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Amazon moves into real estate by teaming up with Realogy

Washington

AMAZON is branching into real estate through a partnership with Realogy, the biggest residential real estate broker in the United States.

Through the new TurnKey programme, would-be homebuyers in 15 markets can use an Amazon portal to connect with a Realogy agent.

Upon closing, buyers are rewarded with a bundle of Amazon benefits worth as much as US$5,000 - from smart home devices to cleaning, painting and furniture assembly services.

The deal gives Amazon a sought-after foothold in the real estate market, as well as a chance to push its stable of home services and smart products like Alexa speakers and Ring doorbells.

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It's also a lifeline for Realogy, which has been hammered by disruption in the residential brokerage industry and a slowdown in the housing market.

The company, which includes Coldwell Banker, Century 21 Real Estate and Sotheby's International Realty among its brands, has seen its stock sink 65 per cent this year. Realogy's market cap has shrunk to around US$600 million, after peaking at more than US$7 billion in 2013.

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

"Realogy's great affiliated agents serve their clients during one of the most important moments in their lives, and Amazon's services and products can transform that moment to make it rewarding in a way no one ever has before."

Realogy's shares rose 35 per cent to US$7 after the partnership with Amazon was announced on Tuesday.

TurnKey will launch with 3,000 participating real estate agents in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington and Chicago.

Effectively, TurnKey serves as a lead-generation programme for Realogy brokers and agents, similar to Zillow. The popular real estate search engine uses algorithms to make "Zestimates" on home valuations, and helps connect buyers with local agents that have paid to get their names and faces on the site.

Zillow's Premier Agent Program garnered nearly US$900 million in revenue last year.

The Amazon benefits that buyers earn are tied to the home price. All bundles come with at least two Echo smart speakers, equipped with Alexa home-assistant capabilities, and a Ring doorbell camera (with installation by Amazon professionals) and a credit of at least US$450 for home services. To reap the full US$5,000 value, customers must buy a home worth at least US$700,000.

"Customers can be overwhelmed when moving, and we are 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 in a news release.

"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."

Amazon first signalled its move toward the real estate industry in July 2017, when it briefly hosted a "Hire a Realtor" landing page on its website. It was quickly taken down, but mere speculation about Amazon branching into real estate was enough to send Zillow's shares down 3 per cent.

In 2018, Amazon partnered with Lennar, one of the biggest home construction companies in the US, to turn Lennar's model homes into showrooms for its smart-home products. WP

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