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Edina Realty pulls plug on Realtor.com; Prudential KC dumps Trulia, Zillow

As more brokers pull out of sending their real estate listings to search sites like Zillow, Realtor.com and Trulia, questions surrounding timing swirl, as brokers and real estate media sites feel passionately that they are both doing what is best for consumers.

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Listing syndication musical chairs continue

In the last year, many real estate brokers have evaluated their marketing tools and determined that they no longer feel that all real estate listing syndication websites serve their best interest, or the best interest of the consumer, citing data inaccuracies and confusion with branding of listings.

One of the first brokerages to jump ship, so to speak, was Edina Realty in Minneapolis whose rally cried inspired a select few others to follow. Now, they are pulling the plug on the final syndicator, and Prudential Kansas City is announcing publicly that they will also cut ties with Trulia and Zillow.

Edina Realty pulls the plug on Realtor.com

Initially, Edina Realty announced they were pulling listings from listing syndication sites, but without fanfare, they continued syndicating to Realtor.com and worked with the Move, Inc. team to get answers to better evaluate their marketing plan. The brokerage never syndicated to Zillow, so the real plug pulled was with Trulia. Months later, the brokerage has announced they will no longer send property listings to Realtor.com, stating their new policy is to no longer syndicate to non-broker controlled websites.

The brokerage says they are participating in “a nationwide outcry against non-broker-controlled websites over concerns with data inaccuracy and consumer privacy,” adding that sales leads on many search sites often go to the highest paying agent rather than the listing agent or agent with market knowledge.

In a statement, Bob Peltier, president and CEO of Edina Realty Home Services said, “Consumers are getting the short end of the stick on these sites because there’s no guarantee that the property data is accurate, and it’s difficult to tell who the listing broker is.” Peltier explained that non-broker syndicators and third party aggregators don’t have the same legal obligations as brokers, so they are not held to the same high standards of data accuracy and customer service.

“Edinarealty.com has more listings and generates more traffic than any other broker-owned or non-broker owned site in our market,” said Peltier. According to comScore Media Metrix Real Estate Category Ranking by Unique Visitors, in March 2012, Unique Visitors to real estate sites in Minneapolis-St. Paul DMA is led by Zillow and Move, Inc. (Realtor.com):

Edina sites Experian Hitwise data which they say reveals they continue to be the most trafficked real estate site. Regardless of traffic source differences, Edina was arguably the spark by which the industry has begun evaluating listing syndication as part of a successful marketing approach and seek to be competitive with any real estate search site both present and future.

Why the sudden plug pulling?

“Consumers cannot easily tell who the listing broker is on Realtor.com,” Bob Peltier, President and CEO of Edina Realty Home Services told AGBeat. “And, there is no easy way for them to connect with the Edina Realty listing agent on Realtor.com unless the agent has paid to be featured alongside their property listing.”

Peltier emphasizes that agents should have a choice as to how listings are marketed. “Even though we no longer display our entire database on Trulia.com, agents have always had the option to work with Trulia.com directly to upload their own listings. This option was not historically available with Realtor.com and therefore delayed the removal of our listings from their site last November. However, over the past months we have engaged in conversations with Realtor.com and they have agreed to a solution whereby the only Edina Realty listings to appear on their site will be listings of Edina Realty agents who have purchased advertising packages with them.”

When asked which of the big three real estate search companies would survive the next 20 years, Peltier noted that “Technology is always changing, so I can’t answer this question. But my hope is that the people doing the best job representing clients – the brokers – will continue to be the best resource now and into the future when it comes to home buying, selling and searching.” He encourages brokers to “make this decision for themselves based on their own area and marketing.”

