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Real estate listing syndication debate continues, reasons begin to vary

Three months into pulling listings from syndication, ARG broker, Jim Abbott offers an update and allegations of wrongdoing by one real estate search company, while an Austin brokerage pulls their listings due to ads for competitive agents appearing next to their listings.

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ARG’s public statements regarding listing syndication

Third party real estate media sites Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow have come under fire recently, with small brokers in the spotlight making public declarations as to which listing sites they will not syndicate to and why. In January, we reported that San Diego-based Abbot Realty Group (ARG) President and Managing Broker, Jim Abbott released a video on YouTube explaining why their brokerage will no longer permit third party syndication sites like Trulia, Realtor.com and Zillow to syndicate their listings, but will continue to syndicate company listings to their local MLS, Sandicor.

Last fall, AGBeat broke the story that 75 big brokers were rumored to be considering refusal of syndication of their listings, suspecting that others would also follow. ARG’s plea for industry professionals to consider their own syndication and for buyers and sellers to do their homework is a more tangible, public-facing and viral proclamation than other brokers have delivered to date.

Abbott now offers an update of how his business has been impacted in the last three months, making allegations that Zillow directly contacted the brokerage’s customers to inform them of ARG’s choice to cut their syndication feed, calling ARG’s competence into question. Abbott says they have not lost one seller and homes are selling faster, noting, “Let me assure you, there is life after listing syndication and it’s a better life. No more sad messages from disappointed buyers calling on properties that sold months ago. No more frustrated buyers forced to comb through thousands of unavailable homes. No more wildly incorrect value estimates and improbably mortgage offers.”

Boutique brokerage pulls listings from Trulia

Most companies that have pulled listings from syndication sites have primarily cited inaccuracy of data, but The Goodlife Team, a boutique brokerage in Austin has publicly declared they will not syndicate to Trulia, noting that ads for competing agents are routing calls on the properties they list away from their brokerage, thus breaking their brand promise to sellers, as their policy is to respond within a certain time frame to all inquiries on listings.

Goodlife’s CTO, Jack Miller said that Trulia ads underperform for them and until the company makes changes to their policies to allow their brokerage to offer consistent customer service, they will not syndicate listings on the site.

Other voices weigh in

When ARG originally de-syndicated, AGBeat reached out to Zillow and Realtor.com who chose not to comment on brokers pulling listings from syndication, but Trulia’s company spokesperson, Ken Shuman said, “The accessibility of open and accurate listing information benefits everyone in the home buying and selling process–consumers, agents and brokers. We know that Trulia has a transaction-ready consumer audience and we are confident that brokers and agents who syndicate their listings to Trulia have a greater opportunity to meet new clients and close more transactions.”

Alex Zoghlin, CEO of VHT Inc. told AGBeat, “I’m not surprised there’s an escalating firestorm over third-party listing aggregators. They’re using brokers’ most valuable assets to make money, build their businesses and divert customers away. Contrary to what many brokers believe, their competition isn’t the brokerage down the street – it’s the fast-growing, third party ecosystem of listing aggregators, online publishers, virtual tour providers, advertising networks and media companies that are dominating search engine results in order to capture online leads.”

Zoghlin explains, “Popular search engines such as Google strive to balance user experience with revenue opportunities. They aggregate information and provide users with relevant and unbiased search results and links to authoritative sources of data. They separate organic results from sponsored ads, knowing that too many ads on top erodes consumer confidence in their brands.”

“But real estate aggregator sites don’t hold themselves to the same standards,” Zoghlin adds. “They make it difficult for consumers and search engines to determine who owns the property listings displayed on their sites and make it harder to for brokers to use their own websites as a lead generation tool. They “cook” their search results by giving preferential treatment to agents/brokers who pay for featured listings. They provide incorrect property details and out-of-date information that frustrates consumers and reflects poorly on brokers.”

