SAN FRANCISCO — The battle over whether brokers and agents should syndicate listings to portals owned by third parties like Zillow and Trulia was decided long ago, said a top executive with one of the two companies that handle most listing syndication.
"Distribution trumps destination," said Saul Klein, vice president of Point2, during a panel moderated by Inman News founder and Publisher Bradley Inman at the Real Estate Connect conference.
The issues that remain, Klein said, revolve around brokers and agents feeling that others are building commerce around their data — something each company represented on stage does in different ways, Inman added.
Also participating on the panel were Spencer Rascoff, CEO of real estate search portal Zillow; Errol Samuelson, president of Realtor.com; Luke Glass, general manager of syndication publishing platform ListHub; and Mark McLaughlin, CEO of Pacific Union International.
ListHub, which acts as a middleman by taking listings from MLSs and brokers and distributing them to numerous websites, is continually focused on providing value to its clients because it has no long-term syndication commitments, Glass said. That value includes page views for listings and listing-traffic data ListHub analyzes and provides to its clients, he said.
Edina Realty, a large Minnesota-based brokerage, has pulled listings from third-party websites, citing innacuracies in the presentation of listing data and ads and lead forms for other companies’ agents that sometimes appear alongside of listings (Realtor.com gets listings directly from MLSs, and Edina said accuracy of listing data was not a factor in withholding listings from the site).
While a few other brokers have publicized decisions to pull listings from third-party sites, syndicators and the third-party portals say the number of brokers who syndicate listings continues to grow.
McLaughlin said that despite having some of the same concerns cited by Edina Realty, he decided to keep syndicating to Zillow because Pacific Union International’s listings "get eyeballs from geographies I can’t afford to reach."
However, McLaughlin had some pointed comments for Rascoff and Zillow, with whom he’s been in talks with for six months about syndication concerns over ads sold against his company’s listings. Don’t use real estate professionals to be the economic engine of your company, he said to Rascoff and Samuelson.
Realtor.com has tried to address broker and agent concerns about the lead forms that sometimes appear next to listings on the site by providing perks for those who allow the ads, and allowing those who object to them to opt out.
Zillow has made changes to address one common complaint from real estate professionals, Rascoff said: The listing agent’s information is not buried as it had been previously on the site.
However, one agent who spoke when the panel took questions from the audience said listings still show up on Zillow that are inaccurate.
"It makes Zillow look ridiculous to a home shopper," Rascoff said of instances where out-of-date listings appear on the site. "We hate it."
"Is that something you support?" said Samuelson to Rascoff in a charged moment during the panel between the leaders of two of the most visited real estate-related websites. Samuelson was referring to Zillow’s acceptance of listings on its site from sources other than MLSs and brokers, the only entities that "own" a listing, according to Samuelson.
Rascoff, quickly taking the microphone he and Samuelson shared, responded, "Ask the seller who owns the listing. I’m pretty sure you’ll hear from them that they do," he said.
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