Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes
(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.
Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.
So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.
1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues
It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.
Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.
2. Two major media brands emerge
Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.
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February 26, 2015 at 2:26 pm
Realtor.com is The Dark Side. It has been from it’s inception. The reason is because NAR sold it membership out from day one and used Realtors as a revenue stream. If should have been essentially the national database for our listings. The model should have been – “your listing, you lead”. Instead leads were packaged and sold. On top of that, they presented a crappy public experience and of course Zillow, Trulia and others stepped in.
And if you think that model doesn’t exist, you only need to look to HAR (Houston Association of Realtors). They truly look after their agents’ best interests. If a buyer goes to HAR’s site and clicks on a listing, that buyer lead goes to the listing agent not to some other agent paying for leads. HAR does not use their agents as a revenue stream.
I’ve been told on various other blogs that you can’t do that on a national level. That’s BS of course. Those commenters are ignorant or have their own biases. Try an experiment. Google Houston real estate. Almost without fail, the top hit is HAR. HAR tops Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com.
I don’t think Realtor.com can be made into the HAR model. I think it unlikely that NAR would yank the licensing and management agreement from Move. I also don’t think a national MLS supposedly being created by brokers will be any better. Brokers have proven to be just as greedy, technologically blind and stupid as Realtor.com.
We need a grassroots movement to get agents informed and ticked off enough to demand change. I’m not sure where that starts. I have a Facebook page named Realtor.com Extortion. Maybe that can go viral. Maybe not. But it needs to start somewhere.
December 5, 2015 at 4:24 pm
I am a Realtor in Fort Lauderdale. I was a Realtor in Houston and my only experience was with HAR! I had no idea how lucky I was to be under the protection of HAR in Houston until I came here and realized not every board is created equal. Here its all about how many licensees they can get dues from and what antiquated software can we provide them with to keep them happy!!! It’s horrible!!!! HAR should be the model for every board, everywhere and the entire Nation! Do 2 people make a grass roots movement?
October 10, 2015 at 11:33 pm
As more and more of these large corporate profit machines move into the sphere of real estate marketing, blogging, statistics tracking, and listing syndication they will slowly push out Realtors or start taking their commission. I suppose we should be thankful that Google hasnt yet decided to own the real estate industry or we would all be working for them by now.
November 20, 2015 at 12:03 pm
I think the real loser in this is Move. Zillow and Realtor.com are in the same business, providing real estate data to consumers and charging real estate brokers to advertise for the business they generate. I find it amusing when I see customers that don’t like Realtors for some reason, commenting on social media about Zillow putting them out of business. The average person doesn’t seem to understand that Realtors are Zillow’s customers and resource for all of their data! Without Realtors, Zillow would have no revenue or content.
NAR really dropped the ball by trying to create another revenue source from their members. A national database could have been created and directed business to the agents or their brokerages but Zillow beat them to the punch. NAR already had all of the data but because they were stuck in their old ways, Zillow filled the void. NAR could still do this but there is a mountain to overcome.
Move launched a negative advertising campaign when Zillow left their syndication service to go to a direct IDX feed but that is all it was, a negative advertising campaign. Zillow is now getting a direct feed from all the local Boards of Realtors which is a benefit to Zillow (no middle man to process the data) and probably saves them a boat load of money.
With all this being said, Zillow and Realtor.com provide a valuable service that agents can elect to participate in. If you don’t like Zillow and Realtor.com using your data to generate business, don’t share it with them. The problem you will have though is you have to explain to your home seller why you aren’t advertising their home on those sites. The truth is they both generate a tremendous amount of exposure at no cost to the agent. You only have to pay if you want the leads that are generated from them which isn’t a bad deal.
December 8, 2015 at 7:02 pm
Zillow is a smart business. They have, in a relatively short time, created a model where they essentially obtain data for no cost and are able to sell leads (off of that data) back to the very agents that created it. So who wins? Zillow does…