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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.”

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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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    November 3, 2012 at 2:43 am

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Keep your company’s operations lean by following these proven strategies

(BUSINESS) Keeping your operations lean means more than saving money, it means accomplishing more in less time.

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The past two years have been challenging, not just economically, but also politically and socially as well. While it would be nice to think that things are looking up, in reality, the problems never end. Taking a minimalist approach to your business, AKA keeping it lean, can help you weather the future to be more successful.

Here are some tips to help you trim the fat without putting profits above people.

Automate processes

Artificial intelligence frees up human resources. AI can manage many routine elements of your business, giving your team time to focus on important tasks that can’t be delegated to machines. This challenges your top performers to function at higher levels, which can only benefit your business.

Consider remote working

Whether you rent or own your property, it’s expensive to keep an office open. As we learned in the pandemic, many jobs can be done just as effectively from home as the workplace. Going remote can save you money, even if you help your team outfit their home office for safety and efficiency.

In today’s world, many are opting to completely shutter office doors, but you may be able to save money by using less space or renting out some of your office space.

Review your systems to find the fat

As your business grows (or downsizes), your systems need to change to fit how you work. Are there places where you can save money? If you’re ordering more, you may be able to ask vendors for discounts. Look for ways to bring down costs.

Talk to your team about where their workflow suffers and find solutions. An annual review through your budget with an eye on saving money can help you find those wasted dollars.

Find the balance

Operating lean doesn’t mean just saving money. It can also mean that you look at your time when deciding to pay for services. The point is to be as efficient as possible with your resources and systems, while maintaining customer service and safety. When you operate in a lean way, it sets your business up for success.

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Business News

How to apply to be on a Board of Directors

(BUSINESS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Average age of successful startup founders is 45, but stop stereotyping

(BUSINESS) Our culture glorifies (yet condemns?) startup founders as rich 20-somethings in hoodies, but some are a totally different type.

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There’s a common misconception that startups are riddled with semi-nerdy, 20-something white dudes who do nothing but sip Nitro Brews and walk around the open office showing off the hoodie they wore yesterday. It turns out that it’s extremely rare that startup offices resemble The Social Network.

However, the academic backdrop for the real social network story (AKA Harvard), produced statistics that will serve to put the aforementioned misconception to rest. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average age of people who founded the highest-growth startups is 45. Say what?! A full-fledged adult?!

In fact, aside from the age category of 60 and over, ages 29 and younger were the smallest group of founders that are responsible for heading the highest-growth startups. I guess you can accomplish a lot when you’re not riding around the office on a scooter all day.

The study also found that older entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed. The probability of extreme startup success rises with age, at least until the late 50s. It was found that work experience plays an important role.

Many will argue, “Well, what about someone like Steve Jobs?” You could easily argue right back that it took Jobs until the age of 52 to create Apple’s most profitable product – the iPhone.

The study continues to answer questions like, why do Venture Capitalist investors bet on young founders? This goes back to the misconception at the start, and there’s a notion that youth is the key for successful entrepreneurship. Wrong.

There is also the idea that younger entrepreneurs are likely working with less financial options, so it may be common for them to take something from a VC at a lower price. As a result, they could be viewed as more of a bargain than older founders.

“The next step for researchers is to explore what exactly explains the advantage of middle-aged founders,” writes Pierre Azoulay, et al. “For example, is it due to greater access to financial resources, deeper social networks, or certain forms of experience? In the meantime, it appears that advancing age is a powerful feature, not a bug, for starting the most successful firms.”

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