Realtor.com CEO David Doctorow ‘staying focused on our purpose’
In a shifting real estate environment, Doctorow says the company's mission of serving agents, brokerages and consumers remains their North Star.
- One of the most visited online real estate sites, Realtor.com continues to grow its user base and increase revenue.
- Investing in “tools and resources our customers need to succeed” is a priority for Doctorow and his leadership team.
- Doctorow expects demand to pick up as younger buyers enter the marketplace.
Editor’s note: The high-flying residential real estate industry came back to earth in 2022, with losses, layoffs and the quick cooling of an overheated market. We’re having 1-1 conversations with the industry’s most influential leaders to learn how they are handling this “reset moment.”
Since launching in 1996, Realtor.com has navigated through many economic cycles — each of which creates challenges and presents new opportunities. The current downturn is no different, said CEO David Doctorow. The mission remains the same.
“We believe we are well-positioned to navigate the current housing cycle,” Doctorow told Real Estate News. “We’ve found that staying focused on our purpose and serving buyers, sellers, renters and agents is the best way to weather the storm.”
Even in the economic downturn, the company has experienced strong revenue and audience growth since 2020, reporting $170 million in revenue in Q3, up from $162 million over the third quarter in 2021. (The company operates on a fiscal calendar, from July 1-June 30.)
“As we approach this market transition,” Doctorow said, “we are continuing to invest in our people and experiences to deliver the tools and resources our customers and users need to succeed.”
Still, the company is not immune to cost-cutting, including layoffs. In September, Realtor.com announced an undisclosed number of staff reductions in response to a drop in home sales.
A vast marketplace
The sheer size of Realtor.com has helped the company withstand a slowdown in home sales against a backdrop of rising interest rates. Realtor.com commands a behemoth online presence as one of the most visited real estate sites in the U.S., averaging 93 million users monthly.
“We bring a unique value and approach among real estate portals. We have built a truly open marketplace that gives people options so they can choose what’s right for their personal real estate journey,” Doctorow said. “In stark contrast to the competition, we are strictly a marketplace where our consumer experience reinforces the value real estate professionals bring to the transaction. “
Realtor.com is licensed to operate by the National Association of Realtors, the industry’s largest trade association, and sells referrals, leads and advertising to real estate professionals and brokerages.
The company has an unconventional history. In 2014, News Corp. bought Realtor.com’s parent company, Move Inc., after the real estate portal gained status and influence as the exclusive listings source for USA Today and Aol.com. “We remain one of the most visited real estate sites, and for much of the past two years we have been growing faster than our closest competitor and gaining share among serious buyers and sellers,” Doctorow said.
Supporting consumers, empowering agents
The company in 2022 is prioritizing tools and features that guide consumers along their real estate journey. Their “buying power tool,” introduced in August, lets buyers quickly calculate how much they can afford to spend on a home based on their income, debt and location. They receive an estimate of the home price they likely can get pre-approval for.
Realtor.com is also focused on helping consumers access resources that may benefit them, such as special lending options.
“We just launched information on home listings about whether a property meets USDA 0% down payment loan location eligibility requirements, and through a partnership with Veterans United, we help veterans take advantage of VA home loans,” Doctorow said. “We don’t push our own products or services — instead we try to make the right connections so that people get the services that are actually best for them.
“A competitive differentiator is that we also empower agent and broker growth through choice, such as bringing their own lenders and title companies to the table and choosing the products that are best for them and their business, as opposed to limiting their options like other players in the market do,” Doctorow said.
So what is in store for Realtor.com and the industry as a whole during this time of change?
“Looking ahead, we’re thinking more broadly about ways to connect agents with more sellers and support them through closing,” said Doctorow, citing the company’s recent purchase of UpNest, which allows home sellers to consider multiple online offers from agents.
“With this acquisition, Realtor.com can deliver even more valuable seller leads to agents, and offer even more choices for homeowners who want to sell,” Doctorow said.
Assessing the market as a whole, Doctorow expects homebuying demand to pick up, given the demographics of the U.S. “There are tailwinds in place supporting ongoing demand for housing, such as a large number of younger households who will be looking for somewhere to live and the right housing situation for themselves or their family,” Doctorow said.
He acknowledged that in the short term, consumers and agents may continue to navigate rough waters. “We see there are challenges ahead for real estate agents and anyone in the market to rent, buy or sell a home in the coming year,” Doctorow said, “but we remain optimistic about the industry over time.”
At Realtor.com, Doctorow said, the changing real estate market “creates an opportunity for us to innovate and evolve what we offer so we can better serve consumers and agents and brokers.”
Write to Linda F. Hersey.