Is Realtor.com A Rip-Off?

By
Mortgage and Lending with Bank of England (NMLS#418481) NMLS# 1046286

 

 

 Smell A Rat?

Lately I've been working on my website to try and get it search engine optimized and on that note, a special thanks to Karen George, the Arizona Mortgage Lady.  She's gone out of her way to provide some very valuable insight into how the search engines work and the importance of content and having your site properly structured in order to appear relevant to the most popular search terms.

One of the things that I've learned about the SEO thing is that the search engines give a lot of credence to size.  That is the bigger a site is, the more relevant the search engines tend to think that it is.  This also works on sites that are linked to yours.  i.e. the bigger the site that links to yours, the more important the search engines tend to think that your site is.  That said, I've been looking into how to get some of the bigger sites linked to my site.  Well, who's the biggest kid on the block in regards to real estate web sites?  Realtor.com.

Realtor.com A Rip-Off? 

So, I went in for a visit.  I called the site up and decided to see how I was presented on MY association's official website.  The answer?  Not very well.  I searched the site for my name, Robert Mitchell and for my company's name, ValueList Real Estate Services, Inc. and came back with zero references.  I did the "Search For a Realtor" and the only Realtors that showed up were ones who had paid to be featured.  I later found out that I was indeed listed, but that I had to click on a minor link on their page, type in my specific information and then I would find my name listed with no links to my website or opportunity to email me or anything.  The most minor sort of representation possible in my opinion.

To say the least I was extremely disappointed.  I mean, isn't the National Association of Realtors supposed to be MY association?  Isn't it there for ME and my fellow Realtors benefit?  Who is this Move, Inc. company that manages the website for NAR?  What exactly is their relationship? 

This morning I decided to do a little research.  I called Move, Inc. operating as Realtor.com and after sitting on Move Inc.'s Logo

hold for 18 minutes, I was connected to a sales person.  She was very nice and explained to me all of the wonderful options that I had to be able to stand out from the crowd of fellow Realtors.

I could purchase a package called "Showcase Listings" which would put me in the directory of Realtors that show up if a consumer does the search for a Realtor on the site.  I asked how much this would be and was told that it was based upon how many listings I had carried last year.  Well, for me the cost was ONLY going to be $362.00 a year since I had only carried 7 listings personally (I own ValueList and didn't take listings all that often last year)  If I wanted to do the showcase listings for my entire company (which did have a fairly significant number of listings) then it was going to cost me over $2,000.00!  

Also, if I wanted I could purchase banner advertising for St. Louis County for $3,341.00 a year.  If I so desired, I could purchase a website from them for $34.95/month, but it would not be linked to Realtor.com unless I purchased the showcase listing package.  I had to give them credit, they have put a lot of thought in how to separate Realtors money from the Realtor's pocketbook!

I pointed out to the sales lady that this was all kind of pricey and her response was, "Well, we are the NUMBER 1 real estate website.  I asked her how she thought that had come to be and she said, "Because of our association with the National Association of Realtors".  Hmmm, sounds like a pretty sweetheart type of relationship!

I decided to check Move, Inc. out a bit more.  I went to Hoovers.com, a business research website, and looked Move, Inc. up.  It turns out that Move, Inc. specialized in real estate related websites through it's association with the National Association of Realtors and several other real estate related organizations such as the National Home Builders Association and that they've been doing pretty freaking well!  Last year Move, Inc. had a gross profit of $225,100,000.00 THAT'S 225 MILLION DOLLARS!!!!!  Their net profit after depreciation was still over $22 million dollars.  Pretty nice duty if you can get it, ya think?  If you like, here is the link to their Annual Income Statement flied with the SEC  http://www.hoovers.com/move/--ID__60013,period__A--/free-co-fin-income.xhtml

The future looks pretty freaking bright too!  Here is their earning outlook for next year http://www.hoovers.com/move/--ID__60013,ticker__MOVE--/free-co-fin-earnings.xhtml 

I don't know?  I'm all for making a buck, but does it seem wrong for OUR association to allow a separate "for-profit" corporation to be making this kind of money off of us?  Makes me wonder, what are the true connections here?  Is this all on the up and up?  If we were to follow these $225,000,000, where would they end up?  I'm not an investigative reporter, but if any of you know any, maybe this is something that should be looked into?  Dan Rather, where are you now???

