The real estate data wars are softening.

Plenty of progressive brokers and agents out there are getting serious about their online customer acquisition strategies, and that includes expanding where their listings appear on the Web. They may be cautious in their decisions to partner with online companies, but they’re not sitting with their heads in the sand either.

Brokers today have many choices for marketing property listings on the Internet. In stark contrast to the old dot-com days where brokers fought tooth and nail to keep their listings off third-party sites, more today are willing to send their data out to other online services.

The increasing number of broker partnerships with Trulia is one example of this. The real estate search site this week announced a new marketing partnership with Keller Williams Realty. The agreement gives Trulia the ability to index thousands of property listings in its searches, while 77,000 Keller Williams brokers and agents get free exposure for these listings. It follows other notable partnerships with Realty Executives and Help-U-Sell, to name a few.

Trulia’s latest deal is another example of new entrants gaining traction with the real estate industry — Zillow with users, listings, API and advertisers; Trulia with broker listing feeds; and Google with more and more data from the industry. Google has also amassed partnerships with big brokerage companies like Real Living and Prudential CA/TX/NV Realty for data to appear in Google Base real estate searches. Google also nailed a data-sharing partnership with Houston MLS.

The real estate industry’s embrace of new online innovators is a striking and fresh departure from earlier attempts to get broker cooperation on data sharing.

There are a number of reasons this is happening:

1. The housing market has slowed and shifted from a seller’s to a buyer’s market in many areas of the country. Sites like Zillow, Trulia and Google offer free services to brokers and agents who are on the hunt for ways to market property listings that do not have an immediate cost. All of these sites offer free listings exposure.

2. The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission — right or wrong in their actions — have put anyone in the industry who might engage in anticompetitive behavior on red alert.

3. This new crop of innovators has taken a very nonconfrontational approach to getting the industry to cooperate. They all seem to wear this innocent, “awe shucks” smile that goes a lot further that some of the more confrontational strategies taken by others in the past.

4. Many brokers are looking for free alternatives to and online lead models.

Of course, no one — including industry leadership — can stop individual Realtors from adopting new things. That is why HomeGain, HouseValues and others were successful. They are not guided by what is deemed politically correct by leadership; they just instantly migrate to the opportunity.

We expect to see a lot more data sharing this year.


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