Amazon makes splash with game-changing Realogy partnership

The nation's largest real estate company and an e-commerce juggernaut want to change the way people buy homes

BYPATRICK KEARNSStaff Writer


Amazon is diving headfirst into the real estate industry with a new partnership alongside industry giant Realogy, the companies announced Tuesday.

TurnKey, a new platform that rolls out Tuesday with the heft of a major marketing blitz across Amazon channels and social media sites including Facebook, aims to simplify the process of buying and moving into a new home while also seemingly adding a potentially huge lead generation business to the e-commerce leader’s playbook.

The new platform lives on Amazon’s website. There, prospective homebuyers fill out a brief questionnaire, including the metro area where they want to buy a home. Instantly, the home buyer will be connected to a Realogy-affiliated agent. The platform is live beginning Tuesday in 15 markets, focused on major metro areas and representative of about 20 percent of all homes sold through Realogy-affiliated agents.

By partnering with Realogy, the nation’s largest real estate holding company, Amazon is poised to rise expeditiously in an industry that, until now, it had only focused on infrequently, such as through the sale of prefab homes and the development of smart home technology or by investing in prefab homebuilders. The partnership essentially catapults Amazon into the lead generation business in similar ways as Zillow, albeit with Realogy as an exclusive partner.

Currently, 3,000 agents affiliated with Coldwell BankerCentury 21, Better Homes and Gardens Real EstateSotheby’s International Realty and ERA Real Estate are participating in the program and have received training from Realogy and Amazon Home Services. The agents selected are chosen based on their customer service record and local market expertise, Realogy Head of Strategy Eric Chesin told Inman. The agent with whom the home buyer is connected is based on the buyer’s profile.

“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,” Pat Bigatel, director of Amazon Home Services, said on Monday leading up to the roll out. “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 aim of the platform is to address the post-closing process, Chesin said. In an industry where real estate companies are racing to offer the best end-to-end experience for consumers, Realogy wants to go beyond the transaction by offering prospective homebuyers complimentary products and Amazon Homes Services valued at up $5,000 by signing on with a Realogy-affiliated agent.

“After the closing, you go to the house day one and it’s sort of romantic,” Chesin told Inman. “You’re sitting in an empty house, maybe there are boxes around, you’re sitting cross-legged on the floor drinking a glass of wine, eating some take out Chinese food. By day two, that’s stale.”

While the lead generation opportunities are obvious for Realogy-affiliated agents – More than 2 billion consumers visit Amazon.com each month – it can also act as an incentive for agents to hit certain metrics in order to qualify to participate in the program, especially as it scales up.

“It’s always good to have a program that delivers really high quality, really exciting leads,” said Chesin, who added that Tuesday’s announcement will be bolstered by paid and organic marketing campaigns as well as ads on Amazon.com and other sites, including Facebook. “Its both great for and motivating for our brokers and agents and it’s also terrific for us and for home buyers and for the companies we collaborate with. It’s one of of those magic type setups that’s a win-win-win across the board.”

After closing on a home, Amazon connects the buyer with services and experts in their area to turn that house into a home. The buyer gets complimentary products and Amazon Homes Services courtesy of Realogy, valued between $1,000 and $5,000. Based on the price of the home, the consumer gets one of three packages.

The move-in benefits include a selection of Amazon Home Services like a deep cleaning, a handyman to assemble furniture, hang pictures and install shelving and more. The buyer also gets a suite of smart home products installed by Amazon or Amazon-vetted professionals.

As a publicly-traded company, Chesin did not reveal a timeframe for scaling TurnKey, but he did acknowledge a plan to expand the program after the initial launch.

“It’s our hope as we learn from the program and roll it out that we would expand it both geographically and broader to make sure it is available to as many home buyers as we can,” Chesin said.

The new platform comes at a time when Realogy has suffered in equity markets, with a plummeting market cap and a per-share dollar value in the lower $5 range. It remains to be seen how the equity markets will react to the news.