I've emailed Pat Vredevoogd, 2007 NAR President @ pvredevoogd@realtors.org and Dick Gaylord, 2008 President Elect of NAR, @ dickgaylord@earthlink.net to see what they have to say,but have not received a reply as of yet (to be fair, it's been less than a day) 

So Activerainers, am I tripping here?  What do you think?  I'd love to know.  I smell a rat!  Let me know if you do too!

R.B. "Bob" Mitchell

ValueList Real Estate Services, Inc. 

 

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Rainer
155,621
R. B. "Bob" Mitchell - Loan Officer Raleigh/Durham
Bank of England (NMLS#418481) - Raleigh, NC
Bob Mitchell (NMLS#1046286)

Gene:  I wrote a follow up post to this one and got ZERO comments.  I was hoping that I could get a ground swell of attention to this issue, but nope...nobody (or close to nobody) seems to care.

 

 R.B. "Bob" Mitchell

ValueList Real Estate Services, INc. 

Apr 13, 2007 04:17 AM #22
Anonymous
Mike Costigan - #36 RE/MAX Worldwide
Bob-I will beas brief as possible. R.com is in my opinion the biggest "screw you" organization on the planet. I ama very very heavy listing agent with more than 80 new listings coming into my system monthly. I did not have a problem in 2004 when my fee was equivalent with others at $360/annually. However when my fee escalated to 2,900 the following year I was fairly upset to say the least, as content that I bring to the site in the form of listings (which is the ONLY reason people come to the site regardless of what R.com may otherwise claim to be the attraction) is now being resold to me at a ridiculous fee, but I bit the bullet, paid the fee and went on with my business. Then my fee in 2006 increased to 3,200/annually. Apparently these new models were created based on a scale of listing volume. I realized I was being nailed for being highly productive. I likened it to being charged $100 for a car wash for my BMW BECAUSE it was a BMW while the guy in th Hyundai was only paying $10 for the same damn thing. There is NO extra cost for these idiots to display my properties. In fact there is great VALUE to them to have me bringing extra content to their site. Now imagine my state of anger when I got the call today saying "hey we tried to reach you but you haven't called back but your showcase listing package is up for renewal tomorrow and the fee is $12,000! I flipped! When you list as many homes as me clients EXPECT showcase homes, exclusive marketing strategies, etc. I am expected to deliver Ritz-Carlton service and R.com knows this. So they have me by th b**s so to speak, which is exactly what I told these thieves on the call. Nevertheless, I am trapped by them with no choice but to pay. Like it or not R.com is what consumers expect-not Zillow, not Homegain. They KNOW the name, they look for their home there and they better see it. Now while some of you may report that it has no effect on your business you will change your mind when you do high volume listings. Consumers know it's out there and when your numbers of clients increase so do your odds of having consumers that check for their homes to be displayed. Losing just one home because of this costs me several thousand. Now this might lead you to say "well then it's a good deal". But you are dead wrong in that theory. This is nothing short of being taken advantage of and being squeezed by r.com. And whether or not NAR is operating this site or not, if their name appears on it then they better damn well have some responsibility for actions of the people to whom they are lending their brand. RE/MAX is taking some hard line action against 3rd party sites who take advantage of our listings with heavy promotion of RE/MAX.com and I hope for the sake of all realtors across the world that their respective companies follow suit.  What will it be next year and the year after? 
Apr 13, 2007 01:51 PM #23
Anonymous
Ron Gent
Attention Mike Costigan, Great comment, I could not agree with you more,, I am new to this blogger thing, but being a top producer I was using realtor.com before the masses caught on, not for actually selling the house but for the selling of myself and the fact that 99% of the Realtors out there just have no clue or no revenue to back them, but I used it as one of my arsenal of TRICKS so to speak, and it does work, as for being ripped off, no, I don't think that at all, it's all part of the business, in fact I am surprised that a Top Producer like yourself would even comment on the Realtor.com issue, I spend minimum $5000. a month for advertising, and Realtor.com is a bargain just for the bragging rights itself about having the big gun, I have no connection to Realtor.com in any way except that it is a site that I can display my Muscles so to speak, if anyone has the time to notice the price for advertising on the internet on sites that no-one cares about, being politically correct on the Realtor.com issue is not the issue at all, the real issue is Deal With It-Quit Complaining & Market Yourself Like You Are Somebody-Remember THe Best Marketer in the WORLD promises just one thing, getting your phone to ring is the number one priority period, THERE IS NO OTHER PRIORITY-PERIOD, HEAR ME, THERE IS NO OTHER PRIORITY, contact with the principle is the only thing important here, where you go with it from there is your choice-but DEAL WITH IT-and quit complaining-sorry to vent, but I am just tired of complainers, don't mean to have a negative blog here, but is there anyone out there that undrstands what its all about, God I hope so, this is the Crazy Guy in California calling it as I see it-Good Luck to ALL---CG
Apr 17, 2007 08:02 PM #24
Rainer
155,621
R. B. "Bob" Mitchell - Loan Officer Raleigh/Durham
Bank of England (NMLS#418481) - Raleigh, NC
Bob Mitchell (NMLS#1046286)

