On ARG's Announcement to Pull Their Listings from Syndication

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY
http://actvra.in/s2C

Victorian HomeInman news is reporting a Youtube announcement from ARG (Abbott Realty Group) that they are not  permitting their listings to be viewed on 3rd party syndicators such as Zillow, Trulia and even Realtor.com. The link is already behind Inman's paywall so I have embedded the video below. This comes in the wake of a similar announcement from midwest Giant Edina Realty's decision to do the very same thing this past November. Jim Abbott, broker and president of ARG, gives what I consider a very well reasoned explanation for his company's decision. You may not agree, but his explanation is compelling. 

As much as I'd like to be the enlightened, philosophical, transparency embracing dude I strive to be, the small business owner in me is quietly applauding Mr Abbott's guts. Here's why: You might expect on Zillow or Trulia that if you click on the smiling face next to the advert for more information that you'll be put in touch with the listing agent, but you would be wrong much of the time. I spend 5 figures annually to keep myself as the contact on my listings on these sites, because they are in the business to sell zip codes to agents posting themselves as the local experts. In other words, that smiling face might be some guy who never saw the house in his life but wrote a check to be the contact for the zip code. Any  consumer who has ever made inquiries on Zillow and Trulia knows this.

Some listing agents view this as extortion, because they provide the websites the content, but then have to pay for the privelege of being the recipient of the consumer inquiry on their own listing. 

The argument for syndication (and the natural rebuttal to Mr Abbott) has always been the same thing: exposure. When a broker is hired to market a property, it is our fiduciary duty to maximize exposure of the home, and these websites get mammoth traffic. It is also a matter of raw competition: "I'll put your listing on Zillow and Trulia" is the 2012 version of "I'll buy an ad in the supermarket homes magazine," which was the better mousetrap when I was first licensed in 1996. Here's the problem with that: The data is often inaccurate and not up to date, and I'm not so sure we are doing our clients any favors when we allow inquiries on their homes to go to some guy at another firm who never set foot in their living room. "Hire me and I'll make sure the guy who bought the zip code gets the calls" doesn't sound too compelling to me.

This is where the syndicators play both ends against the middle: they sell their high traffic and exposure, then have a highly caffeineted sales team contact agents and promise them buyer leads if they pay $XX a month. This puts the agent next to anyone's listings in that zip code who haven't paid themselves. I virtually pay an annuity every month to box out Joe Meatball from getting the calls on my listings, and I get a perk for being the contact guy on Bertha Hairnet's listings. Fair? Hardly, it is the cost of doing business.  

When a home is multiple listed, it goes to literally hundreds of websites automatically thanks to the IDX (Internet Data Exchange) feed to search sites of cooperating brokerages, association searches (Like MLSLI.com on Long Island) and national aggregators. The IDX feed is the real time data from MLS. If the information is wrong, it is the fault of the broker, so they have to be on their toes. The trend appears to be that the providers of the content, the listing brokers, are taking back control of their data to ensure accuracy and certainty that they field the consumer inquiries. This takes the property off some popular websites, but if more firms do this those websites may also lose their popularity. That could make them re-think some of their policies. 

ARG -and Edina- have made  their counterpunch. ARG, with about 25 agents and 41 listing on their website is about the same size as my firm. This took some thought and backbone. 

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Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Kamal Salim 01/28/2012 09:41 AM
  2. Gregory Bain 01/28/2012 11:00 AM
  3. Laurie Clark CRB Angel Realty LLC Your Monument Realtor 719-502-6572 01/29/2012 12:26 AM
  4. Corinne Guest 01/29/2012 01:00 PM
Topic:
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Groups:
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Tags:
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Tony Clifton - Las Vegas Mortgage
I agree that it would be better if all listings were open. It isn't fair that Reelators are the only people who can feature listings on their web sites. Good for zillow and trulia for fighting this.
Jan 28, 2012 07:39 PM #78
Anonymous
Anonymous
Mark Estermeyer

Cheryl - it's not the publics fault that there are WAY TOO MANY Reelators.  The public has to pay the price for the agents who pushed for NAR to make everyone a home owner.  Now we are facing price declines setting back home values to 1998 prices.  Having Zillow and Trulia help to sell homes is doing the public JUSTICE.  Not to mention, those companies actually have employees and pay taxes.  Unlike most REA that write off all of their expenses to avoid taxes. 

Jan 28, 2012 07:51 PM #79
Anonymous
Anonymous
Mark Estermeyer

That new government tax would eliminate the 90% of the agents that don't do business - which you just profiled. Thus causing the 3rd party synidcator sites to stop selling leads to them, or some of them. Then your problem would be solved.  This is an easy fix.

