For many brokers and agents, worry is mounting that popular real estate listing portals will do to the real estate business what Expedia did to travel agents—that is, make their business model and role obsolete. The fear that keeps some brokers up at night is that eventually, these portals, which have been highly successful at attracting consumers, will begin selling properties directly to these consumers, thereby cutting out the perceived “middle man”: the real estate broker.
There’s no denying that real estate listing portals have become an extremely popular way to search for homes and offer wide exposure to consumers. According to the National Association of REALTRS® 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 96 percent of homebuyers under the age of 44 used the Internet in their home search, mostly through one or more real estate portals. And total unique visitors to real estate sites are up 70 percent year over year, according to ComScore.
But is selling properties really the end game for real estate portals? The portals say a resounding “no,” insisting that their business model has little in common with that of brokers. Portals generally assert that they are focused on providing exposure for properties, and generate their revenues from advertising and lead generation.