Ron:  I would agree with you 100% if Realtor.com wasn't owned by our own association.  That is if it was OWNED by a private, for-profit company and had built the clout that they have by themselves, I'm an economist by training, I would say that they would have the right to charge whatever the market would bear.

I don't really have a problem here with Move, Inc..  They ARE a private company and are doing what private companies do, trying to make a buck.  NAR, however, isn't a private company.  It's a member based organization.  It owns it's allegiance to the little guy as much as it does the Realtor "who has the revenue to back them".  

R.B. "Bob" Mitchell

ValueList Real Estate Services, Inc.

 

Apr 18, 2007 02:28 AM #25
Anonymous
Ron Gent
Bob, thanks for the feedback, now you have me thinking about it and you are right, I just never took the time to analyze what was going on out there, but now I seem to have the time (not that I am happy about it ) to start getting up to speed on these matters. Hopefully with Summer Approaching we will all be so darn busy with transactions we won't have any time left to blog each other ? But don't hold your breath folks, Good Health & Much Success to All, the Crazy Guy in California--CG
Apr 18, 2007 05:19 AM #26
Rainer
271,163
David Abernathy
Waterfront Properties & Club Communities - Jupiter, FL
Palm Beach County Real Estate

I agree with the Mike...They really have us in a position that they can charge what they want.  Until other sources like Trulia, NLS, Yahoo and other national real estate portals start to replace Realtor.com as the top real estate websites - we can not tell our clients no we are not going to be promoting their listings on R.com!  At the same time the very fact that R.com is able to display all our listings allows them to continue to charge higher fees.

Good idea with the emails - I will see how many Realtors in our market I can get to email :)

 

THanks

Apr 21, 2007 04:34 PM #27
Rainer
142,305
Melissa Schnieders
Melissa Schnieders Photography - Wichita, KS

Bob,

Good post & follow up discussion.  I am in the same boat as MIke Costigan - a heavy listing agent who feels that I bring a lot of value to Rcom. I do use them like Ron mentioned - in a listing appointment to get a listing, but I can see that the cost of doing business w/ them is just going to continue to increase.

Hmmm, a lot to ponder!!  I did question the association w/ NAR & Move, but until I read your post, I just didn't know how it was all related.

Jun 20, 2007 03:22 PM #28
Rainmaker
241,951
Brad Snyder
Sierra Vista Realty - Sierra Vista, AZ

Wow!! I am a relatively new Realtor and have learned so much on AR. This post is eye opening. I was unaware that the Realtor.com website was not maintained by the NAR. The cards seem stacked against us getting reasonable representation! Thanks for the awesome info.

Jun 20, 2007 03:49 PM #29
Rainer
42,027
Brenda Abide
Weichert Realtors Benchmark - Germantown, TN

Bob thanks for this blog. Like many agents most of us are not paying attention to what's happened to the Realtor.com site the last few years. We pay national, state, and local dues just to belong to our local MLS and Realtor.com does not have the decency to list ALL the realtors of each state on their site but only list the ones who pay extra fees. I could not believe that when I looked today. I thought Realtor.com was for all of us not just those with big budgets to pay money to whoever is getting rich off Realtor.com.

Not only that, I have a friend who purchased two web pages from Realtor.com to promote her listings only to find that a local broker's information and photo appear on her listings making her web pages worthless.

Bob you hit it right on the nail when  you said " It's a member based organization.  It owns it's allegiance to the little guy as much as it does the Realtor "who has the revenue to back them".  

I hope all Realtor's take a look at Realtor.com to see how they have been forgotten by the organization that purports to be for Realtors.  

I also cannot understand why it is mandatory for agents in my area to pay all those Realtor dues in order to belong to the local MLS to put our listings in so Realtor.com can use them free and sell the rights to other agents listings to whoever wants to pay them. Anybody know? Is Solid Earth hooked up with Realtor.com too the way Move.com?

