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Real estate brands top portals

Join the conversation. What do you think of Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com? Post your comments at the end of this blog.

Highlights:

  • Imprev releases 2014 Thought Leader Survey.
  • Real estate execs believe consumers prefer their companies to portals.
  • The big 3 portals are Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com.

Consumers overwhelmingly view real estate company brands more favorably than national real estate portals such as Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com,.

At least that is the view of executives at real estate companies surveyed by Imprev, a market technology firm based in Bellevue, Wash.

Imprev on Tuesday released its 2014 Thought Leader Survey, conducted in June. It polled top executives at leading real estate franchises and independent brokerage firms that were responsible for more than one-third of all US residential real estate transactions last year.

The survey included owners of big companies, such as RE/MAX franchises, as well as boutique firms.

The survey found that 69 percent of those surveyed believe consumers view their company’s brand more favorably than Trulia; 64 percent more favorably than Zillow; and 63 percent more favorably than realtor.com

Fewer than one-in-five executives think consumers view Zillow, Trulia or realtor.com more favorably than their firms. Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com are the three biggest stand-alone national web sites for real estate information and data.

A spokesman for Imprev said there may be some inherent bias from owners of real estate companies. The same would be true, he said, if executives of Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com were asked how they believe consumers would rate them compared with traditional real estate firms.

However, he said it is interesting that real estate executives share that perspective by such wide margins.

Gerry Fitzpatrick, the broker/owner of RE/MAX Southeast in Denver, said he suspects the survey accurately captures how most consumers feel, but noted he doesn’t have any data to support it.

“I don’t think most consumers understand that Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com are not real estate companies, but advertising entities,” he said.

In any case, almost all consumers start their search for a home by using search engines such as Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com., he said.

“That’s how people do it in the 21st Century,” Fitzpatrick said. “Most of the time, they do end up hiring a real estate professional. Sometimes the information from companies like Zillow and Trulia is not as accurate as other sources. I’m not saying that makes our job more complicated. It’s just the reality is that part of our job is to educate consumers what companies like Zillow and Trulia are and what they are not.”

This year’s Thought Leader Survey focused on:

  • The value of brand;
  • The interaction between brands (agent, local, company, franchise, and portal brands);
  • And how real estate leaders manage their brands.

“Real estate executives believe that the ‘consistency’ of their brand is highly valuable to their business, with 88 percent ranking it an 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10,” said Renwick Congdon, CEO of Imprev. “Just 5 percent gave it a ranking of 3 or lower.”

“The challenge,” Congdon continued “is that nearly all of the over one million Realtors in the US are independent contractors, which creates a conflict between promoting the agent’s brand vs. promoting the company or franchise brand.”

Other key 2014 Imprev Thought Leader Survey findings:

  • The number one brand challenge faced by real estate leaders: “Keeping their brand relevant to today’s consumer” was the top challenge (25 percent), closely followed by “Cost to maintain brand awareness” (24 percent), “Achieving brand consistency across all channels” (21 percent), and “Getting agents to embrace your brand promise,” which ranked fourth (19 percent);
  •  Marketing tools and technology top competitive differentiator: When asked to select five competitive differentiators that “help your business most,” “Marketing tools & technology” was selected by the most respondents (87 percent), surpassing “productivity of agents” (84 percent), “brand” (83 percent), “culture” (81 percent) and “training programs” (72 percent), which rounded out the Top 5. “Leads generated for agents” ranked 7th with 58 percent;
  • Which brand impacts consumer perception more? When asked which brand has the greatest impact on how the consumer perceives their brand, 37 percent of executives responding said company brand had the greatest impact on consumer perception, followed by local brand (34 percent) and franchise brand (25 percent).  Just 6 percent of real estate executives said the portals (such as Zillow, Trulia) have a major impact how consumers view their brand;
  •  Facebook emerges as a brand promotion tool: Facebook tied with agent websites as the second most common tool used by real estate firms to promote their brand (87 percent), according to the top executives surveyed. Company websites top the ranking (96 percent), with email marketing (79 percent) and direct mail (64 percent), the other most mentioned brand promotion tools;
  •  The top marketing tool real estate firms provide their agents to promote their brand? Old-school printed material (flyers, brochures) topped the list with 90 percent, followed by agent websites (89 percent) and training (88 percent). More than two in three firms provide their agents with online marketing software (69 percent), but one in three provide agents with 1990s technology — desktop publishing software — to create marketing material;
  • And  “brand conflict” is a business challenge for real estate executives: More than 100 survey respondents shared their personal views about the potential conflicts between franchise, portal, company, local, team, and agent brands. Among the most common concerns: Portals making brokerage firms “pay to get our own leads”; the growing power of teams and agents who want to promote their individual brands; and inaccurate data on the portals impacting their brand.

Imprev was founded in 2000 and inaugurated its  Thought Leader Survey in 2012 to provide information executives could share.

“It helps industry executives learn from each other and helps Imprev better understand our clients,” Congdon said. “It has become a great way to initiate an ongoing discussion about key industry issues.”

Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com. InsideRealEstateNews.com is sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee and 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.