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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

RE/MAX To Open National IDX Website

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 16 August 2005 17:00

It's bad news for any real estate portal with a business model based on charging agents for leads.

RE/MAX International is doing exactly what Department of Justice snitches, discounters, interlopers, and lead generators want to do -- open a national IDX-based portal to provide leads to agents.

While some want to charge for the leads, RE/MAX will give the leads free of charge to RE/MAX agents. It's similar to what Cendant is doing for its brand brokers, except Cendant isn't planning a portal, but attaches Lead Router(r) to all listings so that the leads are routed to brokers and then to the listing agents. With RE/MAX's portal, leads will go directly to listing agents and then those in a que.

Oh, the franchise brands won't completely put third-party competitors out of business. They did worse than that. They gave Lending Tree, Homegain, and a host of others a Pyrrhic victory.

Many have-not companies (have not as in have not listings) had been agitating the Department of Justice against the National Association of Realtors for attempting to allow brokers to retain control of their own listings by letting them opt-out their listings from competitors' virtual office websites. Crying anti-trust, third-parties and some discounters managed to convince the DOJ that the MLS is actually a public utility, and they were being deprived of its electricity.

With an announcement pending by the NAR and the pressing DOJ, it appears RE/MAX didn't feel like waiting around for what appears to be the inevitable capitulation of the real estate industry. Real estate listings will be regarded as a public utility and the further RE/MAX and friends are upstream, the more likely they are to attract and retain consumers.

Listings are already plentiful via the universally-adopted Internet Data Exchange (IDX.) IDX is permission-based between brokers, which means any broker with a license and agents can have IDX listings supplied to their websites by their local MLSs - as long as they agree to share their listings in kind.

The way it will work for REMAX.com is that RE/MAX is going national to collect all IDX listings available, aggregate them on the RE/MAX portal, attract consumers with its comprehensive database of listings, and distribute inquiries or leads generated from the listings to RE/MAX agents.

Already in business with Realtor.com to aggregate RE/MAX listings for REMAX.com, RE/MAX is covering all its bets. It won't matter if one area doesn't have IDX set up -- Realtor.com is still on board to gather all the RE/MAX listings for that agent. Customers will be routed to the database with the most comprehensive listings in the area of their search.

"When we first started, I was the one person who said agents don't need technology, they need customers," Dave Liniger,RE/MAX co-founder and chairman of the board, told Realty Times. "Yet we were the first company to put our listings on the Internet in 1994. In 1998, we partnered with Realtor.com to aggregate our listings, and we've been partners ever since and moving forward. Over the last few years, the Internet has evolved to where the consumer is looking at properties before they contact a Realtor. So we've decided to get into this in a big way."

Liniger and Kristi Graning, RE/MAX vice president, information technology, explained that RE/MAX is increasing staff by 50 people, and that all the regions will have more sophisticated websites. REMAX.com will be the portal, and then consumers will be directed to the region city to have access to all the listings.

"The national network of IDX websites will be seamless to the consumer and we will be compliant with IDX in each MLS," says Graning. REMAX will license technology from Florida-based Siegent, Inc. (eNeighborhoods, Wyldfyre and ReChannel) to aggregate the IDX listings.

Actually, RE/MAX isn't the first franchise to attempt to aggregate all IDXs on its website. Sources say Help-U-Sell has been quietly doing this for quite some time.

"So what you will see is virtually the entire industry is going to this," says Liniger. "Our RE/MAX brokers own their own listings, and we are an agent-centric company. MLSs are selling those listings, and saying what can happen to those listings. The Justice Department is making it inevitable that we had to do it."

Will RE/MAX one day declare its own MLS? Liniger says no. "It isn't worth the effort, and the MLSs are viable," he says. "All we are doing is putting a collection of IDX broker websites together to be accessible from one point."

RE/MAX officials say the target date for new Internet strategy will be deployed in time for the February 2006 RE/MAX International Convention in Las Vegas.

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