Listing syndication debate heats up

Philadelphia-based broker defends Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com

The real estate industry’s debate about listing syndication continues to heat up.

Less than a week after a San Diego-based brokerage announced via YouTube video it would no longer display its listings on third-party websites, Philadelphia-based real estate and mortgage broker Fred Glick has posted his own video rebuttal defending listing syndication.

Jim Abbott, president and managing broker of San Diego-based ARG Abbott Realty Group, last Thursday publicly announced his brokerage’s decision to stop syndicating listings to third-party websites, including Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com.

Abbott complained that the exposure listings receive on third-party sites was of little benefit to the firm’s clients. The sites "act as middlemen and post our valuable listing data alongside the contact information of other agents and brokers who rent ad space on their sites," Abbott said. 

Wednesday, Glick released his response to Abbott’s announcement in a video titled "Buyer Brokerage, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Against Dual Agency and Why They Matter." Glick is principal at real estate brokerage U S Spaces Inc., which is licensed in Pennsylvania and California.

"I believe he’s doing a disservice to his sellers, potential buyers and to the real estate community as a whole," Glick said, referring to Abbott. U S Spaces has 15 agents and covers the Philadelphia area, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. The brokerage does not compete with ARG in the San Diego area and does not plan to, Glick said.

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Glick took particular issue with Abbott urging consumers to call a property’s listing agent, who Abbott said "is the best qualified and most logical person to respond to questions from buyers and buyers’ agents."

Calling the listing agent can encourage dual agency, where the same agent or broker ends up representing both buyer and seller, while third-party sites offer other agents as alternatives, according to Glick.

"Someone who lists a property and it aggregates out to these sites and others, the idea is not to call the listing agent — it’s to call someone who will represent you and only you as a buyer broker. I’m not scared of that," Glick said.

"Is (Abbott) scared of losing the other half of the commission? Is that why? Mr. Abbott decides to say to you that the only person who’s going to know about this property and the area is the listing agent. Well, thank you Mr. Abbott, for absolutely demoralizing buyer brokers."

In responding to the video, Abbott told Inman News, that "in 2011, ARG Abbott Realty Group transactions involved a cooperating broker 96.3 percent of the time. The remaining 3.7 percent of our transactions were in-house sales where the principals were represented by two separate ARG agents."

Abbott said his video advises consumers to talk "to a licensed Realtor with experience in the area and knowledge of the specific property. My comments have nothing to do with dual agency or our desire to increase it within our office. They have everything to do with getting the correct and timely information to the homebuying public."


Philadelphia-based real estate and mortgage broker Fred Glick’s YouTube video. 

 

Glick told Inman News that he was inspired to create his video "because I’m an advocate for consumers and the ending of dual agency. I think it’s just a brutal practice."

In a court trial, Glick says in the video, "You don’t want to be represented by the same lawyer who is prosecuting you and defending you … correct? Well, you don’t want the same real estate agent representing the seller and the buyer, do you?"

His own brokerage represents both buyers and sellers and does not practice dual agency, Glick said. He suggested consumers find themselves a good buyer broker, rather than directly calling a listing agent.

"Talk to people. Talk to friends, family, co-workers. Search out the recommendations that are on Trulia and Zillow. Call the people. Interview a few of them. That’s the way you buy a house," Glick said.

Third-party sites benefit both buyers and sellers, according to Glick.

Buyers can find a good buyer broker, "maybe through Zillow or Trulia where they have agent rankings and where they tell you exactly what these people cover, who these people have dealt with in the past and have written reviews about," Glick said.

"And as a seller you absolutely want your listing aggregated on these sites," he said, adding that it costs agents nothing to post a listing to Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com.

"Why would you not want it on there? It’s more advertising, it’s reaching more people, and it just makes sense," Glick said.

Consumers already don’t trust real estate agents, and hiding information they need and want "is not the right thing," Glick said.

"Buyers want information. They’re going to find it. So why not let them do it on the sites that already have the information? Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com are probably the top three that show up when you Google real estate in your city. So let’s give the consumers what they want: transparency," he said. 

Glick said he has no financial stake in either Zillow, Trulia or Realtor.com other than being a subscriber to all three. Though he could not quantify how much business the sites have brought him, he did say the sites have both brought him leads and helped him build up a database of contacts.

Phoenix broker Jay Thompson, who admits he is "pro-syndication," also responded to Abbott’s video on his blog, the Phoenix Real Estate Guy.

"If you feel syndicators are harming consumers by making it difficult to contact listing agents, they you must, must, also keep your listings out of IDX distribution," Thompson said.

IDX — Internet Data Exchange — is the system used by participating brokers to display each other’s listings on their own websites. IDX listings are administered by multiple listing services, and can only be displayed on approved MLS, broker and agent websites.

"The exact same issue of not reaching the listing agent that seems to bother so many in syndication also exists in IDX," Thompson said.

"Trust me, we get calls and emails — seven days a week — from people searching on this very site who think we are the listing agent for the property they are viewing. Every. Day."

Thompson added that he loves IDX and "it’s the lifeblood of my prospect generation efforts," but "the same problem exists in both systems. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Pulling out of syndication but using IDX smacks of hypocrisy."

While Abbott faults third-party sites for inaccurate listing data, Thompson points out that MLS data is not completely accurate either.

"The MLS is not a sanctity of data integrity. I don’t believe the data in the MLS is as bad as it is on the syndication sites, but it’s clearly bad enough that the ‘integrity of the data’ argument is moot," Thompson said.

"And lest we forget, every major syndication site has a way to correct inaccurate data. If you aren’t correcting bad data, that is just as much your own fault as it it is the syndicators."

Abbott said third-party listing sites take listing data and its accompanying content "without compensation to the brokers, agents, photographers, and videographers who create, pay for, and own the content."

Thompson said agents are compensated — in the form of a commission check.


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