It’s not often that an industry pioneer looks to somewhat undo what they started, but in some ways, that’s exactly the case for Homeseekers.com creator and current Realty Times CEO, John Giaimo. Back in 1995 when Homeseekers.com was, arguably, the first website to bring a complete listing database of updated daily listing information (including photos) to the general public on the internet, real estate agents and brokers did not warm to the concept. According to Giaimo, “they feared the idea of their published listings, their ‘listing book,’ being public for all to see, removing the book as their advantage in the marketplace.” However, their fears were not realized and quite the opposite happened: the internet has allowed many brands, agents and brokers to thrive and grow in the digital age of real estate, allowing the likes of Realtor.com, Homes.com, HomeAdvisor.com, CyberHomes.com, Zillow.com, etc. to make their appearances. It was a different industry then; one in which agents were in control.
Today, John Giaimo is taking a look at the evolution of the national listing portals he took part in creating, including the recent introduction of iBuyer programs, and is acknowledging a very real problem for the industry with the hope of being able to turn the industry back around to the community. “Although I was a pioneer in placing listings on the web, I’ll be the first to admit that that isn’t necessarily a bragging right,” says Giaimo. “It only means that I have the most arrows in my back. The evolution of national listing portals and the disenfranchisement of agents has the potential to wreak havoc on the industry and is a very real problem that needs to be addressed. My hope is to assist in making a change by ‘bringing it home’ to the community.”
Before diving into a plausible solution, it’s important to understand the “problem” that Giaimo mentions. When asked to pinpoint the problem facing the real estate industry today, noted real estate visionary and educator, Saul Klein, said, “With huge amounts of capital coming into the real estate sector, and the resultant emergence of new technologies and business models like iBuyer programs, many traditional real estate brokerages and stakeholders are fearing threats to the current structure of the business. It is our firm and unmoving belief that if there was ever a time for the industry to ‘take back its future,’ that time is now. We need to find alternatives to the current listing ad model, the one in which we give our listings to the portals, in the hope of creating leads and those leads end up being sold back to the agents.”
To quell this issue, Giaimo has launched Bring it Home Communities™, whose company’s mission is to create local listing portals that will benefit the broker, agents and the consumers they serve. “This concept is not new,” says Giaimo. “The Houston Association of Realtors® (HAR), under the direction of Bob Hale, has served their membership well with their investment in their HAR.com community portal.” Through the innovation and implementation of this portal, consumers in Houston begin their home search process by visiting the HAR site, which enjoys more traffic than any competing real estate listing portal in its market area. Take that in for a moment: Houston consumers visit the HAR website prior to any other national real estate listing portal. Bring it Home Communities strives to accomplish the same effect for local communities across the nation.
That said, Bring it Home Communities will not simply act as another listing portal website. The company has partnered with TLCengine and Ad Persistence, two companies which will offer game-changing technology to attract and benefit consumers, in theory leveling-up the local listing portal to further attract consumer attention.
First came TLCengine, which introduced Giaimo to their “lifestyle” home search technology that effectively simplifies the home search process by allowing consumers to search based on something they can understand: a monthly payment. “Consumers are internet savvy and are using the net to search for their dream home,” says Giaimo. “More often than not, an agent begins a consumer relationship by informing them that the price range they were searching for online is not within their financial reach.”
By allowing users the ability to search by monthly payment, TLC goes beyond principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. Their “lifestyle” calculation includes items like utilities and other essential calculations with over 100 data feeds. They even have a feed from the Environmental Protection Agency, which may seem like an odd tool to offer, but it allows the consumer the ability to view the monthly cost associated with driving to and from their workplace.
Giaimo discovered Ad Persistence through a former HomeSeekers.com board member, Joseph Turchyn, who had recently invested in the company, describing it as a game-changer for digital ad delivery and post-impression attribution. “After participating in a demonstration of their technology, I immediately understood the huge value proposition of the patents that they hold,” says Giaimo. One of those patents includes the means to transform today’s digital ads into digital assets that have a shelf life in an “offers” section on the website the consumer is viewing, enabling the consumer to engage with the ad to share, redeem coupons, or take advantage of special offers at a later, more convenient time across different platforms and mobile devices. “How often have you seen an ad, move on to the next screen and thought, ‘I should have taken a closer look at that offer!’ only to find that the ad is gone forever, lost in the shuffle? The AP system stores the ad for future reference, offering a digital ad with a shelf life where all the consumer interactions are tracked in real time to provide better targeting data that translates into more relevance and value for the consumer and a higher return on ad spend for the brand!”
In addition to the consumer advantage that Ad Persistence offers, there is also plenty of opportunity for advertisers, especially on the local level. “While we are looking to bring real estate back to the community, our company will also turn its focus to bring local advertising back to community businesses with extremely competitive digital ad pricing. At long last, the everyday, local small business will have the opportunity to directly advertise on a listing portal, using the latest digital ad technology that faces their exact consumer base: consumers who are buying and/or selling their home. Advertisers will no longer be small fish in a big pond on national listing portal sites or the internet as a whole, and will instead be empowered to directly reach their target audience through our model.” The Bring it Home™ model moves away from the CPM or PPC advertising models and instead offers a monthly flat rate fee for an ad to be in rotation on the advertiser’s local real estate portal, including the ability to have it stored in the offers section on the website where the advertiser can see and learn from how the consumer interacts with the ad/offer and can use the post-impression attribution data to personalize ads direct to the consumer.
While Bring it Home Communities is not the lone solution to quell the forthcoming troubles the real estate industry may face as a result of the ever-evolving national listing portals, it is certainly causing a stir as one model that will bring power back to the local agent/brokerage/association/MLS and the local community, and they’re already proving to be making an impact. “We are very proud to be getting our message out so soon. In fact, in the short time of our existence, we have already launched BringitHomeNewJersey.com and 2FindYourHome.com in the New Jersey and Buffalo markets respectively, and have also secured various approval letters with MLSs, associations, and brokers and are very much looking forward to including an additional ten Bring it Home locations in the coming months,” says Giaimo. “It’s time to bring the power back to the local community and away from the national brands that threaten our very industry. We hope to play a key role in this process and look forward to continuing to empower local markets.”