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The Flip Side of the Bad Data Debate Cont. The Agent’s Fault…

emortgageprocreditWrecking Listing Data’s Good Name?

After some intense debate both on and offline about how third party media companies are wrecking the listing data’s GOOD name, we set out to find out some reasons that data inaccuracies seem to be common place on third party websites.  We wanted to know how in the world it could be possible that sites like Zillow, Trulia, Vast, among others could possibly still reflect a listing as active when the unit had obviously sold weeks, days, months, or even a year ago. Seriously, how could this be?

In a perfect world

In case you did not know, data is typically taken directly from brokers via one huge file dump, and then distributed to the third party network as it’s seen.  So if today you post a property as pending, then more than likely, 24 hours later after distribution, your listing should reflect the new pending status. Makes sense, right? Clean data comes from the source and is updated dynamically via the same feed the original listing came from – no problem… in a perfect world, this is what happens.

So again, where’s the problem? We set a course to find out. We asked David Gibbons with Zillow exactly about the process and he verified that data comes from the broker’s direct feed (you should ask your broker if they syndicate) and populates Zillow.  So we asked David how in the world is could ever be possible that a listing could remain active when it had been withdrawn, expired, etc and his response? Ultimately, time and time again, it goes back to the agent who syndicated the listing.


Yes, you read that correctly, but note that he said “agent who syndicated the listing.” If your broker does not update or syndicate feeds to Zillow, chances are that your virtual tour company, or possibly your flyer company does, and this is an accepted feed from Zillow and a service that many vendors offer agent consumers.  The main problem with this is that the agent allows the virtual tour to remain in existence, ACTIVE and alive for the world to see, long after the listing is gone. David Gibbons admits this has been a real challenge for them, but believes it goes back to agent education and some training where syndication is concerned.

Let me Google that for you

David suggests that you Google your listing address when changing the status of your listing. This will allow you to see everywhere your listing is populating and if need be, go in and turn it off or change the status.

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Check, check, one, two

Our suggestion to build on that thought is to create a closing checklist of where you manually displayed your listing- that gives you a quick and easy reference of places that you’ve been the point of syndication (P.O.S.).  Make note of each web property you’re using that offers to syndicate for you, “especially virtual tour companies,” says David.

Like we said, David admits that this has been a challenge for them, to the point that they rank the level and quality of a syndication source on the back end, but this method could ultimately be double checked by the responsible agent who probably isn’t even aware of their culpability. David points out that many sites and tools that syndicate for agents do notify agents requesting an update, but not all, and most notices go ignored either because the agent continues to show off their incredible marketing, or they simply forget- so make your checklist for those closed, sold, and withdrawn properties and protect the data that agents hold so dearly.


So if you’re a great listing agent and you’re making sure your marketing goes up, we must make sure it comes down, as displaying an inactive non-existent for sale property in anyone’s book is unethical. We suggest that if you want to display a demo of your property marketing, you utilize the product’s demo or ask the company to copy a demo of a past listing that is syndicated with the proper status for you.

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Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. Megan Lust

    April 1, 2010 at 11:36 am

    I agree with David Gibbons. A lot of times agents aren’t sure where they’ve had their listing syndicated to, or they forget where they’ve manually added listings online. That’s the beauty of having listings syndicate directly from an MLS. Agents and Brokers are sure to keep their listings updated at the MLS level, knowing that any marked sold will then be removed from syndication. If an MLS syndicates to a large network of syndication partners, then the likelihood of agents needing to enter listings at various websites manually would surely lessen.

    • Benn Rosales

      April 1, 2010 at 8:27 pm

      from an mls, or from, either way, the data would be back in control of the industry at the very least, standards met, and end debate. 3parties could then pay to play, which is how it should have been from the start – agents are paying the carrying cost of 3rd parties, why not recoop that loss and make free.

  2. Michael Sosnowski

    April 1, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    How about this….don’t provide any information to Zillow, Trulia, etc and work on creating the best web presence for you own website. All these big sites do is eat up space in the local SERPs – providing little or no value to agents. Just a thought.

    • Benn Rosales

      April 1, 2010 at 8:24 pm

      Good luck getting that cat back in that tiny bag, I’ll be watching with interest.

  3. Brian Rutledge

    April 1, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Michael, you bring up a good point. What many agents don’t realize is how easy it is to outrank those sites for your listings. A small investment in an affordable indexable IDX+a few hours a week of linking, tweeting and facebooking will have you outranking the syndicators in no time.

  4. Benn Rosales

    April 1, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    We can argue 2005-10 points of view and we can also take responsibility for the data we’re syndicating at the same time. Agents cannot continue to complain about bad data if they’re responsible for syndicating it.

  5. Michael Sosnowski

    April 1, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Yes, the cat is out of the bag. It is truly a same how little agents really know about marketing on the web and the future of online real estate. Nonetheless, I would really like to know, from agents. how many clients and potential clients are looking for homes on websites like…..Vast, Oodle, Frontdoor, Cyberhomes, HotPads and all those who are similar. The fact is, very, very few. We have sold our souls to, tulia and zillow, but can we at least draw the line on these ^%$#* sites! Must we support every online venture that “claims to offer” exposure? We build these sites up out of fear and ignorance.

    I will not get off the soap box.

  6. David Gibbons

    April 7, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Hi Ben,

    Listing websites operate like the MLS in this regard; if you post a listing for sale online it remains advertised until it’s taken down. Syndication services add some complexity in that they propagate listings to multiple sites but all that’s required to update syndicated listings is that you update the source. If virtual tours are left posted online after a home is sold, the agent is effectively continuing to advertise the listing (regardless of whether it’s syndicated.)

    Syndicating your data (in this case, listings) is a smart online marketing strategy. The trick is to do it responsibly and efficiently. My recommendations for listing agents are:
    1) Use as few syndication services as possible and use only one such service for each site that you want to publish your listings on. That way, you know where to go when you need a syndicated listing updated.
    2) Ask your technology provider for your website / virtual tour / MLS / single property website etc. whether they plan to syndicate your listings. Have them switch this feature off if they aren’t the single syndication source you’ve selected.
    3) Update the source of your listings whenever you update the MLS – that way you won’t forget. Better yet; speak to your MLS to determine whether they could be your syndication source (or whether they could partner with one.)

    I hope that helps.

  7. David Gibbons

    April 7, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    P.S. Sorry, I obviously meant Benn

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