Somebody's getting rich off the Realtor.com scheme.

Sep 25, 2007 01:28 PM #30
Rainmaker
223,010
John MacArthur
Century 21 Redwood - Washington, DC
Licensed Maryland/DC Realtor, Metro DC Homes

Bob - This is a pimple on the tip of the NAR's prom night nose. You are correct if you think it is a money making company. You are correct if you think it is part of the problem. The real culprit is the NAR. which has thrown the barn door open and allowed our greatest assets to be pilaged by anyone with a buck.

Take back control of all listings. Use ONE multiple listing service and do not allow the information to be sold to any brokers, agents, re-sellers, idx services, etc.

The clock is ticking the the world wide interweb is expanding. Our ability to control our destiny lies within our ability to control access to our listings.

Sep 25, 2007 01:48 PM #31
Rainmaker
183,371
Stella Barbour
NoVa Brokers LLC - Vienna, VA
Principal Broker, Serving Virginia and Maryland
I am glad to get everyone's opinion on this before I made any commitments in the future for r.com.  it is nice to get all the feedback before making a mistake. 
Sep 25, 2007 01:56 PM #32
Rainmaker
315,487
Robert Smith
Preview Properties, PC - http://www.RealEstateMich.com - Brighton, MI
SRES, Search for Homes Brighton-Howell-SE Michigan

I'm not crazy about spending more money, either, but in this case I happen to think it's a good business decision.  Once info gets onto the web, it's no longer yours - it belongs to 'the world.' Your MLS and my MLS are already doing that via IDX arrangements and the feed to Realtor.com

If I have to pay a fee to have my name, phone number, email address, and picture on my listings at Realtor.com, I'm going to do it. Why? Because I consistently get more consumer calls and emails from that venue than from all of the print ads I've ever run (and I've run more than a few). Dollar for dollar it gives more back to me. I don't really want those calls going to the floor agent at my office. Call me greedy, but I want them to come to me.

I don't think the Realtor.com agent websites are necesarily the best out there and I don't use that component, but the Showcase listing program seems to work. Of course, you pay based on your zip code and the number of listings you had last year. Top Producer? Yep, you'll pay more.

I quit doing print ads because they weren't cost-effective. I quit pay-per-click because it drove huge amounts of traffic but very few qualified leads to me (and for quite a bit of change every month, too).  I'll put the bucks where they seem to work.

I know there are a lot of strong feelings out there on this topic, but it remains that Realtor.com is the number one consumer Real Estate web site.  If you're going to spend money on internet advertising anyway (and we all do), why not spend it where it'll do the most good? (Just my 2 cents, not trying to convert anyone or diminish the valid points raised.)

Sep 25, 2007 02:09 PM #33
Rainer
155,621
R. B. "Bob" Mitchell - Loan Officer Raleigh/Durham
Bank of England (NMLS#418481) - Raleigh, NC
Bob Mitchell (NMLS#1046286)

Thanks for the additional comments.  I haven't been blogging too much recently because I've been trying to get the home that I'm rehabbing up to move in standards, so I haven't been able to write on this topic lately.  

I would like to point out to Robert above that just because it works, doesn't make it right.  I'm not arguing that it doesn't work, I'm arguing that it's not right for our organization to sell us up stream!

 

Bob Mitchell

ValueList Real Estate Services, Inc. 

Sep 26, 2007 06:57 AM #34
Rainmaker
315,487
Robert Smith
Preview Properties, PC - http://www.RealEstateMich.com - Brighton, MI
SRES, Search for Homes Brighton-Howell-SE Michigan

I can see your point, Bob, and as I said I have mixed feelings about the whole internet 'services' thing. On the other hand, can you find an industry that does provide free internet marketing sites to its members?  We do get a lot for our dues money from NAR, in my opinion. The info at Realtor.org alone could keep me busy for years. 

At any rate, I don't want this to turn into a battle between us. I accept that you feel stronger about it than I and that's fine.  It would be a boring site if we all agreed on everything!!

 

Sep 26, 2007 07:22 AM #35
Rainmaker
599,945
Jim Lee
RE/MAX Shoreline - Portsmouth, NH
Portsmouth NH Realtor, Portsmouth, NH

I'm on record as being no huge fan of Realtor.com but you do have to give them credit for continuing to try.

Here's a news item I just received from NAR about some upgrades and promotional stuff they're doing for our benefit.

