MLS Listing Syndication War Rages On

February 15, 2012
Avatar for SEOWolfSEOWolf
it is easy to loose things when using paper copies

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 aggregate 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 (recolorado) 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.

26 Comments

Avatar for Houses in La Jolla
Houses in La Jolla
Reply

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.

February 17, 2012
Avatar for Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck
Reply

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.

February 17, 2012
Avatar for SEOWolf
SEOWolf
Reply

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.

February 17, 2012
Avatar for Brad Andersohn
Brad Andersohn
Reply

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/

February 17, 2012
Avatar for SEOWolf
SEOWolf
Reply

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?

February 17, 2012
Avatar for Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck

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 **

February 22, 2012
Avatar for Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck
Reply

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

Buhbye.

February 22, 2012
Avatar for Grant Hammond
Grant Hammond
Reply

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.

February 17, 2012
Avatar for Bend Oregon Real Estate
Bend Oregon Real Estate
Reply

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?

February 17, 2012
Avatar for SEOWolf
SEOWolf
Reply

“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.

February 17, 2012
Avatar for Bend Oregon Real Estate
Bend Oregon Real Estate
Reply

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

February 17, 2012
Avatar for SEOWolf
SEOWolf
Reply

Thank you for chiming in Greg.

February 17, 2012
Avatar for Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck
Reply

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.

February 17, 2012
Avatar for SEOWolf
SEOWolf
Reply

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.

February 21, 2012
Avatar for Houses in La Jolla
Houses in La Jolla
Reply

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.

February 18, 2012
Avatar for Teyona @ Deer Valley homes for sale
Teyona @ Deer Valley homes for sale
Reply

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.

February 18, 2012
Avatar for TheSEOWolf
TheSEOWolf
Reply

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!

April 1, 2012
Avatar for Jay
Jay
Reply

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.

March 22, 2012
Avatar for TheSEOWolf
TheSEOWolf
Reply

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???

April 1, 2012
Avatar for Sam DeBord, SeattleHome.com
Sam DeBord, SeattleHome.com
Reply

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.

March 31, 2012
Avatar for TheSEOWolf
TheSEOWolf
Reply

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.

April 1, 2012
Avatar for Don and Amy Jengo
Don and Amy Jengo
Reply

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…

April 13, 2017
Avatar for Vlafiura
Vlafiura
Reply

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

April 20, 2012
Avatar for Petra
Petra
Reply

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.

November 10, 2014
Avatar for Pete
Pete
Reply

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!!!!!!!!!!!

September 4, 2015
Avatar for Steven Palmer
Steven Palmer
Reply

New real Estate professionals were kicked around and subordinated, and 2nd classed, and were kicked around by the older established agents that considered all real estate their farm and new comers were not welcome. The new comers are bad mouthed and the established agents would try to tell clients that other agents were not as good because they were new and not as good and would get backstabbed. Now Zillow levels the playing field so everyone has access to the market. Buys, sellers and agents. The mafias of old are angry because they iron grip has slipped. No longer held by the self appoint elite circles in the real estate circles and fixes commissions. No longer closed to entry level entrepreneurs. Now everyone can take part and work on the deals and find properties, and find their own values. No longer relying on the self professed professionals.

June 30, 2019

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