REaltor.com goes international

Realtor.com operator Move Inc. says a new version of the listing portal that's targeted at international buyers will help brokers and agents grab a piece of an estimated $82 billion in annual sales of U.S. residential properties to foreign buyers.

In development for a year, Realtor.com International launched today with 4.4 million listings and translation capabilities in 11 languages, including "double byte" character languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean that can pose challenges for programmers.

Like other listing portals aimed at the jet set, Realtor.com International provides other tools designed to make foreign buyers feel more at home, converting property dimensions from square feet into square meters and list prices from U.S. dollars into widely used currencies such as the euro and yuan.

Thanks to its ties to the National Association of Realtors -- Move operates the website under the terms of an agreement with NAR -- Realtor.com has nearly total coverage of the U.S. market, boasting more residential property listings than any listing portal, foreign or domestic

Realtor.com already attracts about 900,000 foreign homebuyers a month, and that traffic is expected to grow now that the site allows more users to browse listings in their native language.

Country of origin for
international visitors
to Realtor.com

1. Canada
2. United Kingdom
3. Germany
4. Australia
5. India
6. Mexico
7. France
8. Italy
9. Brazil
10. Japan

English is the dominant language in three of the top five countries of origin for international visitors to Realtor.com: Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and India.

Although China is thought to be the second most common country of origin for foreign buyers of U.S. residential properties, the country is notably absent from the list of top 10 countries of origin for international visitors to Realtor.com.

"We expect traffic from China to jump dramatically," said Realtor.com President Errol Samuelson of the newly launched site, which with a click of the button can convert navigation and property descriptions into traditional Chinese characters used by speakers of both Mandarin and Cantonese.

"From a technology point of view, Russian, Chinese and Japanese are 'double byte' or 'multiple byte' languages," Samuelson said of the amount of information programmers must devote to each character. "It turns out to be somewhat complicated. I'm quite pleased we were able to go beyond the standard Latin languages."

Top 10 cities searched by
international visitors
to Realtor.com

1. Chicago
2. Las Vegas
3. Boston
4. Los Angeles
5. Miami
6. Orlando, Fla.
7. New York, N.Y.
8. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
9. San Diego
10. Kissimmee, Fla.

At launch, Realtor.com International features listings from 10 countries outside of the U.S. -- Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Spain.

That's only a fraction of the 1.5 million non-U.S. listings from 93 countries on display to visitors of rival WorldProperties.com. But Move says additional countries have already signed on and will be coming online rapidly in coming months.

WorldProperties.com is the official website of the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations (ICREA), a global consortium of real estate associations that NAR helped found 11 years ago.

NAR withdrew from ICREA on Dec. 31, after the consortium developed a new listings exchange and referral system that allowed the public display of residential listings and member-to-member posting of residential listings.

NAR said its agreement with Move governing the operation of Realtor.com prohibits it from participating in another site displaying U.S. properties. Before the split, WorldProperties.com displayed framed search results from Realtor.com.

Today, in additional to international listings, WorldProperties.com also carries about 1 million U.S. listings provided by its technology partner, Proxio. Proxio syndicates listings it receives from agents and other subscribers of its ProxioPro global network, and from partners including listings syndicator Point2.

ICREA CEO Thijs Stoffer said that NAR's withdrawal from ICREA "opened the door for individual Realtors to participate to the fullest at WorldProperties.com, an option not available to those agents before due to contractual obligations NAR has with Move.com."

Stoffer said there has been "a fair amount of misinformation out there" on this point in social media group discussions.

Since NAR withdrew from ICREA, he said, "we have seen interest (from) some local Realtor associations to opt to directly affiliate with ICREA on behalf of their members."

Stoffer said access to market data from a reliable source "is critical for investors and other foreign buyers," and tools such as translation and currency conversion tools -- the "backbone of the WorldProperties.com site" -- provide added value.

"We believe that the more such resources ... come online, such as the international listings at Realtor.com, the better for consumers and the better for the global marketplace," Stoffer said.

Proxio co-founder and CEO Janet Case had a similarly diplomatic take on Realtor.com's entry into the international listings game.

The U.S. real estate industry "widely acknowledges that listing exposure on multiple portals is good for agents," she said, citing Trulia and Zillow as examples. Now, Case said, there's growing awareness that overseas buyers are "great customers ... and there's certainly room for more than one player in this space, too."

 

 

BY Matt Carter / Inman News

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