Realtor.com addresses the syndication issue

Move, Inc. noted that in conversation with Edina Realty since November, the brokerage seemed pleased at how Realtor.com addressed their top concerns. Curt Beardsley, Vice President of Customer and Industry Development at Move, Inc. told AGBeat that Edina Realty initially expressed concern over four issues – data accuracy of third party sites, services sold for other types of listings (FSBOs, early stage pre-foreclosure listings), branding of competitive brokers on a listing, and lead generation mechanisms that send consumers to another brokerage from a listing page, but expressed that “it became clear that Realtor.com doesn’t violate their initial concerns.”

Beardsley said that Realtor.com offers the most accurate data compared to their competitors, as the company uses only one data source, and that is the MLS, which in the case of Minneapolis is updated very 15 minutes, the same pace as any broker’s own website. Second, he asserted that Realtor.com never allows FSBOs or pre-foreclosure listings (listings of homes that have received default notices that are likely, but not guaranteed to ever be for sale).

Third, Errol Samuelson, President of Realtor.com said in a statement, “Edina Realty was concerned that competing brokers’ and agents’ photos and branding were appearing on their listings. This is a practice Realtor.com does not engage in,” which Beardsley added has been the case for over 15 years of the company’s operations. Lastly, Beardsley says the broker has ultimate control over the listings and that in Edina Realty’s case, all lead generation mechanisms pointed to their brokerage, and never to competing brokers.

Prudential Kansas City dumps Trulia and Zillow



In the above video, David Cooper, CEO of Prudential Kansas City Realty, explains that primarily due to data inaccuracies that lead to a poor experience for buyers and sellers, the brokerage will immediately pull all listings from Zillow and Trulia. Cooper notes that after years of evaluating their marketing approach, it is their consistent conclusion that buyers and sellers are not served well by third party sites. The brokerage has over 400 agents across 7 offices and serves a metropolitan area of over 2 million residents. While Cooper makes no claims to be the biggest or best website in the market, according to comScore, the competition in the area is stiff:

Bob Bemis, VP of industry relations at Zillow told AGBeat that “Sellers hire a brokerage to market and sell their homes, a big part of which is marketing the homes to the broadest audience possible. The real losers in this situation are home sellers, and the agents who represent them. If a brokerage isn’t marketing a listing on Zillow, it isn’t seen across the largest real estate network in the country as well as the Kansas City market, or across the most popular platform of mobile real estate apps. In April, more than 32 million unique users visited Zillow’s mobile apps and websites.”

Bemis added that Prudential Kansas City has not contacted Zillow about this decision, but that the company feels that “open dialogue is best and [they] would welcome a conversation.”

Ken Shuman, spokesperson for Trulia.com said, “we feel like consumers benefit from broad exposure. It only takes one set of eyeballs to sell the home and broad exposure gives you the biggest reach.”

The long term game

Edina Realty was one of the first to publicly de-syndicate, and others like Shorewest and Abbott Realty Group, followed by The Goodlife Team, each of whom chose different real estate sites to pull the plug on, and for different reasons. As Prudential Kansas City cites inaccurate data, Goodlife Team notes ads for competing brokers as their reason for pulling out.

As reasons for de-syndicating listings begin to diversify, all three of the biggest real estate search companies assert that they support the rights of brokers to evaluate their marketing approach and make choices appropriate to their unique situation, but so far, as each company loses listings, the common response is that consumers are not well served by this approach and all three tell AGBeat that they are open to dialogue, as brokers that are pulling listings say they believe their move to be in the consumer’s best interest.

Is this debate a decade late?

The big question for many is regarding timing – is this de-syndication and concern a decade late? Syndication is by no means a new issue, so why now? Beardsley makes the rare point that the rise in concern with data accuracy directly correlates to the rise of mobile devices – it is much easier for mobile consumers (sitting in front of a house with a family moving in) to see that a home is not for sale than it is for someone sitting on a desktop computer at an office or their home. Beardsley says this has caused distrust in that source of real estate data, so mobile is increasing awareness and relevance of data.

