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Steve Murray on new brokerage models, CFPB crackdowns

Today’s HousingWire Daily features a discussion on the emergence of a new brokerage model and the validity behind the concerns against institutional investors.

Real EstateFintechPolitics & Money

Amazon and Realogy gang up on Zillow to entice homebuyers

It's a battle of the titans, and yes, Alexa has a role

You buy toilet paper, computers and paper towels through the Amazon website. Now, you can buy your next house. The world’s largest retailer is partnering with Realogy, the largest U.S. residential brokerage, to match homebuyers with real estate agents through a program called TurnKey

Potential buyers will be able to go through their Amazon account, click on TurnKey, put in details about the size, price and location of the home they want to buy, and then be matched with one of Realogy’s agents. In return, customers get up to $5,000 of Amazon products and assistance called a “Move-In Benefit,” which includes help with chores and product installation through a division of the retailer called Amazon Home Services.

And, yes, Alexa – with her calming voice – has a role in the battle of the titans. Customers can use their credits to set up a smart home run by the virtual assistant. The offered products also include things like Ring doorbells or flat-screen TVs, which can then be installed by Amazon professionals.

"Customers can be overwhelmed when moving, and we're excited to be working with Realogy to offer homebuyers a simplified way to settle into a new home," said Pat Bigatel, director of Amazon’s services division, said in a statement issued on Tuesday. "The Amazon Move-In Benefit will enable homebuyers to adapt the offering to their needs – from help assembling furniture, to assisting with smart home device set-up, to a deep clean, and more."

The two giants – retailer and real estate brokerage – are ganging up on Zillow and its Premier Agent program that matches potential buyer to agents who pay a fee to the company. That program generated about $898 million in revenue for Zillow last year, according to regulatory filings.

Realogy is the owner of NRT, the nation’s largest brokerage measured by two key metrics: the total dollar volume of transactions and the number of real estate agents. In addition to NRT, Realogy brands include Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Corcoran, ERA, Sotheby's International Realty.

"Realogy and our brands are always looking for ways to give consumers an awesome home buying experience with a terrific real estate agent, and today's launch of TurnKey is a big part of that continued strategy," said Ryan Schneider, Realogy's CEO.

The TurnKey service now is available in 15 markets, including Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles.

The Amazon credit for products and services ranges from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the price of the home. Homes purchased for between $150,000 to $399,000 will get a $1,000 benefit, transactions between $400,000 and $699,000 will receive a $2,500 Amazon credit, and buyers of properties priced over $700,000 will receive a $5,000 benefit, according to the TurnKey page.

“Amazon’s role begins after you’ve bought your home, providing you with a benefit that spans from furniture assembly to fully installed Alexa-enabled smart home products – all at no cost to you,” according to Amazon’s Turnkey webpage. 

The partnership with Amazon is a much-needed boost for Realogy, which has more than 50,000 agents. The company’s stock price tumbled almost 80% in the past year and its market cap has shrunk to around $600 million, down from more than $7 billion about six years ago. Adding to its woes, Realogy has faced a series of lawsuits in recent months, including charges of securities fraud. The company has said the suits have no merit.

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