence, CoStar Group’s Homes.com hit over 100 million unique visitors in September, besting Realtor.com and Redfin in monthly unique visitor traffic for the first time since acquiring the portal nearly three years ago, the company announced Monday.

That level of traffic made Homes.com the No. 2 most visited listing portal during the month of September, second only to listing giant Zillow. Realtor.com reported 74 million monthly unique visitors and Redfin reported 52 million unique visitors for the month.

CoStar founder and CEO Andy Florance told Inman that the company’s achievement was no accident since a lot of time and energy went into getting the Homes.com portal to where it is today.

“I know we’ve surprised everybody,” Florance said.

Lillian Dickerson, Inman News

I’m not too surprised, I see Homes.com ads everywhere online, but I will say I’m very surprised how quickly this happen. Congrats to the entire team at CoStar!

Homes.com responds…

Remember that article, Homes.com Using Your Name to Steal Your Leads?

Well, Homes.com responded to the article. And not just anyone but Homes.com CEO David Mele.


Ray: â€śOne of the questions I was asked by agents, does Homes.com have the right to use an agent’s Name, Image, or Likeness to advertise or market the Homes.com website?”

Mele: â€śHomes.com has not specifically selected and used agent names, images or likenesses to advertise the Homes.com website. But we have utilized Google’s DSA system, which generated ads based on content that was listed Homes.com, which included both property listings and agent profiles.”

It’s precisely what I pointed out before. Agents using a platform like Google (which is free) means they (the agents) are the product. Homes.com is doing nothing wrong here.

The Q&A goes on to address “selling leads” and what happens to the inquiries made on the website.

Ray: â€śYou stated in your email that “Homes.com doesn’t sell leads or trick users. … Click on our ads and submit leads, and see where they go.” One of the agent’s spouses did this. They went to YouTube, searched for the agent (their spouse) by name and saw the Homes.com ad using that agent’s name. They clicked on the ad that took them to the agent’s profile page. Then they searched for a house, clicked on a house and submitted a request. That inquiry did not go through to the agent whose name they had searched on YouTube. Can you help me understand anecdotes like this that we received?”

Mele: â€śIf they had submitted an inquiry from the agent’s profile page, that inquiry would have gone directly to the agent they landed on.  But if they then searched for a house listed by another agent, then the inquiry would have gone directly to the listing agent for that house.  Since we employ a “Your Listing, Your Lead” model, all inquiries from listing detail pages go to the listing agent and the listing agent only. And these leads are not sold to the listing agent.  They are provided for free.”

It’s pretty funny that agents can’t grasp the “your listing, your lead” concept. Big kudos to David Mele for addressing these concerns head-on.

Is Homes.com hijacking traffic from broker and agent websites?


“Is Homes.com selling your own leads back to you?

Kristina Smallhorn, eXp agent and real estate YouTube extraordinaire, searched her own name on YouTube and was shocked at what she found. 

The ad read, “Kristina Smallhorn, Real Estate Agent in Baton Rouge, LA” and looked like a large text post on Facebook. The call to action was a simple “Visit site,” and just below that was a one-line title for the ad: “Find Beautiful Real Estate for Sale with Homes.com”

Interesting story. CoStar has recently touted that they have increased traffic to Homes.com website by 84%, we may be finding out how they are doing it.

It appears that in this case Homes.com is buying ads on YouTube and YouTube is inserting Homes.com ads in YouTube search results related to high performing real estate YouTube channels. These ads will use the agent’s name and then link back to their Homes.com agent profile.

What’s the rub? Well what the article gets wrong is that with Homes.com’s “your listing, your lead” any lead on Kristina’s listings should go right back to her. But Kristina and other agents are concerned about traffic.

“It’s harmful because they are tracking your leads that you’ve cultivated with your content to drive traffic to their website. They are using your name to collect data and send advertising to those people who wanted to speak to you and now are being pushed to use their site,”

Another concern is that a lot of the information on the agent profile is incorrect. Christa Nielsen writes…

“As (with) all ads, when the user clicks to the Homes.com ad that is using my name without permission, they are now going to be “followed” and retargeted from them.  They are using agents to generate traffic to their website.  This, plus the false information shown, can be detrimental to any business.”