While there is no clear winner or loser and the race is still young, it is interesting to note that in many cases, brokerages are pulling out of Trulia and Zillow but not Realtor.com. When asked why, Beardsley said, “national brands, in order to gain audience, have to build a brand which you do through consumer audience. Our brand is the brand of the brokers, we actually share a brand and are complimentary to the broker’s brand – the Realtor brand on an agent’s card is the very brand on our site, we don’t compete with Realtors.”

It is possible that this listing syndication issue has passed us by, as Beardsley notes that at Realtor.com alone, 30 to 40 percent of all weekend traffic is via mobile, so the real issue now is mobile and social and that brokers should ask all of these questions about accuracy, competitive branding, and the like, because the cascading effect of new tech after new tech is not slowing down, so brokers should truly understand every marketing tool available to them. The company believes that most brokers that de-syndicate will “evaluate, determine, stick their toe back in the water,” thus they are leaving door open.

In speaking to brokers who have or are considering de-syndicating, they too feel their stance is a long term play and that they best serve the consumer by being the ultimate source of information. So, several brokers and real estate listing sites ultimately have a stalemate.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Vickie Morrison Honzel

    May 22, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Wow

  2. MIrealestate

    May 22, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    We are in interesting times for real estate data. The Wild  West repeated in many ways 🙂 

  3. kenbrand

    May 22, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    It’s snowball and rolling downhill fast.  
     
    As the market improves, along with their bottom line, brokers and agents will track and validate where their business is coming from.  They’ll rediscover what they’ve know all along.  80% or so of their succes is generated from someone they know or a referral from someone they know.
     
    Then they’ll look at where they’ve been spend their marketing money during the recession, ask question each of their choices.  Is it smart to invest in the same marketing mediums in a rebounding market.  Do different times dictate different marketing and business generation strategies? Once upon a time the splashiest print ads were all the rage?  Maybe syndication advertising is losing it’s value?  
     
    Then they’ll be thinking that with big, small and independent brokers pulling their listings from syndication sites, the advertising dollars they were spending for web leads is not only not working, if there ever was any value, with falling listing inventory to wrap the advertising around odds of generating a lead falls as well . The only thing going up is the size of the checks required to advertise with their syndicator of choice. To add insult to injury, as result of sketchy and incomplete listing aggregation, syndicators are no longer the source of, or a solution for home search.  As a result buyer prospects vist less and less.  When that happens buyers will search for a reliable and comprehensive source, migrating to broker/agent sites, the only place complete and accurate listing information can be found. 
     
    Then brokers/agents realize that if they want to attract buyers and sellers in a rebounding market they smart and profitable move would be to invest in themselves.   Take some of their recovered dumb and invest in strategies and tools that wil help them better share, serve and solve problems for the people responsible for the hands down majority of their success and prosperity – the people who know, trust, choose and recommend them.
     
    That’s what I was thinking?  What are you thinking/

    • IndyAgent

      May 22, 2012 at 11:53 pm

       @kenbrand I <3 Ken Brand. No one could have said it better. 

    • Charles Curcio

      May 23, 2012 at 10:57 am

      The realtors who believe print is dead. are short sited. The internet  is like a carpenter showing up with just a hammer. Today you need more tools in the box to reach your goals. Mobile Marketing is slow out the gate but home buyers browsing habits have migrated to the smart phone. The only ones who dont believe this are babyboomers who own flip phones. Once they are out of the industry mobile marketing will explode.

  4. tabjohnson

    May 22, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    How many state broker licenses does Zillow still have in the closet? If they lose the free content via syndications, how long before they establish a state by state, MLS by MLS VOW, pulling data from the MLS direct and protected by the Dept of Justice? These guys are sitting multi million $ market cap and  will not go down without a fight or without spending their money.

