The real estate listing broker has the most to gain and the most to lose through open online access to property information and must do due diligence when considering a business relationship with a search company, according to a white paper released Tuesday.

The white paper, produced by Trulia.com, an online home-search site for consumers, includes a list of questions brokers should ask when considering such a relationship, including “What is the search company’s business and revenue model?”

According to the paper, search companies are fast becoming the initial stage in the real estate research process, and are beneficial for consumers and brokers, a conclusion that is congruent with an earlier report, Borrell Associates’ “2006 Local Search Advertising.” That report noted that paid search ads for individual local real estate agents account for nearly 50 percent of listings on keyword searches.

While search services are beneficial, the technology they use to index information poses potential risks for real estate brokerage firms without a sound search marketing strategy in place, the white paper said.

According to the white paper, having a public Web site with listing information “does not necessarily imply the loss of control over one’s data” because brokers “can and should decide which search firms they will work with and provide access to their property listing data.”

According to the paper, when consumers search for home property information online, major brokers appear in search-engine results together with everything from small upstarts to lead referral services, all with access to most or all of the listings.

“What’s important to learn from this scenario is that not all search engines are created equal, and brokers must perform their due diligence to understand where the real opportunities lie within online search,” the paper said.

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