Jan 28, 2012 07:57 PM #80
Rainmaker
229,113
Michael Blue
Home Smart Realty West - Encinitas, CA
REALTOR - 760-889-8877, Encinitas/Carlsbad

I read this on Inman the other day as it caught my eye because I too am in San Diego.  I am not a fan of the 3rd party sites and our MLS in San Diego has a new consumer feature to combat the syndicators.  I often uncheck the sndicataion box.

Jan 28, 2012 09:34 PM #81
Rainmaker
1,304,969
Carla Muss-Jacobs, Principal Broker/Owner
BuyersAgentPortland.com | (503) 810-7192 Portland Metro Exclusive Buyers Agent | 100% Buyer Representation ~ 100% o... - Portland, OR
Buyer Focused ~ Buyer Results

Mr. Abbott mentions how his 3 year research shows that nothing improved by having the listing exposed by the syndicators. As an Exclusive Buyers Agent my thoughts are always motivated by the best for the consumer.  It is not the best interest for the (buyer) consumer to contact the listing agent (perhaps a tad off topic). I don't search on those sites and consumer can, but they are then led to the agent that bought that zip code, etc.  The syndicators make a ton of money on the listings.  Period.  And the home owners' property is used in this third-party manner.  If the sellers only knew!

Jan 28, 2012 09:52 PM #82
Anonymous
Anonymous
Mortgage Marketing

I don't know about this. Why not use these sites? Get the word out, get eyes on the property. As a lender this is just going to lead to more work for me if they don't use them

More single property websites that I'll have to create for free, more twitter help, more facebook help, more craigslist help. I'll save some time on helping write the contracts since pulling all your listings will result in less of those. So it'll probably balance out. I love to help though. Without you guys I could never possibly generate any business. 

Don't get me wrong, my referral partners return my help in spades. I have learned an amazing amount of detail about how to write an incredulous email. They also double check all of my numbers on the HUD too. When your busy like I am you need the extra look. If something is wrong I just pay for it out of my commission. It's a trade off, I eat those fees be they buy those awesome closing baskets. 

Keep the data free!

Jan 29, 2012 12:30 AM #86
Rainmaker
571,699
Corinne Guest
Barrington Realty Company - Lake Barrington, IL
Barrington Realty Company

Interestingly I checked one of my listings in Google and found that of the first 10 results, those on page one, 7 of them were either my postings or from an IDX feed on one of the major franchises like CB, RE/MAX or local brokerages. So if I pull my listings like ARG have, I do not see this as affecting the seller in an adverse way. We also know that consumers rarely stick with one site, they'll hop around looking for what they want. We have never allowed automated AVM's on our listings either because they are so inaccurate.

Re-Blogged and we may follow suit!

Jan 29, 2012 01:50 PM #87
Rainmaker
958,333
Kathy Clulow
RE/MAX All-Stars Realty Inc. Brokerage - Uxbridge, ON
Trusted For Experience - Respected For Results

The Toronto Real Estate Board allows OPT IN Data syndication fr individual broker or agent sites so smaller brokers here would have no difficulty in getting their listings seen on the larger broker sites that also utilize the OPT In Provision. When you Opt in at this point you can not exclude any one else who OPTs in.

Jan 29, 2012 03:13 PM #88
Rainmaker
1,394,670
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

#89 iKathy that's brokerage to brokerage, isn't it?  Not third party?   This is third party syndication,the third party companies don't have listings, they are not members of an MLS.  

ARG is  not saying their listings won't be on other brokerages IDX. Or that other San Diego listings from other brokerages won't be on their website for consumers. 

I have seen others say they (ARG) does need to consider IDX too. 

Jan 29, 2012 04:51 PM #89
Rainer
45,436
Jill Kipnis
Move, Inc. - Westlake Village, CA

J. Philip, thanks for your post. One important point to note is that listings on Realtor.com are not syndicated, but rather are sent to our site by our 900+ MLS partners every day. 82% of the 900+ MLSs that send their broker member listings to Realtor.com are updated directly by the MLSs every 15 minutes, and the rest are updated every one to 24 hours. This is unmatched by any real estate website today, and provides a tremendous benefit to consumers and our industry partners.

Also, all listings on Realtor.com display for free. If a broker isn't interested in participating in an additional marketing program, they can easily opt out or not opt in.

Jan 30, 2012 01:13 PM #90
Rainmaker
851,428
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY
Broker-Owner

Jill, 

True. Not syndicated. But now they are selling zip codes and if you don't have the enhanced package you can lose out on being the contact for your own listing. That is deplorable. 

Jan 30, 2012 04:24 PM #91
Anonymous
Anonymous
Scott Feldman

Hi Phil.  Scott from Listingbook here.  Good for ARG and good for you for helping to spread the word.  

Many of these these third party listing aggregators are not designed to support organized real estate.  Without a steady flow of brokers' listings, they will not be able to retain the audience/power that they have captured.