    • Jay Thompson

      May 23, 2012 at 11:21 am

      @tabjohnson Hey Thomas, Jay T. from Zillow here. We aren’t trying to be an MLS or VOW. We dropped all licenses in 2008, except for Washington and Texas. Since then we dropped Washington and retain Texas. We decided to keep the license in Texas because it is a non-disclosure state so having the brokerage license allows us to access certain data which helps us produce Zestimates. https://www.zillow.com/blog/2008-11-13/zillow-drops-brokerage-licenses/
       

  5. VickiMoore

    May 22, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    It’s interesting to me that Zillow has been so widely accepted by the consumer although their property valuing is flawed.  Trulia and Zillow have big bucks behind them so I certainly agree that they won’t just roll over.   The arguments being made today are the same ones we’ve had for a very long time.  I wonder why now is the time to de-syndicate.  The rising use of mobile devices?  Really?
     
    Zillow has been calling me – and others – incessantly to be a premier agent.  Looks like Trulia is having the same problem in finding someone in San Mateo to pay big bucks for the privilege.  Trulia says: “No agents in this area” right on the front page.  Seems a lot of agents are reevaluating their dollars spent.  
     
    Is this the best thing for the consumer?  I know when someone calls into the office on a listing, if the agent who answers doesn’t know anything about the house they’re going to direct that caller to a house they do know.  
     
    Next:  raising the bar.

  6. David Pylyp

    May 23, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Realtor.com has their own version of the events Dire warnings to all who don’t post to Realtor.com https://www.realtor.com/blogs/2012/05/22/an-update-on-our-relationship-with-edina-realty/

  7. Steve Palmer

    May 23, 2012 at 3:41 am

    This has nothing to do with doing what is best for the consumer. Instead, it’s all about keeping their listings to themselves to increase the odds getting both sides of the transaction. It’s all about the benjamins.

  8. Kim Georges

    May 23, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Is this the beginning of a trend?

  9. Hugh M Smith

    May 23, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Let’s face it, we’re the only industry that gives away our only product and then buys it back from third party vendors – including our own professional association. I suggest a correction of this inequity is long overdue. I constantly hear customers cite tax assessments “as seen on Zillow” as the their ultimate determinant of value. How can that possibly serve our clients interests.

  10. Charlie Pitkin

    May 23, 2012 at 3:41 am

    The idea of fellow agents griping bc 3rd party sites are not showcasing their services exclusively is almost laughable. Since when did any realtor single handily contribute to run zillow.com, or any other 3rd party site for that matter. That’s like saying, how dare Ebay show some other widget next to my widget. It’s called FREEdom of information, and the consumer wants the choice. Gone are the days of no buyer agency and if you want to see my listings then you have to come to my office/website.

    Like it or not zillow.com is the #1 search engine buyers use to look for their next home.. Any agent who does not post their listing there bc they will only showcase their listing, not their services, is doing an injustice to their client. Ultimately, I believe the agents who are more concerned about sellIng homes over themselves will be the ones who the consumer will chose to hire.

  11. erikgoldhar

    May 23, 2012 at 8:20 am

    I would be very interested to know how the mobile users breakdown.  Let’s take Zillow…32mil uniques.
     
    If I were an agent I would ask some of these questions…
     
    Are these visits from Native Apps? Are these people typing in the mobile URL directly? Are they coming from Google mobile search?
     
    How many visitors left the site after seeing just one page (bounce rate)? How long are they spending on the site? How many people visit from my state? My city? My neighborhood?
     
    I think the number 32 million sounds very impressive to the average Realtor but when you are selling a specific home you only care about engaged visitors from your area or visitors from other area looking to relocate (a small group).  
     
    When you peel back the layers you may determine that your monthly mobile traffic is only a couple of hundred people.  After knowing this you can determine if your listings belong on the site and that it is worth paying to claim the listing as your own. 
     
    I am a partner at Clikbrix.  We offer mobile websites to Realtors and Brokerages.  I will say that our clients are split down the middle in terms of having us tie into their MLS feed.  Some agents want complete control of their listings and will enter them into our system manually.  Other’s feel it is not convenient to have to upload listings to the web via 2 different systems (Clikbrix and their MLS).
     
    It appears the trade off is one of time (3 minutes/listing) and control vs. accuracy.  

