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Executive Conversation: Celeste Starchild on serving the digital-first homebuyer

ListHub makes it easy for real estate brokers to effectively manage every aspect of advertising listings online

Executive Conversations is a HousingWire web series that profiles powerful people in the financial industry, highlighting the operations and the people that make this sector tick. In the latest installment, we sit down with Celeste Starchild, SVP Professional Software, Move, Inc. and General Manager of ListHub, to talk about how brokers can manage their active real estate listings through ListHub to generate more leads.

Q. We know more and more consumers are starting their home search journey online. Tell us how ListHub helps real estate professionals advertise their listings online.

starchildA. ListHub provides a platform for real estate brokers to effectively manage every aspect of advertising listings online from a single, easy-to-use data distribution and reporting dashboard, at no cost. We handle the data aggregation work to effectively standardize and synchronize the data between the MLS and the real estate websites, or publishers, according to broker preferences.  This ensures that homebuyers have the most accurate information available from the MLS. We work with more than 60,000 brokers in 600 MLS markets to give them tools to publish their listings on more than 150+ websites and other marketing resources in our network.

In addition to listing syndication, ListHub is the only source for complete and objective consumer traffic data in the real estate industry. We collect consumer traffic metrics from our publisher partners to give real estate professionals critical business intelligence that helps guide advertising decisions, and provide reports to their seller clients that details the results of these efforts.

This is a tremendous benefit for brokers–one simple place to manage all their listing advertising choices and tools to see how their listings are performing across all the sites they advertise on. 

Q. What changes have you seen in online search over the past decade?

A. We’ve been managing real estate data since 1999 and launched the ListHub product in 2006, so we’ve certainly seen a lot of evolution in online search over the past two decades.

We know from realtor.com® consumer research that today’s buyers begin their search online, and many of them don’t contact a real estate or mortgage professional until they’re further along in the process. By the time they reach out to an agent or lender, 95 percent of consumers who search online have already decided on the price range and key criteria like number of beds and baths; 80 percent know what neighborhood they want; and when people first contact a professional, 65 percent expect a response within one hour.

According to NAR’s Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, Millennials, from 25 to 34 years old, were the largest group of first-time home buyers in 2017 (55%)* and we know that Millennials are a digital-first generation. This segment reported spending longer searching online before contacting an agent than other buyers.

Expectations have changed because of the availability of information online. Today’s consumers expect to have the most accurate and most comprehensive information available, at all times. And because listing inventory is tight in many markets, it’s even more important for consumers to have access to the latest listing information. ListHub makes it easy for brokers to distribute their listings to a broad array of websites – direct from the MLS – to ensure the information is accurate and up-to-date, to better serve consumers.

Q. How does your service help publishers to be competitive in today's real estate search?

A. Publishers are looking for new and innovative ways to serve the digital-first consumer and establish their unique niche in the market.  As an example, Zumper is specifically focused on rentals and built their platform to be mobile-first to target Millennials. They knew their audience, but they were struggling to manage the data. When they first launched, their tech team was spending months trying to implement and manage data feeds with individual MLSs and brokerages, which was resource-intensive, even with just a few market areas. That’s where ListHub comes in. We provide a normalized data feed to our publisher partners, from more than 600 MLSs, with about 100 fields of data from photos, to property descriptions, to roof and foundation types. By leveraging a national data feed from ListHub, Zumper was able to expand its footprint quickly. In 2016 they saw a huge increase in traffic, going from 10k users per month to over 26 million in just one year.

We also have a number of innovative publisher partners on the mortgage and lending side. As I mentioned, today’s home buyers are spending a lot of time researching online, both properties and the home buying process. So to get in front of home buyers early a couple of these publisher partners have built out consumer search sites to be that go-to resource early in the home search journey. One such publisher, Keyboom! (also known as Listing Booster), is a RESPA-compliant, agent/lender co-marketing solution that focuses on generating leads through property marketing. This provides an opportunity for listing agents to get exposure and generate leads from new audiences, while also generating new leads for the lender and building awareness about their services.

Other lenders have built consumer websites to generate mortgage leads from their own mortgage or banking client base. They display listings on their website and provide the opportunity for consumers to get more information about a mortgage, while also giving the listing agent added exposure and delivering leads to them. For the lender, one of the most valuable aspects of our model is that there are normally no additional MLS contracts to sign or hoops to jump through.

Ultimately, our service allows publishers to focus their resources on building compelling, differentiating consumer experiences, instead of reinventing the wheel of acquiring and aggregating listings from hundreds and hundreds of data sources.  

Q. What other changes are you seeing in the real estate industry?

A. The past few years have seen a lot of consolidation among MLSs. There are more than 700 MLSs nationwide and some of the smaller associations are joining together to share MLS technology. Bright MLS, as an example, is made up of 43 associations on the east coast, and is now one of the largest in the country. These MLS mergers present challenges for real estate tech companies that have direct feeds with the MLS and struggle to keep up with frequent changes, whether due to mergers, MLS vendors or leadership at the association or MLS.

ListHub handles all of that data migration for our publisher customers. We are the largest single source of broker-authorized listings in the U.S., with more than 2.5 million listings running through our system at any given time.  This is not work for the faint of heart – we have some of the smartest developers in the industry and our tech team works around the clock to ensure that there is no disruption of service despite these frequent changes.

About Celeste Starchild

Celeste is a pioneer who has spent over 15 years transforming the real estate industry. She possesses a track record of success in technology services, product development, sales and marketing, business development, and data security, and is the recipient of the 2015 Inman Innovator Award.

Celeste is part of the leadership team at Move, Inc., that oversees the development of professional software tools and services.

During her career, Celeste has demonstrated a passion for technology, creating leading products that increase brokerage efficiency, such as online transaction management software (SettlementRoom, Inc.), and security products that protect real estate data (Clareity Security). Most recently as general manager of ListHub, Celeste has been instrumental in leading ListHub’s strategy and paving a path for growth. Today ListHub is a core platform for the real estate industry that powers online marketing for more than 60,000 brokerage firms nationwide.

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