I know you already know this (but some others on this post may not), Listingbook is a great solution for agents to be able to make sure their customers have up to the minute, accurate listing information, while never seeing information from other agents or brokers.  Plus, the agent gets to really undertand and collaborate with the customers at the same time.

Great job and let us know if we can help.

 

 

 

 

Jan 30, 2012 05:21 PM #92
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Debe Maxwell
www.AtHomesCharlotte.com | Savvy + Company Real Estate - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

Phil, I say Bravo ARG!  I've been waiting on someone to have the balls to do this and I applaud them in being the first.  Not a day goes by that I don't receive calls from someone who has found a listing that is no longer listed, listed by Company X, who only lists 'foreclosed' properties BUT, they're not even listed properties or with erroneous information on the particular property.  This is doing NO ONE any good; everyone seems to be spinning their wheels with regards to these aggregate sites--EVERYONE.

I wish that entire MLS's would follow suit - keep it within our own IDX areas and everyone will get equal exposure AND accurate information.

Jan 30, 2012 11:44 PM #93
Rainer
45,436
Jill Kipnis
Move, Inc. - Westlake Village, CA

J. Philip, thanks for the feedback. In today's marketplace, it's more important than ever to connect agents/brokers with potential home buyers and sellers so they can increase the number of real estate sales transactions. The program you're referring to can be compared to the use of lockboxes in the offline world, which lets agents work with other agents to show a listing when they're not available. We think listing agents can benefit from the partnership a buyer agent sourced from this program by reducing response time to capture and retain a fresh inquiry. Everyone would benefit from faster response times and more connections.

Jan 31, 2012 12:50 PM #94
Rainmaker
1,394,670
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

Jill comment #91 and 95 is not just a super fan of Realtor.com she is an employee of Move.org  She's been a member of AR since February 2011 but never had a chance to fill out her profile, I guess.

I Googled the only information she has on the site, the phone number and it is Move.org


Jan 31, 2012 01:25 PM #95
Rainer
45,436
Jill Kipnis
Move, Inc. - Westlake Village, CA

Hi Maureen, nice to meet you. I'm absolutely a fan of Realtor.com, and a proud employee as well. To add to my comment above, if a listing broker doesn't want to participate in the Realtor.com Connections program, they can opt out in minutes through your control panel.

Jan 31, 2012 04:29 PM #96
Rainmaker
1,394,670
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

Now she puts Move in her signature.  When Dustin Luther worked for Move   he was not secretive about who he worked for. 

 

Jan 31, 2012 05:11 PM #97
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Brad Andersohn
Zillow - Nat'l Outreach Mgr & Dir. of Zillow Academy - Fairfield, CA
ActiveBrad 707.646.1876

Hey J - sorry for the delay getting here to respond.

I just wanted to point out that Spencer wrote a great post on ActiveRain discussing the importance of Strategic Distribution that addressed some really important points and issues surrounding this topic. 

Hope you don't mind me sharing it here since it's relative and not just spam.
http://activerain.com/blogsview/2697254/the-importance-of-strategic-distribution

There are a couple things I'd like to clarify:

1. "This is where the syndicators play both ends against the middle: they sell their high traffic and exposure, then have a highly caffeineted sales team contact agents and promise them buyer leads if they pay $XX a month. This puts the agent next to anyone's listings in that zip code who haven't paid themselves."

I can't speak for the other companies but at Zillow, exposure for listings is free for the listing agent. For premier placement, a listing agent just needs to fill out a free profile. Once a listing agent does create a free profile on Zillow, it takes the number of times the listing agent is referenced on the page from one to four times.

Sellers do hire a brokerage to market and sell their homes, and a big part of which is marketing the homes to the broadest audience possible. The real losers in this situation are home sellers, and the agents who represent them. If a brokerage isn’t marketing listings on Zillow, it isn’t seen across the largest real estate network in the country, or across the most popular platform of mobile real estate apps.

In December, more than 23 million unique users visited Zillow’s websites and mobile apps. On a mobile device alone, home shoppers viewed nearly 100 million homes in December via Zillow; that’s 36 homes per second on mobile! 

I think if the sellers are given the choice, they would want to see their homes on every possible platform that will contribute to getting it sold.

Jan 31, 2012 05:48 PM #98
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717,796
Brad Andersohn
Zillow - Nat'l Outreach Mgr & Dir. of Zillow Academy - Fairfield, CA
ActiveBrad 707.646.1876

BTW - I wanted to add that Greg Schwartz just posted an article regarding how Zillow works with Listing agents.  I don't want to appear as though I'm spamming here, but the post is relative. I know others will be interested in this too: http://www.zillow.com/blog/2012-02-03/how-zillow-works-with-listing-agents/ 

Feb 03, 2012 05:04 PM #99
Rainmaker
851,428
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY
Broker-Owner

Brad-mi casa su casa. always. 

Feb 03, 2012 05:21 PM #100
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