  12. Charles Curcio

    May 23, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Here is the deal, The avrerage move in the State of New Jersey Is 12 miles.and possibly across the country.. If I were an agent I would take those dollars away from Zillow and Realtor.Com. to advertise locally in a realtor magazine that offers, print, social, and mobile media.with text codes. Your buisness is local why not advertise local ?. Zillow and Realtor have become the wild west in the media. So big deal they get all those visits, What good is it if is inaccurate and does not bring them to the listing agent, but brings them to an agent who paid for front row seats. The recession will be with us for a long long time. The only ones who say it is getting better are the ones promoting the industry. In the day prier to 08 these sites were good for excutives relocating. That is not happening in todays market..

  13. Ted Kelly

    May 23, 2012 at 11:08 am

    It’s about time.

  14. Erik Goldhar

    May 23, 2012 at 11:08 am

    I would be very interested to know how the mobile users breakdown. Let’s take Zillow…32mil uniques…are those on Native Apps? Are those people typing in the mobile URL directly? Are they coming from Google mobile search? If I were an agent I would ask these question. I would ask how many visitors left the site after seeing just one page? How many people visit in my state? my city? I think to say you are getting huge mobile exposure because they get 32 million visitors is a little misleading to the average agent. Until I had the facts through due diligence I wouldn’t be sending my listings or paying to be a featured agent. But that’s me.

  15. JesseFriedman

    May 23, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I believe syndication should be a choice for a seller and an agent to make together. The agent should be able to tell their seller what the pros and cons are. My biggest question is, what are the cons to the seller in listing their property on other websites? Now, I do not really agree with how the data is being handled which is one of the factors we have/are addressing with Diggsy.com – to start, we prominently feature listing agents and have no competition on these pages. We have many other initiatives that we are taking on to handle your data in an ethical manner. Pulling your listings entirely is not the answer but there definitely should be a voice for change.

    • Charles Curcio

      May 23, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      Jesse
      Just to rely on these sites was good in the day. They do not and will not have the gravitational pull they once had. Mobile marketing is a better stratagy. Everyone thinks these sites are the end all. I dont see them being cost effective. I would prefer to advertise in a local market in my area. That means Print, Mobile, and Social. Cross channel media works.

      • JesseFriedman

        May 23, 2012 at 12:40 pm

         @Charles CurcioDiversification is key to any marketing strategy. I would not ever say “advertise on my site and you will never have to do anything else” but it might be a good fit fas part of your strategy. For example, an agent that might not have a significant internet presence might want to promote themselves on these sites. If you cant get your site to the top position in search engine rankings, why not advertise on the site that is?

  16. corleybrooklyn

    May 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Bravo to Edina and Prudential Kansas City for putting their clients and agents first (in that order).

    Syndication has benefitted large real estate sites because they can sell the eyeballs back to advertisers without cost to acquire content, which is the primary draw to the sites … LISTINGS.

    I’m not suggesting that brokerages get paid to post content … but supplying inaccurate data online isn’t a price any broker should be willing to pay … Even if it’s FREE to post.

  17. Charles Curcio

    May 23, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Oh the internet is free why bother advertising local. Nothing is free if the information is not correct.
     

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Business News

So the Labor Department is cool with unpaid internships again

(BUSINESS NEWS) Regulations on unpaid internships continue to wax and wane, and businesses that opt to use unpaid labor should be aware of new regulations.

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designer intern internships

Unpaid internships are a deacreasingly common institution in the United States, with help from former regulatory attempts to make them more difficult to create.

That regulatory oversight might become more relaxed after the Department of Labor (DOL) issued new rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that governs the role of unpaid internships in the modern American workforce.

Last week, the United States’ labor governing body decided to revise its guidelines on unpaid internships using the concept of a “primary beneficiary test.”

The core principle behind the seven statements that comprise the primary beneficiary test revolves around the idea that the reason you are hiring unpaid interns is for work that provides the intern with the primary benefit (educational opportunities, hands on learning, and networking), not because the company isn’t paying someone else to perform the same activities.

