Realtor.com may be the official consumer website of the National Association of Realtors, but rival search portals Zillow and Trulia have improved their value proposition to listing agents and brokers to the point “where many Realtors and MLSs feel they now offer more ‘friendly’ terms than realtor.com does.”
That’s according to a new listing syndication report from real estate consulting firm Clareity Consulting, which outlines steps that Zillow, Trulia and Homes.com have taken in the last two years to help persuade brokers and multiple listing services to provide the sites with direct feeds.
Realtor.com operator Move Inc. has touted the direct relationships it has with more than 800 MLSs that provide direct feeds to the site. Direct MLS feeds mean realtor.com listings are more accurate, comprehensive and fresh than those on competiting sites, Move and NAR suggest in an ongoing joint national advertising campaign.
But many of the advantages over other sites that realtor.com has provided to brokers and agents over the years have eroded, the report said. Move operates realtor.com under the terms of an agreement with NAR that dates to 1996.
When MLSs and brokers provide direct listing feeds, Zillow and Trulia now prominently display the contact information of listing agents, don’t charge them for leads on their own listings, provide links to the broker’s site, and display broker or MLS branding.
Homes.com, while not one of the “Big Three” portals in terms of traffic, has also provided a solid “exchange of value” with its MLS and broker partnerships, the report said, offering agents free software and tools in exchange for listing data.
Zillow and Trulia have made industry-friendly changes
|Listing detail page attributes on non-enhanced listings sourced from a direct broker or MLS feed||Zillow||Trulia||realtor.com|
|Listing agent displayed high on page||Yes||Yes||No|
|Charge listing agents for leads off listings?||No||No||Yes*|
|Broker info shown high up||No||Yes||No|
|Free link to broker site?||Yes||Yes||No|
|Displays automatic home valuation estimates on for-sale listings||Yes||No||No|
|Update frequency||15 minutes||8 minutes||15 minutes|
Sources: Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com. * Agents or brokerages can pay to receive leads from realtor.com listings with the Showcase Listing Enhancements program.
Zillow receives the listing directly from JBGoodwin Realtors under the Zillow Pro for Brokers program; Trulia receives the listing directly from JBGoodwin on an opt-in basis from the MLS in Austin, Austin/Central Texas Realty Information Service (ACTRIS); and realtor.com receives the listing via an ACTRIS feed on an opt-out basis.
As it does with all listings it receives through a direct broker feed, Zillow labels the listing agent, Chuck Jenner, and places him before other agents advertising on the listing.
The listing also includes the broker’s name, contact info and a link to the listing on the broker’s site toward the bottom of the page.
For listings it receives through a direct feed, Zillow places the listing agent prominently next to the listing and doesn’t preselect an agent to receive a lead. It provides a link to the brokerage, a logo (if part of a compatible feed) and contact info further down the page.
In addition, Zillow leaves all of the checkboxes next to the agents advertising on the listing unchecked, meaning that a consumer has to actively choose an agent to contact. On listings from other sources, an agent other than the listing agent would receive the lead by default.
(All listing agents can be placed at the top on their Zillow listings — regardless of whether they arrive via a direct feed or not — if they fill out a free Zillow profile, Zillow spokeswoman Amanda Woolley told Inman News.)
Zillow also places the MLS or broker logo in an information box toward the bottom of the page when direct-feed partners send their feed through channels that accommodate that, Woolley said.
On each listing it receives as a part of a direct feed like the one above, Trulia labels the broker, provides a link to the listing on the broker’s website and provides the listing agent’s name just below the listing description, provided it was included in the feed.
For listings it receives through a direct feed, Trulia labels the broker, the MLS (if applicable) and the listing agent below the property description high up on the page. It also provides a link to the broker’s website.
On listings received through an MLS feed, Trulia notes the MLS as the source.
Like Zillow, Trulia prominently displays the listing agent’s contact info next to the photo well on the property detail page at no charge, labeling them as the “listing agent” when it can verify that information, whether it gets the listing through a direct feed or not.
Trulia places the listing agent second on the list of agents, unlike Zillow, which displays the listing agent on top.
Trulia verifies listing agents when they “claim” their listing on the portal and have a Trulia profile.
Trulia also will incorporate the listing agent automatically in the agent contact section if it receives a direct roster feed through the agent’s brokerage, franchisor or MLS that allows Trulia to create profiles for the agents in the feed, Trulia spokesman Matt Flegal said.
In the sample listing above, Jenner is not included in the agent contact section because he had not claimed his listing on Trulia and is not part of a roster feed, Flegal said. (Jenner has since claimed the listing, and now shows up in the second slot on the agent contact list and labeled as the “listing agent.”)
On the realtor.com listing, Jenner is identified at the bottom of the page with a link to his realtor.com profile along with his broker’s name and phone number. Consumers have access to Jenner’s phone number from his realtor.com profile.
Though a lead form that directs consumers to a competing agent sits next to the listing, it is not branded to a competing agent or brokerage. Realtor.com does not run the unbranded “Connection for Co-Brokerage” lead forms next to listings that have been “enhanced” with paid upgrades, and brokerages can also prevent the lead forms from appearing next to their listings if they are willing to pass up free perks like extra photos.
However, the listing includes no link to the listing broker, no logo and no opportunity for Jenner to show up higher on the page unless he pays to advertise.
Realtor.com notes the listing agent and broker toward the bottom of the listing detail page on unenhanced listings it gets through a direct feed.
Each site offers a paid ad product for agents or brokerages to prominently brand their listings with links, logos, contact info and photos, and exclude ads from competitors.
At the end of the first quarter, 42 percent of realtor.com’s listings were part of its exclusive ad program, Showcase Listing Enhancements, Move Chief Financial Officer Rachel Glaser told investors on the firm’s first-quarter earnings call.
Zillow and Trulia haven’t revealed what percentage of their listings are similarly advertised.
Of the three, Jenner prefers the way he shows up on Zillow and Trulia over realtor.com.
Even with competing agents’ photos and contact info prominently displayed on Zillow and Trulia’s listing pages, the fact that he’s labeled as the listing agent with his name, photo and phone number high up on the pages leads Jenner to prefer those layouts over realtor.com’s.
“People aren’t going to search that far down the page (on realtor.com),” Jenner said. He suspects that consumers will be on to the next listing or contact another agent before scrolling down, he said.
After being contacted by Inman News for this story, Jenner claimed his Trulia profile and now shows up as the listing agent in the agent contact list accompanying his listing on the site.
Homes.com is alone among the most popular portals in never allowing competing agents to advertise on listings.
All Homes.com listings prominently include the name and contact info of the listing agent and broker, and leads go directly to the listing agent at no cost, said Andy Woolley, general manager of Homes.com.
See the way the above listing shows up on Homes.com here.
“We have a big emphasis on clear attribution to the listing firm and no confusing advertising,” Woolley said.
(See the same JBGoodwin listing on Redfin. Redfin, as a broker in Austin, Texas, receives an Internet Data Exchange (IDX) feed, MLS-sourced listings that all participating brokers in a market are allowed to display. Jenner and JBGoodwin are credited below the listing description on the IDX-sourced listing. However, there’s no link to JBGoodwin’s site and no easy way for the consumer to contact the listing agent.)