MLS Listing Syndication War Rages

UltimateIDX share their views on the MLS listing syndication war developing between MLS Boards and aggregators such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com in several major markets including Denver’s MetroList and their recent dropping of Diverse Solutions:

If you check almost any major market in Google you will find sites such as Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia dominate the majority of the Top 10 slots for all major real estate search phrases.

Many Realtors that are competing for these search engine rankings are unknowingly feeding these mega aggregator sites they compete with by furnishing them listings and populating them with more content.

Let’s keep it real. “Content is King” and it is difficult for a local Brokerage to compete with National Real Estate aggregator sites. Major parts of the major Search Engine algorithms are; content (number of pages), visitors, pages viewed and time on the website. So it is almost impossible for “Mom/Pop” Brokerages to compete with National aggregator websites with hundreds of thousands of pages and collective SEO scores from all markets of page views, visits and time on site.

I am a former Real Estate Broker. I come from a family of Realtors. I understand what it takes to solicit listings and then do the workup, measurements, photos and all the required paperwork. So I find it repulsive that I would do all this work, give it away to websites that I compete with and in some cases be charged for any leads that may be generated from it.

Time to Move On or Change Business Model

Aggregators/Syndicators really need to go by the wayside just as the old monthly/quarterly MLS Books (and the Dinosaurs) did back in the day. Option 2: change their business model into a revenue sharing venue with the Agents that feed their websites.

Option 2 is highly unlikely. However in my proposed scenario instead of Realtor.com receiving fees for furnishing listing data (provided by Agents) to aggregators/syndicators without cost, they would pay the contributing Agents on a per listing basis.

Additionally all aggregators/syndicators should be held to the same rules by the Local MLS Boards that their Members are for display of data (listings) owned by the Local MLS Boards.

MetroList Drops Diverse Solutions

In any war there are casualties. Innocents are unwillingly swept into conflicts as collateral damage and the MLS listing syndication war is no different. As for the Diverse Solutions/Zillow situation with Denver’s MetroList I really do empathize with the MetroList Members that use Diverse Solutions. And I will be the first to admit that Diverse Solutions is a class act.

A lot of hard work and money goes and into real estate websites and changing IDX vendors creates more expense and work at a time when many Realtors are already in distress. However, I do understand the decision made by MetroList and believe it to be in the best interest of all of their Members.

However, there has been a lot of anger directed towards MetroList over severing ties with Diverse Solutions. This anger would be better directed at Diverse Solutions in my humble opinion. If they were looking for a buyer they should have known that selling to an aggregator such as Zillow would be controversial.

We need not shed tears for Zillow inasmuch as their intentions when purchasing Diverse Solutions were relatively transparent.

Yes it is extremely unfortunate that some Denver MetroList Members have been victimized but they were not done so by MetroList.

Keeping it Real

The truth is Realtors are currently acting as busy little Bees for these gigantic aggregators for very little in return. It really is time to rethink syndication and keep it local within and under the watch and rules of the Local MLS Boards.

NOTE: Portions of this post were submitted as comments on 2 different blogs that were not approved so it developed into a post here.

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About the Author:

K.M “Mack” McMillan comes from a family of REALTORS® and was a Broker himself for 14+ years. Mack built one of the 1st real estate websites in 1994 which helped his family run Agency become the most successful Brokerage in south central Missouri. As the original founder of the UltimateIDX in 2000, Mack continues to serve the real estate community and maintains an advisory role in UltimateIDX.

Comments

  1. Houses in La Jolla  February 17, 2012

    I am one hard-working Realtor in San Diego who is tired of having Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and others take advantage of my hard work. They take my listings and photos (PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHS, that I have PAID FOR MYSELF). They display my photos and my text on their websites. They use my work product to generate traffic to their websites. Then they call me on practically a daily basis to sell me leads that they get from their websites. They wouldn’t have the leads if it wasn’t for the listings information that they took from me and from other hard-working Realtors in the first place! It’s not right. They should be paying me, not the other way around.

    reply
  2. Jeff Beck  February 17, 2012

    First off: I agree 100% with your main points, that if ZTR want our listings they need to compensate us for our work product going forward AND that those ZTR displays should be IDX compliant.