So with these guidelines, there’d be no more call for jokes about interns fetching coffee or making copies. Sounds like a win for the intern, right?

Not exactly.

The guidelines stress, however, that there is no magic quota of yes or no answers that yields the unpaid intern in question has job duties that would require payment. That even includes answering “no” to the statement that reads: “the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation.”

Of course, if a company were in violation of these guidelines, especially the one regarding compensation, it would be easier for adjudication to be brought against the company into a court of law. These rules start as the groundwork for any legal action interns can bring against an organization.

The first set of six guidelines were developed in 2010. By 2011, a lawsuit brought by unpaid interns against Fox Searchlight while working Darren Aronofsky feature, Black Swan, claiming the interns were performing job duties in need of compensation (read: they weren’t already paying employees to do the same roles, rather using interns as free labor).

The ruling in 2013 was in favor of the interns, but a different federal court reversed that decision in 2015. It is interesting to note that the revised guidelines published by the DOL only a week ago were derived from the Court’s 2015 decision on this case.

The larger trend of lawsuits brought by unpaid interns may cause a company pause if they reverse decisions about payment of employees.

Despite the judicial onslaught, some organizations may still choose to pursue unpaid internships in light of the relaxation of the guidelines by the DOL.

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Starbucks’ Teavana chain finally settles lawsuit with Simon Property Group

(BUSINESS NEWS) A bitter battle over store closures concludes with private settlement – and Teavana stores are still closing.

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teavana starbucks simon property group

A months-long legal fight between Starbucks’ Teavana and Simon Property Group, the number one mall operator in the U.S., has come to an end with a private settlement that reportedly allows the tea chain to move forward with some of its store closures.

In July 2017, Starbucks unveiled plans to close all 379 retail locations of its floundering Teavana stores.

Shortly thereafter, Simon Property Group got a local judge to bar Starbucks from closing the 77 Teavana locations in its malls, a peculiar legal move for this situation. Starbucks would be breaking its lease agreement with Simon, and Simon wasn’t going to stand for it.

Simon Property Group cited the ongoing financial plights traditional malls have experienced for years as more and more retailers shut their doors as its primary reason for blocking Starbuck’s actions. The difference with Teavana is that Starbucks isn’t under great financial stress and can actually afford to keep the stores open, per court documents.

Starbucks disagreed, but in November, a judge sided with Simon and ordered Starbucks to keep its Teavana stores open and not break dozens of leases nationally. Starbucks fought back with a December appeal, but the case moved up to Indiana’s highest court, bypassing the intermediate Court of Appeals.

And now, before Starbucks’ appeal could be heard, the dueling companies have apparently reached an undisclosed settlement, according to New York Post reports. Exact settlement details have not been revealed, but the Post has found at least two Teavana locations that are closing in just a few days, indicating that settlement may play out in Starbucks’ favor.

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Zillow sued for concealing Zestimates on certain listings

(BUSINESS NEWS) Zillow being sued for Zestimates is nothing new, but they’re now being accused of concealing Zestimates on “Co-Conspirator Broker” listings, violating federal Antitrust laws.

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From our real estate section, The Real Daily:

The latest Zillow legal troubles again surround their Zestimates; this time they are being sued for their Zestimates violating federal Antitrust laws. The company has allegedly violated and continue to violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1 and the New Jersey Antitrust Act, N.J.S.A. 56:9-3.

Plaintiff, EJ MGT LLC, based in New Jersey, filed suit again Zillow Group Inc. and Zillow Inc. today. In a 21-point legal brief outlining their specific violations, two things become immediately clear (assuming of course there is truth in these allegations): Zillow is giving preferential treatment to preferred brokerages (labeled ‘co-conspirator Broker[s] in the lawsuit) and Zestimates are wildly inaccurate (as many have adamantly stated since Zestimates’ conception).

