The long, historical debate
The real estate industry has a long history of tumult over listing syndication, their accuracy, misuse of data, and whether real estate search site practices are operating within the guidelines or even in the best interest of consumers or real estate professionals.
The debate is heated and frustrating for the involved parties, just look at the 2009 AG article, “Did Google Scrape My Website? You Be The Judge. Rules Threaten Realtors & IDX Providers” which has hundreds of comments from real estate professionals across the nation adding their thoughts to the industry changing topic.
Syndication Bill of Rights
In response to the overall syndication issue, Clariety Consulting set forth “The New Real Estate Syndication Bill of Rights” which outlines a voluntary or market driven track for adoption of the following ten “rights:”
- The publisher will display the listing firm contact information, including phone number, in a prominent location on the listing detail page at no cost.
- The publisher will provide a prominent link to the broker, agent, and/or MLS website, home page or property detail page if provided, and will not use “nofollow” tags that negatively affect the SEO benefit of such links.
- If the publisher displays non-listing agent/firm information, then: (a) the full contact information for the listing agent/firm must be displayed at no charge, and these parties must be clearly identified as the listing agent/firm; (b) the listing/agent firm information must be displayed more prominently than the third-party agent/firm information; and (c) the site must not send leads to third party agents or firms if the consumer has not selected them as a contact recipient, and non-listing agents and firms will not be the default (pre-selected) choice for consumer contact.
- The publisher has a process for ensuring data accuracy with the data provider(s); ensuring data is updated or removed as appropriate, at least every three days.
- The publisher displays the date the listing data was last confirmed and updated, and the name of the data provider.
- The publisher respects the intellectual property of brokers and MLSs. The terms and conditions do not require brokers and MLSs to give up rights (beyond display rights) or to grant rights in perpetuity. The terms and conditions allow the listings to be used only for the explicit purpose for which they were provided. An accuracy disclaimer and copyright notice is displayed, attributing the copyright holder of the information. The publisher must obtain explicit consent from the date
provider f or any other uses or derivative works.
- The publisher does not re-syndicate, sub-license, power, or display listings on other websites without informing the data provider and obtaining their consent.
- The publisher will provide aggregate statistics regarding traffic, at no cost, to the data provider.
- The publisher provides reasonable mechanisms for preventing screen scraping and misuse of the listing data, understanding that s ome listing information must be exposed to search engines.
- The publisher does not re-syndicate to or “power” sites that fail to uphold the previously described rights.
Passing versus failing grades
When these ten “rights” were applied to the current state of real estate search sites’ offerings, they were scored on a ten point scale with the following results:
- Homes.com – 7.25 out of 10
- Realtor.com (Move, Inc.)- 7 out of 10
- AOL (powered by Move) – 7 out of 10
- Yahoo! (powered by Zillow) – 6.25 out of 10
- MSN (powered by Move) – 6 out of 10
- Front Door – 6 out of 10
- Zillow – 4.75 out of 10
- Trulia – 4.25 out of 10
In other words, if 70 is a passing grade in the school of syndication, according to this report, only three real estate search companies pass. Barely. Some may or may not be surprised at how highly Homes.com and Realtor.com rank while tech startups Zillow and Trulia get stamped with a failing grade.
Homes.com supports Bill of Rights
Dominion Homes Media (Homes.com parent company) Vice President and General Manager, Andy Woolley told us, “We work hard to balance the needs of our various partners, content providers, and advertisers in creating a positive consumer search experience on Homes.com. We plan to continue participating actively in driving for standards such as Clareity’s suggested “Bill of Rights” and in other similar efforts to protect content providers and benefit the consumers visiting Homes.com.”
Adopting or ignoring?
What remains unseen is not only how real estate professionals or MLSs will engage the proposed Syndication Bill of Rights but how the real estate search companies will adapt, adjust or ignore. The National Association of Realtors Mid-Year Conference is in May and voting on MLS issues (not necessarily the “Bill of Rights”) could impact this debate.