    I would add that I beleive the only way to make this happen is for large blocs of listing sources (read MLSs) to give notice that they will be shutting down feeds. Then negotiations could begin towards possible negotiated settlements, leading to 1 year written contracts between the parties.

    I would also suggest that many MLSs and large brokers could completely pull feeds and never miss a beat.

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    • SEOWolf  February 17, 2012

      Good points Jeff. Most Boards will allow the Listing Agent and/or Broker to opt out of syndication with Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com.

      If a real “Movement” was genuinely started and thousands of Realtors started opting out of syndication then the stage would be set for the Local Boards to negotiate revenue sharing contracts with the aggregators on behalf of their Members.

      Without YOUR listings these sites are dead so it would not take long to reverse the tables on ZTR and start getting Agents paid instead of paying in many instances.

      “I would also suggest that many MLSs and large brokers could completely pull feeds and never miss a beat.” Absolutely Jeff and a lot of teams, small offices and individual Agents as well that currently compete for Search Engine Rankings with these aggregators.

      As stated my first preference is that they go by the way of the Dinosaur since they offer very little for the Agents that contribute. Or share the revenue and abide by the same rules for displaying listings that YOU do.

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      • Brad Andersohn  February 17, 2012

        Hey SEOWolf – Brad from Zillow here.

        Zillow is happy and honored to assist with promoting and exposing consumers homes to potential buyers on our site through syndication or whatever means agents and brokers choose to have them available, but I also would like to point out that Zillow also hosts 100,000,000+ other homes not for sale on our site and “dead” is not an option or in the stars for Zillow by any means.

        30,000,000 people visited the site last month and many were not just looking at listings. Consumers come to Zillow to find out about mortgage information, see what’s sold in the neighborhood or around the country, check out demographics, photos, use calculators, get home improvement tips, seek advice and join discussions etc. And yes, thousands even come to find an agent or lender just to write a review on their services and in many cases, hire them to help with a loan or buy/sell their homes.

        We provide a wide variety of tools and services for both buyer, seller, and agents. We are not a one size fits all, but we do provide and accommodate both consumers and industry professionals and continue to grow in both areas.

        Take a look at these published articles, this will give a greater insight and more details on some of the facts: http://www.zillow.com/blog/category/professionals/

        reply
        • SEOWolf  February 17, 2012

          Hi Brad.

          As Mr. Bill O’Reilly says, “Welcome to the NO Spin Zone!”.

          Zillow may not be “dead” yet but they are wounded and given the ongoing PR effort they are aware of the hemorrhaging and threat to their survivability.

          If it were not for Realtors submitting Listings your site would absolutely be dead.

          I will be the first to admit you guys have a great gig going on. You take the work the Realtors do and use it to build a website that buries their websites in the Search Engines. So in an effort to gain exposure for their listings the send you more listings and get buried further in the Search Engines. Unless they pay Zillow fees their contributing listings they are rarely seen.

          So Agents act as busy little Bees to build the Zillow Beehive but if they ask for any honey they must pay for it even though the hive dies without them.

          Greg Broderick accurately points out that Zillow’s survival as well as other aggregators/syndicators is dependent entirely on Realtors.

          And while I am on a rant, playing the victim over the decision by MetroList to sever ties with Diverse Solutions is a bit disturbing to me however I do recognize the need to attempt to “Spin” the debate. There are even posts about MetroList bearing the cost of converting the MetroList Members that use Diverse Solutions to another IDX Vendor. Really?

          Purchasing Diverse Solutions was a Zillow business decision not MetroList. I doubt if MetroList or any MLS Board was consulted. Clearly you see the conflict of interest here?

          I would think under the circumstances Zillow would bear all expenses for the Denver MetroList Agents/Brokerages using Diverse Solutions to set up alternative IDX services.