What many believe kicked off the entire listing syndication debate was Milwaukee brokerage Shorewest’s pulling of their real estate listings from syndication last fall. WAV Group Partner, Victor Lund told AGBeat in early 2012, “Shorewest is the #1 website in their market, and they do not syndicate – proving that brokers and agents do not need to syndicate to drive traffic and leads on their listings. In fact, this may argue that the opposite is true – if you do not syndicate, you provide consumers with an incentive to visit your broker or agent website to find the cheeze. In this case, the cheeze is listing accuracy, comprehensive listing inventory, and most of all, the service of a real estate professional.”

Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.

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56 Comments

56 Comments

  1. Jay Groccia

    May 4, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Jim,
    When a real estate agent hires our firm to produce images of their listing, they are only extended a usage license for the photographs. They are never given the copyright – that, by law is retained by the photographer and therefore cannot transfer ownership of said copyright to companies like Zillo, Tulia, or even facebook for that matter. These companies may put in all the ‘fine print’ they want in their user agreements, but should push ever come to shove, and they get sued by a copyright holder for infringement, a judge is going to ask for one thing: written transfer of copyright SIGNED by the copyright holder.

    • Paula Henry

      May 4, 2012 at 11:19 am

      Jay – A question – who would be liable for the distribution of the copyrighted material? Would it be the agent/MLS that dispersed it or the recipient of the material? Of course, this may be a legal question you can’t answer, but if anyone knows, I think it may have an impact on the transfer of Intellectual Property.

  2. Greg Cook

    May 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Tara, the one thing that Abbott and Goodlife have in common is they both felt that the syndicated sites don’t generate enough leads for the money.
    It’s one thing to have three million visitors a month but if it doesn’t translate in to quantifiable leads, what’s the point?

  3. Roberta Murphy

    May 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    It may be a trickle now, but the integrity of the data shown by aggregators could start to unravel very quickly if this movement gains legs. It will be something watched closely by Realtors as well as Wall Street.

  4. Cynthia Nowak

    May 6, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Cynthia from Zillow here. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and that’s especially true in our industry. However, when facts are asserted that are patently untrue, we need to defend ourselves and correct the record. Mr. Abbott states several untruths in his video; for example, we did not call ARG’s sellers in the San Diego market regarding the brokerage’s decision, and our employees did not pose online as consumers. It is our policy as a company to always identify ourselves in social media truthfully and as representatives of Zillow.

    Sellers hire a brokerage to market and sell their homes, a big part of which is marketing the homes to the broadest audience possible. If a brokerage isn’t marketing their listings to Zillow’s more than 32 million unique users each month on mobile and the Web, the real losers are home sellers, and the agents who represent them. Their listings aren’t seen across the largest real estate network in the country, or across the most popular platform of mobile real estate apps. According to comScore, the Yahoo!-Zillow Real Estate Network is the largest real estate advertising network on the Web. In the San Diego market specifically, the Yahoo!-Zillow network is the largest local entity, with more than 300,000 visitors in March.

    If you have any specific questions or concerns, please feel free to drop me a note at cynthian (at) zillow.com.

    • jamesleetn

      May 13, 2012 at 11:16 pm

      “However, when facts are asserted that are patently untrue, we need to defend ourselves and correct the record.”
       
      You know what, I agree wholeheartedly. I don’t care how many million unique users Zillow has each month. I sold houses before Zillow was ever conceived (and you too probably) and I’ll be doing so when our listings are gone from your site.
       
      Neither my sellers nor I are losing anything because we’re not being seen on Z.

  5. stevebeam

    May 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Cynthia you said “It is our policy as a company to always identify ourselves in social media truthfully and as representatives of Zillow. ”
     
    That’s funny because when Metrolist here in Denver decided to drop Diverse Solutions as an IDX provider [after Zillow purchased that company] there were many negative comments around the web directed at Metrolist made by known Zillow employees.  
     
