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.
Vickie Morrison Honzel
May 22, 2012 at 7:26 pm
May 22, 2012 at 7:48 pm
We are in interesting times for real estate data. The Wild West repeated in many ways 🙂
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/
May 22, 2012 at 11:53 pm
@kenbrand I <3 Ken Brand. No one could have said it better.
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.
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.
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/
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.
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/
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.
May 23, 2012 at 3:41 am
Is this the beginning of a trend?
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.
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.
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.
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..
May 23, 2012 at 11:08 am
It’s about time.
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.
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.
May 23, 2012 at 12:28 pm
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.
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?
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.
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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