REALTOR.com Boosting Member Value to Consumers
This fall, a multifaceted member benefit campaign will introduce blogging, enhanced mapping, and other features added to REALTOR.com. The campaign includes a team of experts that will guide REALTORS® through the use of the improvements: blogging, enhanced mapping and search, detailed school and community information, 15 minute listing updates, increased site performance, and Web 2.0 technology. Enhanced listings are upgraded, too; members can add up to 25 photos and video tours. The campaign will include a series of educational videos, which take REALTORS® on short tours of the features. More on the enhancements is at REALTOR.org.

Sep 26, 2007 07:40 AM #36
Rainer
42,027
Brenda Abide
Weichert Realtors Benchmark - Germantown, TN

I'm not impressed with what Realtor.com is doing.  Those upgrades and promotionals won't benefit any Realtors but the ones who can afford the big bucks for the enhancements that go along with it.

The majority of Realtors don't so much as have their name listed on the Realtor.com Roster where the consumer looks for a Realtor in a particular area. Only the big bucks Realtors who pay extra have their names there.

I think that is disgusting and the NAR should be ashamed to not even have the courtesy to list all dues paying member Realtors on their Realtor.com site.  That is the very least they can do.  We have 1,600 realtors in our local MLS and when you go to Realtor.com you can only pull up the 20 who paid extra to be listed as a Realtor.

I do feel strongly about it. We all should since that supposed non-profit organization is suppose to be for the benefit of everyone who is a member.

Edited:  Since this post was written I have been told that Realtor.com is a for profit company and not owned or controlled by the NAR by a agent friend who I trust does his homework. I  didn't know that.  I would have thought a "for profit" company should have had a name that would not mislead the public into thinking that it was a site for Realtors by Realtors.

Sep 26, 2007 02:55 PM #37
Rainmaker
335,193
Leslie Prest
Leslie Prest, Prest Realty, Sales and Rentals in Payson, AZ - Payson, AZ
Owner, Assoc. Broker, Prest Realty, Payson,
I don't really see benefits from the whole NAR. To me the controversy about REALTOR/agent is nonsense. I have NEVER had a customer/client ask if I'm a REALTOR. To the general public its all the same. They care what I do, not what I call myself.
Is REALTOR.com a rip-off. You bet.
Sep 27, 2007 05:51 AM #38
Rainer
17,185
Brian Blake
Twin Falls, ID

I built my own version of realtor.com all by myself. (working prototype too) I honestly don't know why they need all that money from the agents.  It can be done for much less and for much less cost.

If one person can write the code and organize the data structure and photo management for every MLS in the nation... What are all those people doing?  My office sites and agent sites are 4 times more complicated to code compared to the National System that imports all your IDX feeds into it.

Granted I would need a few more people answering the phones around here if you all called at the same time and a couple more servers (45 - 50 more)  but honestly.  What are they doing with all that money???

Mar 12, 2008 01:47 PM #39
Anonymous
Roger Heston, Sluss Realty, Mansfield, OH

I can't believe  you "intelligent Realtors" coudln't see the writing on the wall.  When Realtor.com first presented themselves to our office, they offered a discount for all who signed up that day.  Two weeks later, they offered the same discount to another Realtor in my office.  This exposed to me their high pressure tactics and dishonesty.  At that time, I decided they were not worthy and refused to give them a penny of my hard earned commissions. 

Realtor.com is a rip-off I managed to avoid.  The one I can't seem to avoid is the Relocation Company rip-off.  I just got fleeced for 37.5% of a commission.  The worst part is, the buyer contacted me prior to talking to their Relo company, so this was my client to begin with.  What the hell did the Relo company do to deserve such a big cut.....or even any cut?  If NAR truly represented us, they would be lobbying for legislation to eliminate Relocation company referrals.  After all, they don't even know who they are giving the referral to.  They are like the Mafia.  And NAR is like the US Government.  None of the give a crap about us.

Jan 22, 2009 04:31 AM #40
Rainer
334,174
Paul Gapski
Berkshire Hathaway / Prudential Ca Realty - El Cajon, CA
619-504-8999,#1 Resource SD Relo

Yes i think your right both realtor.com and top producer are rip offs. Since they are market leader they feel they have your by the cajones and can take advantage of you. There are other alternatives that are out there. we must use them to keep the costs down.

Jun 09, 2011 05:19 PM #41
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R. B. "Bob" Mitchell - Loan Officer Raleigh/Durham

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