This will probably be the hardest blog post I’ve ever written. The listing syndication debate is complex at best, with arguments on both sides of the fence and supporters championing their views with gusto. First, let’s take a look at listing syndication; what it is and how it began.
Listing information is generated by real estate agents within the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). Back in the day, this involved filling out forms and checking off boxes that represented items present in the house – everything from the number of bedrooms to whether the master bedroom has ceiling fans. Data. These were stored in big books at real estate offices and were distributed to other brokers so that they might show an agent’s listing and their clients might buy it.
Obviously, things have changed in the way we input and store the data, but overall the MLS is the same. It’s a local listing book of all the properties being represented by an agent, only now it’s online. The MLS is still a members-only site, so you have to be a dues paying member of the local MLS (in San Antonio ours is controlled by SABOR) in order to have access to these property listings. As the internet grew in popularity – particularly in the real estate realm – listing data was now aggregated by sites like realtor.com. Now consumers could view properties online without the aid of an agent.
What many consumers don’t know is that realtor.com is an advertising site. By using the listing data provided by agents and their MLSs, realtor.com is able to bring consumer traffic; all while selling leads, advertising, and upgraded marketing packages to real estate agents.
In addition to realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow entered the picture as well. The “big three” as they are known (often referred to as ZTR in real estate circles) were able to capture a lot of consumer eyeballs by being innovative and bringing large groups of listings together in one place from all across the country. Brokers were no longer the gatekeepers of the listing info – consumers could find the data elsewhere. Most of this data collection is done through the process of listing syndication.
Listing syndication is the act of allowing other websites to show the listing data. In the early days of internet real estate, this was done manually site by site…each listing had to be entered multiple times into different formats determined by the individual sites. As technology advanced, agents were offered one-stop solutions to this time consuming marketing effort. Fill out one form and the data would appear on multiple sites. By sending your listing to one site, you were able to reach a much larger audience than ever before.
With the proliferation of this data on third party sites, agents and consumers have begun to question the integrity and accuracy of the data. Clients often bring us properties they saw online, but when we them look up in the MLS there is either incorrect data (prices often being wrong) or the homes aren’t even for sale anymore. This has become such a major issue that some brokers have adopted a no-syndication policy and pulled their listings from sites like Trulia and Zillow.
So why does this matter to you? If you’re a home seller, this is all about you. Your home (the data) needs to be seen by the buyers – no matter where they are – but, you don’t want your home misrepresented either. You want accurate data about your house so that buyers can make informed decisions and make an offer on your home. In the follow up post we’re going to talk about the pros and cons of syndication and offer you some tips to deal with inaccurate representations of your home online…stay tuned.
image courtesy of OregonDOT