When real estate brokerage and franchise giant Realogy announced last summer that it was acquiring ZipRealty for $166 million, company officials made it clear that they were just as interested in ZipRealty’s tech platform as in its brokerage operations in 23 markets.
Realogy is already well underway in customizing ZipRealty’s tech platform to make it available to brokerages affiliated with Century 21, ERA, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate and other Realogy franchise brands this year.
But Inman has learned that Realogy has a much grander vision for integrating the technology platform it has acquired from ZipRealty throughout its entire businesses, and creating an ecosystem where tech vendors will be able to meet the needs of all Realogy-affiliated agents and company-owned brokerages in the process.
The ‘Zap store’
First up, Realogy will begin making ZipRealty’s “Zap” platform — which provides branded websites, a customer relationship management (CRM) system, transaction management, digital marketing, and “agent coaching” reports — available to franchisees by the third quarter as a white-label product. The roll out is scheduled to take place over a three-year period.
Realogy’s brokerage wing, NRT LLC, which has 700 offices and over 42,000 agents in 40 U.S. markets, will also eventually get access to Zap after the platform is rolled out to franchisees, Perriello said. The timing could coincide with the expiration of a multiyear contract NRT signed with Market Leader last January to provide agents with lead-to-close capabilities similar to Zap’s.
Once it’s achieved critical mass by rolling out Zap to the thousands of brokerages and agents in the firm’s affiliated and company-owned offices, Realogy plans to give tech vendors access to the entire network through a “Zap store.”
The Zap store is aimed at taking the dysfunction out of real estate innovation, said Alex Perriello, president and CEO of Realogy Franchise Group. Instead of having to tailor products for fractured systems that currently dot the real estate landscape, tech providers will be able to build products that work seamlessly with one platform, gaining access to a vast network of potential clients.
A few Realogy affiliates are already useing the Zap platform, including Coldwell Banker Vanguard in Jacksonville, Florida. (Notice the mobile-optimized website and an image of the mobile apps featuring ZipRealty’s hallmark orange color toward the bottom of the homepage).
At least one non-Realogy firm has rolled out the Zap platform, too. Q Realty Inc. in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was one of the first firms to sign up for the service when ZipRealty announced the debut of the white-labeled product in May before Realogy acquired the firm.
Realogy also plans to continue growing ZipRealty’s popular website, ziprealty.com, into an even more formidable lead-generation engine. Ziprealty.com, however, is not related to the consumer site NRT is building as part of an an effort dubbed “Project Flanker” that the firm hopes will help it generate more online leads and become less reliant on Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com, Perriello said.
‘Powered by Zip’ network
While Realogy launches ZipRealty as a white-labeled product to its franchisees, it will continue expanding ZipRealty’s referral network, Powered by Zip, to NRT offices, Perriello said. Brokers participating in Powered by Zip receive leads from a co-branded version of ziprealty.com in addition to gaining some access to the Zap platform.
The Powered by Zip platform has already grown since Realogy acquired ZipRealty. At the time of the acquisition, 21 firms were members of the network, and, while a few members have dropped out, it has grown to a current size of 37 firms, Perriello said.
While a handful of non-Realogy firms who joined the Powered by Zip network before the acquisition are still members, Perriello says that Realogy firms, in particular NRT offices, will be a focus for the network going forward.
In October, Tucson, Arizona-based Long Realty dropped out of Powered by Zip, replaced by the local NRT-owned brokerage. Other firms that have dropped out of the network since the acquisition include a mix of independent and Realogy firms including Brooklyn, New York-based Fillmore Real Estate, Virginia Beach, Virginia-based William E. Woods and Associates, Realtors and Philadelphia-based Coldwell Banker Hearthside.
At least one non-Realogy franchisee is still a member of the Powered by Zip network: Salt Lake City-based Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Utah Properties.
ZipRealty CEO Lanny Baker says that the firm’s focus is squarely on Realogy firms now.
Ziprealty.com continues to operate in the six markets where Realogy decided to keep ZipRealty alive as a brokerage: Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Las Vegas; Houston; Austin, Texas; and Richmond, Virginia.
Despite the flux, ziprealty.com was the 15th most visited real estate site from desktop computers in December.
The site lost about a fifth of its Web market share over the course of 2014, perhaps because of the change in ownership and a fluctuation in Powered by Zip members. But Realogy sees it as a key part of its online lead-gen strategy and it’s now powering search in more markets, which could lead to a growth in its Web market share over 2015.
Desktop Web market share for ziprealty.com, 2014
|Web market share, January
|Web market share, December
|Percentage point change
|-0.19 percentage points
Source: Experian Marketing Services
“We want to make the experience at the local broker level spectacular,” Perriello said of the firm’s plans for ziprealty.com. Approximately a quarter of the online leads franchisees receive come from their branded websites, he said. “We want to make sure the broker is in the (online) game as well in a big way.”
Despite the efforts Realogy is making to beef up its online lead-generation, Perriello says he’s excited by the addition of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. in the U.S. real estate portal space with its acquisition of realtor.com operator Move Inc.
With News Corp.’s media assets like The Walls Street Journal and its real estate-focused “Mansion” section, realtor.com could become a compelling advertising offering, he said.
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