Howard Hanna is the largest privately held real estate company in America; closing 113,853 transactions in 2022 – resulting in more than $36 billion in closed sale volume – ranking the firm #5 in the nation among all brokerages. HowardHanna.com is also among the most visited websites among all brokerages in America. Also, in the 13-state footprint of the firm, they experience consumer visits that compete head-to-head with many of the top national portals, often exceeding Redfin, Homes.com, and others in core markets.
In northern Ohio, the firm has opted out of the IDX program in MLS Now. When consumers search the site HowardHanna.com in those markets on their broker website, they only see Howard Hanna listings unless they are logged in and assigned to a Howard Hanna agent. Users that are logged in see all MLS listings. That is how a VOW website works.
VOW pumps up registrations and highlights company listings
As you might imagine, consumers do not really understand IDX vs. VOW websites. Howard Hanna has turned this into a lead generation tool. I did a search for Rocky River, Ohio as an unregistered user and the following interstitial appears. “…. Our company has 63 listings that match your search criteria out of 105 listings on the market. To view more, click here.” Clicking takes the consumer to a registration page.
In deploying a VOW, Howard Hanna is also promoting their listings in the market front-and-center. Many visitors to broker websites are drawn there from a yard sign or the firm’s reputation. Placing their inventory first makes a lot of sense, especially when you have more than 60% of the listings in a community. For visitors looking for a Howard Hanna listing, they are more easily accessed without sorting through hundreds of listings of other firms. For buyers who want to see all homes that match their search criteria, they create an account.
Howard Hanna agent websites were also converted to VOW. They operate just like HowardHanna.com, displaying company listings to unregistered users and all MLS listings to VOW consumers.
Howard Hanna Continues to Advertise Listings on Zillow.com
One element of the Howard Hanna strategy is the company’s commitment to advertising listings on Zillow.com. Although Zillow is a participating broker of MLS Now, the company is also an advertising platform for real estate listings. Howard Hanna maintains an advertising relationship with Zillow, local newspapers, real estate magazines, and other popular real estate advertising firms to widely market listings for sale. Worth noting, Redfin.com is also a VOW real estate website. When Redfin refreshed their feed from MLS Now, the Howard Hanna listings were not displayed unless users register to the website.
Howard Hanna Listings are in the MLS
This should almost go without saying, but Howard Hanna listings are in MLS Now. All agents working with homebuyers can use the CoreLogic OneHome client portal and set up listing alerts. None of the MLS tools or services for agents have been impacted by the selection not to participate in IDX.
If you search a Howard Hanna listing by property address, it is interesting to note how many websites are out of compliance with the refresh rules of the MLS. There are numerous sites that have not taken down the listings to unregistered users. I doubt that this is intentional, but merely a result of poor IDX data handling systems.
What should other brokers and agents do?
All brokers and agents in the market have the option to upgrade their website to a VOW website. Today, HowardHanna.com has a competitive advantage. Given that Howard Hanna is the leading firm in the market, consumers will quickly realize that they are not seeing all the listings from IDX only sites. They are more likely to start using HowardHanna.com. It is important that agents set up searches for their clients in the MLS to view all listings. Brokers should also look into converting their websites to a VOW site.
Want to learn more about VOW? WAV Group wrote a series of articles about VOW websites.
In closing, it is exciting to see innovative brokers like Howard Hanna testing strategies to drive more opportunities to their real estate agents. Here are a few other link examples to tests and innovations that we have covered by Howard Hanna:
In review of our posts mentioning Howard Hanna, we actually foreshadowed this strategy back in 2012. Click here to read their post about “Brokers Pulling out of IDX”.