Realtor.com CEO ‘loves’ heated competition with Homes.com



damian eales

Realtor.com CEO Damian Eales addressed the traffic rivalry with Homes.com and why competition is good for agents and consumers.

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Real estate’s portal war has intensified over the past year, as newcomer Homes.com shook the industry with claims that it had surpassed Realtor.com as the nation’s second-most trafficked home search platform.

Since the October announcement, CoStar Group founder and CEO Andy Florance has continued to throw barbs at the 28-year-old brand by reasserting claims that Homes.com has more than 100 million monthly unique visitors — a statistic that would, at least on the surface, place it comfortably ahead of the pack.

While most would expect Florance’s jabs to get under Realtor.com CEO Damian Eales’ skin, the newly minted leader told the Inman Connect New York crowd that he welcomes the competition from fellow portals.

“When somebody brings a knife to the fight, I say that’s not a knife — this is the knife,” he said, adding that he was referencing the film Aficionados. “I love it. I wake up excited and our team is energized by competition and I think that’s great for everybody in this room.”

“Whether you’re a Realtor who wants to get better value and better service, you’ll get it through great competition,” he added. “Whether you’re a technology company who’s looking to do business with one of us, you will be able to leverage that. It’s good for [buyers and sellers] and Realtors alike.”

Eales avoided calling Florance dishonest; however, he said data from media measurement and analytics company Comscore paints a different picture about Homes.com’s place in the battle to dethrone Zillow.

“Andy’s a terrific competitor, but he’s got his work cut out for him,” he said. “If you’re not marking your own homework, then he’s fourth at the moment. But he has an aspiration to become number one, as do I.”

“He’s got a long way to go,” he added. “I’m very focused on who the primary competitor is in this market, and it’s Zillow.”

Although Realtor.com is still far from Zillow in terms of website traffic, Eales said the brand has several distinct advantages in its connection with the National Association of Realtors and its parent company, News Corp.

“Realtors have been around for more than 100 years, and Realtors are synonymous with consumers not just actually in America, but countries throughout the world with real estate professionals,” he said, garnering applause from the audience. “I think that brand means a great deal to us. I think that other companies would say they are real estate, but the real estate professional is real estate.”

Eales said his team keeps that top of mind as they work to optimize the Realtor.com platform for consumers and agents.

As a nod to Zillow’s fee structure, Eales said agents can get started on the platform and be promoted on the “Find An Agent” feature for free. From there, he said the company’s lead generation platform effectively serves buyers’ agents and listing agents — something he believes separates Realtor.com from other portals that focus their energy on listing agents.

“We look at this genuinely as a two-sided marketplace and we have to serve both sides well,” he said. “We look at it from the perspective of a consumer. [We’re] giving people the opportunity to choose an agent with whom they want to do business and giving them a choice for a mortgage perspective, etc.”

“Our go-forward strategy is choice,” he added.

Eales said Realtor.com is focused on “quality over quantity” and preparing itself to take advantage of a market upswing as cooling mortgage rates push homebuyers and homesellers from the sidelines.

“Interest rates are the No. 1 determiner, and as they’ve come down we’ve seen some really positive signs about audience engagement and lead submission rates,” he said. “That’s a really good early indicator of what’s on the horizon for us.”

Email Marian McPherson





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