First, some background information: Back in August 2015, after receiving permission from a Seattle judge, Zillow countersued Move Inc. and the National Association of REALTORS® for defamation.
The countersuit stemmed from an anonymous whistleblower letter Move and NAR received in April (later revealed to be authored by former Zillow Vice President Chris Crocker), which alleged that Zillow had stolen realtor.com® databases in its possession and was hiding stolen intellectual property in cloud storage accounts.
Crocker’s letter included allegations of how Zillow illegally accessed IDX listing data from its subsidiary, Diverse Solutions, and scraped data from realtor.com®, which is owned and operated by Move. Zillow says Move and NAR defamed the company by publicizing the letter without ascertaining the credibility of its assertions, according to court documents.
He said, she said
This has been a protracted argument. Zillow and NAR have been bickering back and forth as far back as 2014. And for sure Zillow was not thrilled with Realtor.com’s latest publicity stunt in Austin, TX.
Move, Inc has since countersued and Zillow is bracing for a fight – the outcome of which [for Zillow] does not look good. Vendoralley.com reports that Zillow’s chief financial officer, Kathleen Phillips, said that the costs related to Zillow’s “necessary defense” against Move’s claims are projected to rise from $27.1 million in 2015 to $36 million in 2016 with those fees dragging down Zillow’s total financial results.
So, whose data is this anyway?
The internet is rampant with MLS services that aggregate data. In fact many realtors, not just those affiliated with NAR have the attitude that Zillow, Trulia, and similar sites are “stealing our leads”. A bigger question is how do you control that? Certainly if you don’t syndicate your listings they can’t be taken from you but of course the reality is the seller will most likely hire another agent who takes full advantage of online marketing.
Zillow has been in the news quite a bit lately (I wrote about Zillow and NAR’s turbulent relationship here). How this plays out is anyone’s guess but the impact of online MLS sites is here to stay and will continue to impact the real estate industry.
Personally I would be more worried about Redfin and their rapid expansion. But I guess that’s a story for another time.