          Yes Zillow does have some nice Agent Tools that can be used on the Agent’s website that comes attached with back links to Zillow. Nice eye candy for the Agents and great SEO for Zillow. Again, my hat is off to you and it really is a great gig! I think this is part of what Greg Broderick has referred to as the Zillow “Trojan Horse” on other real estate blogs.

          Zillow has a multitude of non-compliance issues with data from every MLS Board that I have checked (including Denver MetroList).

          While we are on the subject please share your thoughts on Zillow following the same rules and regulations of MLS Boards on the display of data owned by them that their Members must adhere to?

          And your thoughts on my proposed Zillow revenue sharing program with contributing Agents?

          reply
          • Jeff Beck  February 22, 2012

            Yes, Brad, please do comment::

            “While we are on the subject please share your thoughts on Zillow following the same rules and regulations of MLS Boards on the display of data owned by them that their Members must adhere to?

            And your thoughts on my proposed Zillow revenue sharing program with contributing Agents”?

            ** Brad will not comment **

        • Jeff Beck  February 22, 2012

          Sounds like you don’t need us, Brad from Zillow (Master of the Universe)!

          Buhbye.

          reply
  3. Grant Hammond  February 17, 2012

    This is an extraordinarily important issue that most real estate agents are simply glossing over at this point. They need to understand that they are literally giving their intellectual work product to a publically traded corporation (Zillow July 2011) that has absolutely no fiduciary responsibility to agents. They live in a world of page hits, click-thru rates, advertiser impressions and bottom lines and will do anything to tweak their market share…their shareholders demand it. Let’s be honest with ourselves, 20 years ago you could be fired or even lose your license for letting your clients take the real estate book out of the office. Now, we are freely giving that same book away to a corporation who has absolutely no obligation to use that information responsibly. Where in the heck was the intermediary step of licensing the information to a responsible 3rd party? Why has our leadership failed us in such a public and embarrassing way? The truth is that this is a problem of our own making and we have a very short window to correct the underlying issues before our industry loses all value to our clients. I applaud the steps Sandicor in San Diego has taken thus far and look forward to more responsible MLS participation in just such actions.

    reply
  4. Bend Oregon Real Estate  February 17, 2012

    Great points. One thing I never considered, but you are entirely right is…. Diverse Solutions put their members in this uncomfortable position by selling out to Zillow, and now DS is scurrying around attempting to fix the damage. Didn’t DS have the foresight to see the backlash which would result from Zillow Ownership? Zillow… now please run by me again how anything Zillow is good for MY business? Zillow/Diverse Solutions does not have enough money to spend on a PR campaign which could ever convince me, or most Realtors, that my business model NEEDS Zillow.

    To be entirely candid… Zillow NEEDS Realtors like me, but we do not need Zillow. If any proof is needed here… then ask yourself this simple question: if either Zillow or the Realtors went out of business tomorrow… could the other survive? It appears to me the Realtors have longevity. Zillow? Well, they’re not so fortunate now, are they?

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    • SEOWolf  February 17, 2012

      “Diverse Solutions put their members in this uncomfortable position by selling out to Zillow… ” No I think “compromised position” would be more appropriate.

      I am still astonished at the level of angry rhetoric waged against Denver’s MetroList across the Internet for doing what they are obligated to do for their Members.

      And yes, Zillow needs you and other Realtors from around the country to survive however if they go down tomorrow most Realtors would not even notice.

      reply
  5. Bend Oregon Real Estate  February 17, 2012

    OOps… sorry for not leaving my name. I am Greg Broderick out of Bend, OR.

    reply
    • SEOWolf  February 17, 2012

      Thank you for chiming in Greg.

      reply
  6. Jeff Beck  February 17, 2012

    There is something in the air right now. Two years ago I spoke about pulling 3rd party feeds at our local MLS committee meeting and they looked at me like I was from Mars. I gave another presentation the other day… much different reception.

    reply
    • SEOWolf  February 21, 2012

      Jeff as a former Broker I watched the birth of syndication on the Internet. As I listened to my Agents talk about the advantages of listing with us so their listing would get more exposure through syndication I had an uneasy feeling. Now I know why.

