Popular real estate search and valuation portal Zillow is launching a program designed to improve listing data accuracy on its site through what it says will be mutually beneficial partnerships with brokers and multiple listing services.

"Zillow is committed to partnering with MLSs and brokers to get reliable and timely information to its more than 32 million unique users each month," said Bob Bemis, Zillow’s vice president of industry relations, in a statement.

"We have a common goal to provide accurate listings for the benefit of agents and consumers."

Zillow recently hired Bemis and Phoenix-based broker and blogger Jay Thompson as part of its partner outreach team in an effort to improve its relations with brokers and MLSs.

Under the Zillow Partnership Platform (ZPP), Zillow makes several pledges toward giving brokers and MLSs greater control over how Zillow displays listing information. These include:

  • Always showing the listing agent and listing brokerage adjacent to their listings and including contact information and links to broker, agent or MLS websites free of charge. Agents who sign up for a free Zillow profile receive prominent placement on their listings. In addition, the name of the data provider will always be displayed or immediately available upon request, Zillow said. Providers can also ask to have their name link back to their contact information.
  • All parties will be clearly identified, including listing agents, buyer’s agents, Zillow Premier Agents who buy advertising on the site, and property advertisements.
  • Zillow will never resyndicate, redistribute or sublicense listings for display on other sites without express written consent. This does not include Yahoo Real Estate, with whom Zillow has an exclusive advertising partnership. Zillow provides for-sale listings to Yahoo Real Estate and sells ads featuring real estate brokers and agents that appear on both sites.
  • Zillow will also take steps to stop scraping and misuse of listing data and monitor traffic to its network. Suspect sites will be cut off from access to Zillow.
  • Broker and MLS feeds will override all others.

"In the current environment, Zillow must resolve discrepancies among a myriad of data sources by removing duplicates and deciding the trump order of listings, which consumes considerable resources for everyone involved," Zillow said in a document explaining the program to brokers and MLSs.

"ZPP is a clear solution that supports the business objectives of each party by receiving listing data from the source closest to the origin."

In the document, Zillow emphasized that brokers and MLSs must "work together" to clean up listing data on Zillow.

"The MLSs serve a critical, but often undervalued, function of compliance and rules enforcement, which results in the best listing data available anywhere. But the impact of that data is lost if it is not delivered in a timely manner to the destinations consumers value most," the company said.

"Frankly, real estate agents and consumers expect Zillow and the brokers (and) MLSs to work together to improve the supply chain. ZPP strives to purge stale data, while entrusting the final decision of where to publish listing information to the broker."

Zillow also pledged:

  • To remove or correct listings with the wrong status or inaccurate information within one business day of receiving notice. Partner brokers and MLSs will have a direct phone number and dedicated email address to flag a listing for immediate review, Zillow said, and listings will not be reposted unless verified by the source broker or MLS. Listings will be updated at least once a day and as frequently as every five minutes.
  • To honor all intellectual property rights. The company will also honor any broker’s decision to opt out of sending listing data to Zillow.
  • To share traffic statistics on listing pages to the data feed provider.
  • To restrict agents to advertising or claiming only those listings they have a legal right to claim. Listing "piracy" is uncommon on the site, according to Zillow, but not unheard of. Earlier this year, two Orange County, Calif., real estate professionals reported that their listings on Zillow had been wrongfully claimed by other agents.
  • Not use listing data delivered to one Zillow business in support of any other Zillow business without express written consent of the provider. Zillow specifically refers to data fed to its subsidiary Diverse Solutions for use in agent websites that provide Internet Data Exchange (IDX) listings. Similarly, data licensed to Zillow for display on the Zillow portal will not be used by Diverse Solutions without permission, Zillow said.

Two MLSs dropped Diverse Solutions as a provider of IDX listings for their members’ websites after Zillow acquired the company in November. The Santa Barbara Association of Realtors, which owns the Santa Barbara MLS, cited "concerns of misuse of our data" in ending its relationship with Diverse Solutions, and said "Zillow is not a friend to organized real estate." Diverse Solutions maintained that it "does not share data with Zillow without MLS authorization."

Each partner MLS or broker participating in the ZPP program will be assigned a dedicated account executive. As of today, the program applies to all renewal and future MLS and broker contracts, Zillow said.

"The objective of ZPP is to create a strong contractual relationship with each partner (broker or MLS), grounded in transparency and accountability, to build a foundation of mutual respect and trust through a long-term relationship that results in increasing value for all parties," the company said.

"Zillow is prepared to make commitments to its partners in writing as defined in the data license/contract."

Zillow and other third-party listing portals, including Trulia and Realtor.com, have come under fire from some brokers in recent months over both listing inaccuracy and ads and lead forms for competing agents that sometimes appear next to listings on the sites.

A few brokers have decided to stop providing listings altogether to third-party sites not affiliated with a multiple listing service or Realtor association. HomeServices of America Inc. subsidiary Edina Realty announced in November that it would pull its listings from third-party real estate search sites, though the brokerage has continued to provide listings to Realtor.com, and last month was still in negotiations with the site’s operator, Move Inc.

San Diego-based broker ARG Abbott Realty Group made a similar announcement in January and, earlier this month, Austin, Texas-based brokerage the GoodLife Team stopped syndicating its listings to Trulia and canceled its advertising on the site because the firm objected to ads for competing agents appearing next to their premium listings.

Trulia has since revamped its broker offerings and in the coming weeks will remove any display advertising for competing agents from featured listings. The revamp is part of what Trulia CEO Pete Flint said was a "major investment" in the interests of brokers and a recognition that Trulia needs "to partner with the industry to be successful."

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