Christa goes on to say that a lot of data on her profile was compltely wrong, including sales history and experience.

“If someone is clicking this profile, they are being shown that I, for example, sold one house in the last 5 years. This also can be detrimental.”

There are a few concerns here. I’m not sure if this would be too much of a story but CoStar’s CEO Andy Florance’s statements about other portal’s “hijacking” leads seems to invite criticism when something like this is exposed.

On the other hand, Kristina and Christa are using Google’s platform(s) (most likley for free) and as the saying goes, “if the service is free, you’re the product.”

Industry Relations Podcast: Making Better Agents and Listings

Ever wondered how to get the most out of your listings and become a better agent? In this episode, Rob & Greg touch on the different technologies and marketing strategies that agents can use to get an edge in sales. Tune in for why Rob believes great photography is the best way and why Greg thinks it’s just putting lipstick on a pig and pricing is the best strategy.

UPDATE 1-26-2023

A representative of Homes.com has reached out and said that the new version of their website has rolled out and has been live for the last couple of months.  Though there has been no industry-wide notification and they have still yet to launch any of their much-touted “listing enhancement” products.   The new site features include:

  • Completely new tech stack with noticed speed improvements
  • Historical AVM chart with three models + average
  • Deeper set of property characteristics from MLS, 
  • New design, 
  • IDX data via Ten-X in 460+ MLS markets (no more supplemental data via ListHub)
  • New agent search with updated agent profiles (includes transaction history)
  • New Homes Pro dashboard for agents on the back end (full integration with Homesnap Pro), and agent-client instant messaging for collaboration

Watch us on YouTube!

Connect with Rob and Greg: 

Rob’s Website

Greg’s Website

This podcast is produced by Two Brothers Creative 2023

CoStar to purchase Realtor.com?

News Corp in Talks to Sell Real Estate Site For $3 Billion

“Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. is in talks to sell its Move Inc. online real estate business to CoStar Group Inc.

Move is the parent of Realtor.com and other real estate-related websites. The deal is worth about $3 billion, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. The sale could be announced within days, one of the people said.”

After CoStar announced at a recent earnings call they had raised $750M for future acquistions Rob and I on our Industry Relations podcast tried to guess what they would scoop up. I thought we had a pretty good guess with Matterport. Matterport had recently bought VHT Studios. So we thought it would give them some killer IP and a network of photographers. Turns out Zillow took the bait and purchased VRX, and CoStar had bigger fish in mind. Although $3 billion isn’t that much money for CoStar, remember they bid $7 billion for CoreLogic.

Brings up a few questions. Will NAR approve? Or do they even have the say? If NAR was cool with handing the reins to Rupert Murdoch, then Andy Florance seems like a Boy Scout.

What about Homes.com? I’ve been wondering when the new website would be launched, and they recently had a big round of layofffs. Maybe Andy realized that it would take a hell of lot more money to get Homes.com (a distant #3) to compete with Zillow than it would take #2, realtor.com. And the whole “your listing, your lead” actually might play better under the realtor.com umbrella.

Your move Nestfully.

Did Zillow just launch the new Homes.com?

Well it certainly looking that way…

Check out today’s press release from Zillow:

New service from ShowingTime+ enables agents to deliver beautiful, dynamic listings with less hassle

“We want to help agents effortlessly deliver standout listings that wow their sellers and help win over potential buyers,” said Cynthia Taylor, vice president of product for ShowingTime+. “Listing Media Services cuts down on the time agents spend preparing a listing so they can focus on the high-touch, high-value work they do as a trusted adviser for their clients.”

Also, check out the Listing Showcase site:

Here’s copy from the Listing Showcase site:

… select agents will receive the keys to a new best-in-class listing display — Listing Showcase.

Until now, online listings all conformed to the same structure. Listing Showcase is a NEW style of listing display that truly differentiates top-tier agents in their market.

Aren’t these two things; better content and new ways to highlight listings, exactly what CoStar was promising with their brand-new Homes.com?

Looks like Zillow just hijacked CoStar’s business model.