      A storm is coming. It sounds like you felt tempest before it could be seen. My guess is that any future presentations will be well received.

      reply
  7. Houses in La Jolla  February 18, 2012

    I’d like to see Zillow and the other large MLS listing aggregators like Trulia and Realtor.com pay compensation to agents when they display our listings on their websites. Or perhaps the MLS boards should require that you are an active listing agent on their MLS system in order to display their feeds.

    reply
  8. Teyona @ Deer Valley homes for sale  February 18, 2012

    It is an interesting post with very valuable content.

    “If you check almost any major market in Google you will find sites such as Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia dominate the majority of the Top 10 slots for all major real estate search phrases.”

    These three major real estate websites are indeed dominate in google searches.

    reply
    • TheSEOWolf  April 1, 2012

      You are correct Teyona. And Google gives more weight to content, pages viewed, unique visitors and time on site every day driving local real estate websites further down in the rankings.

      The only way to stop this is for Agents to quit feeding these monster sites.

      Thanks for chiming in!

      reply
  9. Jay  March 22, 2012

    You are absolutely right. These guys have been doing this for years. It will be interesting to see what comes of this. I bet it will end up like what happened to Google when they were scraping info off sites for Google Places.

    reply
    • TheSEOWolf  April 1, 2012

      Jay: It is imperative that our Local MLS Boards either
      disallow these aggregators/syndicators to display listings or at the very least
      require them to follow the SAME rules as the Agents that originated the
      listing. Our Local Boards can control this! And where in the hell is NAR???

      reply
  10. Sam DeBord, SeattleHome.com  March 31, 2012

    Mack, well put.  This is the point that so many arguments miss.  Syndication continues to increase the syndication sites’ power, at the expense of brokers’ sites.  These agents are literally feeding their competitors’ growth with their own efforts.

    I wrote a similar post for Inman News recently.  I think it flies over most agents’ heads as they’re just too busy selling homes to look at the long-term business strategy.  Unfortunately, they’re giving their strategic position away with every listing.

    reply
    • TheSEOWolf  April 1, 2012

      You are dead on Sam.

      Sam I see Agents every day use the spill that if a Seller
      lists their property with them that the listing will be displayed by numerous nationally
      syndicated websites. What they don’t tell the Seller (or don’t understand) is
      that the listing will be displayed improperly among tens of thousands of expired
      and sold listings and has little chance of being displayed. If their listing is
      displayed the Agent that is contacted will be slammed with a list by the Buyer of
      dozens of expired or sold listings in addition to theirs. When the Agent attempts
      to explain to the Buyer that the bulk of the listings of interest are no longer
      available the Buyer becomes suspicious and the Agent loses credibility.

      Agents are feeding their competition by supplying these
      listings to these gigantic syndicators and driving their own personal website
      rankings down in the process. This is a “Lose – Lose” proposition for Agents.

      Keep your listings local. Your Local MLS Board is the BEST
      method of syndication IMHO.

      reply
    • Don and Amy Jengo  April 13, 2017

      We have seen sites list our contact information and listings. Worse is the sites that sell our seller leads for a referral as if they generated the lead. We have worked hard to produce our market share and see NO value in ANY of these companies selling our own leads back to us.. Please start the movement to stop syndication. We do not need Zillow, Trulia, or Realtor .com…

      reply
  11. Vlafiura  April 20, 2012

    I completely agree with ARG and there position with sharing brokers Mls Listings Here in Toronto we are beginning to see the same activity with sites like Zoocasa come in and attempt to steal data, I work hard to promote and serve my clients when selling Toronto Real Estate

    reply
  12. Petra  November 10, 2014

    Unfortunately this issue is only getting worse. More than two years after this post and zillow is still going strong. I hear so many agents in my area talk about how they are getting leads from zillow and constantly seeking out zillow reviews. It’s frustrating as an individual agent to have to compete with these large companies that aren’t even local.

    reply
  13. Pete  September 4, 2015

    Great article, but you are the highest priced IDX that I have found! Seems somehow hypocritical to me! This whole IDX subscription thing really sucks!!!!!!!!!!!

    reply

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