I read an interesting post this morning by Chris Smith over at Inman. The post is linked HERE, check it out and then come on back.
Did you see what I saw? Realtor.com President Erroll Samuelson just walked into your "store" Paulie Walnuts style and offered you "protection". If you pay up, nothing bad will happen to you. If not, well, you know, things could happen.
Now I realize realtor.com isn't owned by NAR since they sold us out years ago and that realtor.com is a for profit entity, I realize that they, like their competition (who are beating them by the way), are in the business of using our listings to steal our generate leads so that they can then sell them back to us.
That being said, consumers have expressed a great interest in pictures for years now. They want to see them. Lots of them. Realtor.com is the only website I know of that harvests our listings via idx/data sharing agreements that limits pictures if you don't pay. You get 4. Thats it. If you pay you can have 25. Guess what? I have sometimes 50 plus pictures for some listings and zillow and trulia pull them all for me for FREE. 25? Really, you expected me to pay for that? How does that enhance the public's opinion of Realtors again, when the very site that bears our name has a standard of 4 pictures per listing? Despite the fact that buyers and seller say pictures are the most important piece of their decisions to go see a home?
I think this 4 picture issue has been hurting realtor.com and as the market turned downward, I have seen many agents stopped paying to showcase listings in favor of spending their dollars elsewhere (or not spending at all as they cut things that don't produce results). They know consumers have voted with their online "feet" and walked over to other websites with more pictures. They are losing traffic and losing traffic means losing revenue.
So, the fine folks over at realtor.com were looking for ways to stay afloat and have decided that if they can't get us to voluntarily use their ridiculous non user friendly system and pay those upcharges while they try and sell our leads back to us, then they'll to try scare us into it.
So now, if I don't pay for a showcase (which I don't), they will not only limit me to 4 lousy pictures but also put a "fill this out for more info" form next to my listing. That a consumer will think links them to the me. But instead, they will re-direct them to an agent who "bought" a zipcode. Isn't that a little dishonest? and you try and sell me on this by saying that you're giving my listing more exposure because you are putting up 25 pictures?
Here is the part that really (pardon my language) pisses me off. Consumers and Realtors deserve better than this from the site that bears our name.
Rather than find a way to make their product better, to help me see value, to create something I would actually want to spend my dollars on, something that actually helps buyers and sellers, realtor.com chose to extort us. They chose to alienate us further and siphon even more people away from us if we don't pay. The only way to "protect" my "leads" is to pay up.
I don't know how profitable an extortion based business model is for them, but I guess we'll find out.
Did you see the Opt Out policy in the article too? While an agent can individually choose to pay and opt in, only the broker can choose to opt out of this. So an agent who doesn't want to pay must now ask their broker to opt out for the entire office or allow possible "leads" to go to their competitors. Nice choice there, pit the agents against each other in the hopes that brokers won't opt out because some of their agents think this is a good idea.
Sorry realtor.com, you lost me a long time ago because your products weren't providing me or my clients value and this new policy of yours just put the final nail in your coffin. Hang on to the name NAR sold you, because the free marketing of that name is all you'll ever get from Realtors like me.
Now if you'll excuse me, I think I will go have my broker opt out entire company out of this extortion scheme.