    Anytime I speak with other Realtors around the country I hear a growing number of them that want their data off the aggregate sites and they are taking steps in that direction. 
     
    Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com make money off our hard work and it’s wrong and it’s time for a change. 

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This web platform for cannabis is blowing up online distribution

(BUSINESS NEWS) Dutchie, a website platform for cannabis companies, just octupled in value. Here’s what that means for the online growth of cannabis distribution.

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A small jar of cannabis on a desk with notebooks, sold online in a nicely made jar.

The cannabis industry has, for the most part, blossomed in the past few years, managing to hit only a few major snags along the way. One of those snags is the issue of payment processing, an issue compounded by predominantly cash-only transactions. Dutchie, a Bend, Oregon company, has helped mitigate that issue—and it just raised a ton of money.

Technically, Dutchie is a jack-of-all-trades service that creates and hosts websites for dispensaries, tracks product, processes orders, keeps stock of revenue, and so much more. While it was valued at around $200 million as recently as summer of 2020, a round of series C funding currently puts the company at around $1.7 billion—approximately 8 times its worth a mere 8 months ago.

There are a few reasons behind Dutchie’s newfound momentum. For starters, the pandemic made cannabis products a lot more accessible—and desirable—in states in which the sale of cannabis is legal. The ensuing surge of customers and demand certainly didn’t hurt the platform, especially given that Dutchie is largely responsible for keeping things on track during some of the more chaotic months for dispensaries.

Several states in which the sale of cannabis was illegal also voted to legalize recreational use, giving Dutchie even more stomping ground than they had prior to the lockdown.

Dutchie also recently took on 2 separate companies and their associated employees, effectively doubling their current staff. The companies are Greenbits—a resource planning group—and Leaflogix, which is a point-of-sale platform. With these two additions to their compendium, Dutchie can operate as even more of an all-in-one suite, which absolutely contributes to its value as a company.

Ross Lipson, who is Dutchie’s co-founder and current CEO, is fairly dismissive of investment opportunities for the public at the moment, saying he instead prefers to stay “focused with what’s on our plate” for the time being. However, he also appears open to the possibility of going public via an acquisition company.

“We look at how this decision brings value to the dispensary and the customer,” says Lipson. “If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”

For now, Dutchie remains the ipso facto king of cannabis distribution and sales—and they don’t show any plans to slow down any time soon.

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Ford adopts flexible working from home schedule for over 30k employees

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ford Motor Co. is allowing employees to continue working from home even after the pandemic winds down. Is this the beginning of a trend for auto companies?

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Woman in car working on engineering now allowed a flexible schedule for working from home.

The pandemic has greatly transformed our lives. For the most part, learning is being conducted online. At one point, interacting with others was pretty much non-existent. Working in the office shifted significantly to working remotely, and it seems like working from home might not go away anytime soon.

As things slowly get back to a new “normal”, will things change again? Well, one thing is sure. Working from home will be a permanent thing for some people as more companies opt to continue letting people work remotely.

And, the most recent company on the list to do this is Ford Motor Co. Even after the pandemic winds down, Ford will allow more than 30,000 employees already working from home to continue doing so.

Last week, the automaker giant announced its “flexible hybrid model” schedule to its staff. The new schedule is set to start in the summer, and employees can choose to work remotely and come into the office for tasks that require face-to-face collaborations, such as meetings and group projects.

How much time an employee spends in the office will depend on their responsibilities, and flexible remote hours will need to be approved by an employee’s manager.

“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent — you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” David Dubensky, chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, told the Washington Post. “Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful. … It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”

Ford’s decision to implement a remote-office work model has to do in part with an employee survey conducted in June 2020. Results from the survey showed that 95% of employees wanted a hybrid schedule. Some employees even reported feeling more productive when working from home.

Ford is the first auto company to allow employees to work from home indefinitely, but it might not be the only one. According to the Post, Toyota and General Motors are looking at flexible options of their own.

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Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

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