The first few points of the brief explain exactly what Zillow is being accused of doing: “this antitrust action arises from Zillow’s conspiracy with certain real-estate brokerage companies to selectively conceal ‘Zestimates.’” Zillow’s estimate of a residential property’s “fair market value” which the lawsuit states they know “to be inaccurate,” have allowed “only select brokers to conceal the display of Zestimates on their listings to the exclusion of the general public.”

The lawsuit goes on to state that “these agreements between Zillow and certain co-conspirator brokers of residential real estate restrain trade (read: the agents/brokers being allowed to conceal unwanted Zestimates, henceforth referred to as ‘Co-conspirator Brokers’) and deprive Plaintiff and the public in general of the benefits of open and robust competition in two markets: the residential real estate market and the residential real estate brokerage market.”

In essence, Zillow and the Co-conspirators Brokers have made an illegal agreement regarding the display of Zestimates on Zillow’s site.

Zillow has long touted their Zestimates as a “user-friendly format to promote transparent real-estate markets and allow people to make informed decisions;” except Zestimates are often believed to be inaccurate and now they’re being concealed at the request of a select group of Co-conspirator Brokers – a far cry from making real estate more transparent.

If the lawsuit’s claims have any validity behind them, it seems as though Zillow may be in for a bumpy ride. Item 10 in the suit states, “Zillow has acknowledged that it conceals Zestimates as a result of agreements with only ‘certain brokers’ who receive ‘certain treatment’” and uses a message screenshotted from Zillow’s Help Center as proof these words were in fact used to explain why some listings had prominent Zestimates while others did not:

You may be wondering what brought about this lawsuit; it seems Plaintiff, EJ MGT LLC, owns and is marketing a property located in Cresskill, New Jersey, through an agent unaffiliated with Zillow (not a Co-Conspirator Broker). Therefore, their listing contains a prominently displayed Zestimate, while a similar listing in nearby Alpine, New Jersey, which is listed through a “Co-conspirator Broker,” conceals the Zestimate:

The above example is not the only one outlined in the case, however. Item 12 of the lawsuit states that further evidence can be seen by comparing a residence page for a property while it was listed with a Co-conspirator Broker versus the same residence page once the property was off the market. One clearly conceals the Zestimate, while the latter displays it clearly underneath the listing price.

For reference, the Co-conspirator Broker listing was screenshot on December 26, 2017 and the screenshot after it was taken off the market with the Zestimate was taken on January 2, 2018. Merely a week in between images, and yet the difference of how the ad is displayed is quite apparent:

In essence, Zillow has violated the very transparency they claimed to create.

Zillow is allegedly promoting misleading and inaccurate information while using their marketing power to charge brokers to hide this information which could negatively impact a sale, and which Zillow itself has acknowledged is sometimes inaccurate.

Also, general members of the public have no way to prevent Zillow from obtaining and posting information in this way, and it cannot be altered without hiring a Co-conspirator Broker, as Zillow has explicitly refused to offer the option to hide information to individual home owners, further deepening the dependency on Co-conspirator Brokers.

Because of their alleged refusal to treat everyone equally and “empower homebuyers with information,” they have potentially restrained trade in connection with the exchange of information regarding home valuation and offered anti-competitive benefits to only those brokers chosen to purchase that ‘special’ service package from Zillow that removes Zestimates from listings.

Therefore, brokers are not on even footing: when a seller attempts to price check; the brokers without it could be losing out to those who have the ‘special’ package and removal of Zestimates alongside listing prices.

So far, each individual Co-conspirator Broker has not been named; they have been named as a group: Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc., Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC, Century 21 Real Estate LLC, The Corcoran Group ERA, and Weichert Realty, according to court documents. It is unlikely that any action would ever impact the brokerages, rather Zillow Group itself.

Zillow is being sued for five counts: two counts of conspiracy to restrain trade, one count of violating the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, one count of slander of title/product disparagement, and one count of interference with prospective economic advantage. A jury trial has been requested.

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