Count the National Association of Realtors as endeavoring to catch up with its digital competition.
Realtor.com, the associations national online multiple listing service is undergoing changes to make it more able to go head-to-head with other online listing services, officials say.
Long the top-visited destination for real estate sales, the 17-year-old site slipped to No. 3 last year – behind online giants Zillow.com and Trulia.com, respectively.
National association President Gary Thomas says the groups board authorized broadening the sites listings and other new features at the end of July.
Chief among changes, he says, are provisions allowing listings for new construction, new residential developments and rentals.
And, in a move thats raised some eyebrows, the site also will now allow listings by those who handle property transactions but are not what he called capital R Realtors, or members of the national association.
Thats because some local Realtor-sponsored multiple listing services were already accepting listings from non-Realtors and those listings were being included by Realtor.com, Thomas says. The change will defuse concerns about favoritism, and Realtor listings will be marked as such, he says.
But Realtor.com will continue not using listings of for-sale-by-owner properties. Thats to promote the use of Realtors, Thomas says.
The main thing, and why we did this, is that the public wants to see all the properties that it can, he says. We wanted to make it (realtor.com) more robust and drive home the advantages of working with a Realtor when theyre ready to buy.
Kim Ruffin, communications director for UPSTAR, the Upstate Alliance of Realtors in Fort Wayne, says the local multiple listing service accepts new homes, subdivisions and rentals – but only if represented by Realtors. How the changes will be implemented at the local level is still undetermined, she says.
She says shes heard complaints about the accuracy and timeliness of the information on the other national services – particularly how they determine home values and whether a home remains on the market. So, local Realtors will likely support any changes that increase use of Realtor.com, she says.
Gina Zimmerman, a Realtor with North Eastern Group Realty in Fort Wayne, says Realtors seeking newly constructed homes especially will be aided by the new features.
That market has recently turned, she says.
New construction has been virtually nonexistent for a long time, until this year, and now its gone through the roof We kind of dont have inventory (to meet demand), Zimmerman says.
Agents now must peruse the Web sites of individual builders or call them if their new homes arent listed with Realtors, she says.
Maurine Holle, spokeswoman for the Fort Wayne Homebuilders Association, says the areas larger builders often retain Realtors who do list on Realtor.com. The change might help smaller builders – although many no longer build on spec, or without a specific buyer lined up, she says.
Having more builders in the local listings data base might support higher prices for new construction, Holle says. We typically try to get all our builders to list on the MLS to generate sales statistics for comps for appraisal purposes, she says.
Thomas says the changes have provoked some confusion among Realtors because of a story that appeared as an April Fools Day joke on www.inman.com, a professional news site regularly visited by Realtors. Some puzzled Fort Wayne area Realtors were passing the story along by email as recently as last month.
It is what it is. Were not happy, Thomas says of the incident.
Whats important, he adds, is that the association is trying to improve realtor.com, which helps Realtors because it drives more traffic.
We think its all moves in the right direction.