Zillow acquires VRX media, includes a national pro photographers network

Zillow Group acquires VRX Media to create national photographer network, elevate listing media through ShowingTime+ brand

“Zillow Group (NASDAQ: Z and ZG) today announced it has closed on the acquisition of VRX Media. This real estate media marketing and services leader is known for its aerial drone photography, virtual staging, 3D tours, high-definition photography and fast-media delivery to clients, which is made possible through the company’s national professional photographer network. Zillow Group will continue to offer VRX Media’s services through the ShowingTime+ software suite.”

Smart, and obviously a move to help Zillow compete against CoStar’s yet-to-be-announced launch of the new Homes.com which is said to offer “listing enhancement” packages.

I had made a prediction on the Industry Relations podcast that CoStar might buy Matterport because Matterport had recently bought VHT Studios which also had a nationwide professional photographers network. I guess Zillow thought it was a good idea too.

CoStar announces re-shuffle and layoffs of 100 employees of HomeSnap/Homes.com

CoStar Group Integrates Homesnap Operations With Homes.Com

“Today, CoStar Group took steps to combine and streamline the operations and functionality of Homes.com and Homesnap. David Mele, who led Homes.com for 7 years prior to its acquisition by CoStar Group in 2021, has been named President of the combined Homes.com and Homesnap organization. The company believes that the combined entity is now better positioned to efficiently achieve its goal of becoming the leading residential real estate portal.”

David Mele (who I hear is well-liked) has mostly been behind the scenes since the acquisition. Well, he is about to get a lot of attention focused on him now.

“Over the course of the next 12 months, CoStar Group expects to increase the net number of employees building Homes.com by 700 after today’s reorganization and headcount reduction of approximately 100 duplicative roles.”

Damn. 100 people. Well, I guess John Mellencamp doesn’t come cheap…

CoStar’s big bet against MLS

Lots of chatter about Andy Florance’s interview with Brad Inman last week at Inman Connect.  Andy has certainly gotten better at his storytelling since his last interview with Brad.  According to Mr. Florance Zillow is “hijacking” listings by placing other agents around the listing.  But what Mr. Florance fails to mention is that any broker or agent that has an IDX website is also “hijacking” listings.

What’s at stake here is at the very core of the principles behind the MLS, “cooperation and compensation”.  Basically, you help me sell my listing, I’ll help you sell yours.

In a perfect “CoStar world” cooperative compensation goes away, and agents must directly pay to advertise listings.  “The Australian model”, some have dubbed it.   In this case, CoStar’s acquisition of Homes.com serves as their listing portal and Homesnap for their agent toolbox.  Sidenote: I find it kind of funny that Mr. Florance has beaten Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp to the “Australian model” of real estate.  Since realtor.com is so very entrenched in Opcity’s broker referral model.

Now, this is a completely sound business strategy.  Break up the MLS-Broker model and go directly to agents and consumers. CoStar, Homes.com, and Homesnap have made a bet, in my opinion against the MLS. Okay, you do you.

But, I personally don’t agree with this solution.  I think having a strong MLS, makes the market work. And I think as we evolve policy in regard to transparency in commissions and listing attribution we can make things better for everyone.

And let’s be honest. The Seller doesn’t give a shit about any of this. They just want their house sold. Zillow and other IDX sites do a great job of giving listings the greatest exposure in the market. All the broker needs to do is, put it on the MLS.

I also don’t agree with the fear-based message Mr. Florance is sending out.  It seems that Mr. Florance’s whole value proposition is that they are “not Zillow”.  Zillow is the “mafia”.  Zillow is “hijacking” your listings.  He even readily admits that CoStar is not coming out with any innovations in regard to the “UI or UX” of its software.  It seems their entire go-to-market strategy is just tapping into all the Zillow haters. Granted, Zillow has done a lot of stupid things to make it easy to pick on them but I wish Mr. Florance would tell us why his site and tools are better than everyone else’s instead of just bashing competitors.

Next week CoStar/Homes.com/Homesnap is shutting down part of the Gaslight District in San Diego and throwing a huge party and concert with Country Music Star, Keith Urban.  And I’m sure a lot of wining and dining will happen.

But, I’m not a big fan of Country Music, especially Australian Country Music.

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