John Berkowitz, Founder and CEO, OJO and Movoto
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Movoto wants to win on tech, experiences — not ad spend 

CEO John Berkowitz says the home search company offers agents and consumers “a better chance of succeeding” than its deep-pocketed competitors.

May 24, 2024
5 minutes

Key points:

  • Berkowitz emphasized Movoto’s focus on “warm introductions” between agents and consumers and providing an end-to-end experience.
  • He was skeptical of the “your listing, your lead” model and said “there’s no doubt” it’s a slippery slope to dual agency.
  • Buyer leads “might be more worth it” after the NAR settlement, he said, particularly if they’re coming from a site that educates consumers on agent value.

Movoto, a longtime player in the home search space, is staying out of the heated race for the top spots — but the portal's CEO is confident the company "is here to stay." 

And that's due in part to the growth efforts of OJO, Movoto's parent company, which recently announced the acquisition of the LEAD Syndicate — an "all-in suite of solutions" for agents — and an exclusive content and data partnership with

But how will Movoto stay ahead in the increasingly competitive home search arena? And what impacts will the NAR settlement and rule changes have on buyer agent leads and on home search portals? 

Real Estate News recently caught up with John Berkowitz, the co-founder of OJO, and CEO of both OJO and Movoto, to discuss these themes and more. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

What's your take on the 'portal wars' playing out among top home search sites?

Consider us here to stay in the fight for relevance with consumers — we're going to do it with unique data, better technology and better experiences. You'll have a better chance of succeeding with us. 

I think some of the competition is very good — like all of us having to fight for what we have and how we support it. That's the good part of the portal battle. It's just the marketing spend that's bad. It's bad for consumers and bad for agents, and I'm not going to go raise a war chest to fight in it. I'm going to fight in other ways. 

But all of those costs do get passed off to consumers, agents and brokerages. I'm proud that we're not playing that game — we are saying we are going to earn it. 

So where do you see Movoto fitting into this competitive space?

What this space really needs is the operating systems and automation to bridge the gap between digital consumers and in-the-field practitioners. We realized in that journey that we needed to control and operate the front door to our business so that the experience was end-to-end and we could learn about a consumer and hold their hand continuously. 

And I think that's where you're going to see differentiation: We have put a ton into tech automation and efficient operations. We are leaning in on the front end on unique data. 

You know we do not lead on brand — every American knows our competitors, but very few know of us. And we certainly aren't going to win on dollars spent on advertising — we're competing with publicly traded companies. So we have to win on technology, efficiency and unique experiences. In many ways, that's a disadvantage, but we have to turn that into a real superpower. 

What does Movoto Pro Plus offer over competitors' agent products?

We aim to make the vast majority of our introductions happen over a warm transfer. That's our goal. If we can get the consumer and the agent to talk live — when you're taking a consumer that's never met this agent, maybe they're not even in the area — that warm introduction is extremely important. And then we follow up with our Concierge Team which plays a neutral role in making sure they're both happy working with each other.

What will be the impact of the NAR settlement on your business?

At the high level, I'm really disappointed in how we've shown up as an industry to defend the inaccuracies. Anybody who understands real estate and has seen how it works realizes there is an immense amount of misinformation about this lawsuit and what changes are coming, and that's unfortunate. 

I think we have a very interesting role to play as a consumer-facing company because we often meet consumers before they're in the field talking to real estate agents. We are a somewhat neutral player that affords us the right to educate the consumer on what they need to do. So the role that we get to play to help set an agent up for success — the harder their job gets, frankly, the more important our role becomes.

Will online buyer leads be worth it after the rule changes go into effect?

I think they might be more worth it because I, as a neutral party, can educate consumers on your value. If I'm doing that for you consistently, you will value those introductions versus other sources of consumer channels. 

In the beginning, you'll have inefficiency and you'll have practitioners that just start discounting down. But we've known for a long time that there are tourist agents in this industry that are not professionals. They're not the ones driving the majority of this business. They will not be able to survive — they will discount down to an inefficient rate, and they will go back to doing what they were doing prior to joining this industry. 

What's better for consumers? 'Your listing, your lead' or other models?

I don't think anybody believes "your listing, your lead" is better for consumers. started "your listing, your lead" — at one point, half of was "your listing, your lead," so they're the innovators on it. And I don't think the team argues that it's the best thing for consumers. 

The best thing for consumers, again, is being represented so they can get what they came for, which is cash for their house or the right home.  

Is 'your listing, your lead' a slippery slope to dual agency?

100%. There's no doubt. If you talk to listing agents, they typically want a consumer represented — it's just easier. 

And so I think the real market-making listing agents will actually be supportive and do the things that enable a buyer to be represented by a buyer's agent. I mean these lawsuits were all about making sure buyers got fair representation. And look, the only stock that popped after the settlement news was the one that would take us closer to dual agency — CoStar.

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