Listing syndicator ListHub has instituted a policy of restricting the use of listings in agent tools including mobile apps designed for real estate agents, a policy it is implementing as it signs new syndication agreements with Trulia and other third-party listing portals.
Beginning next month, Trulia’s agent iPhone and Android apps will no longer be allowed to display ListHub-sourced listings. The change is required under the terms of a new syndication agreement between Trulia and ListHub’s parent company, Move Inc., announced by the companies in July.
ListHub-sourced listings will still show up on Trulia’s consumer mobile apps, said Matt Dollinger, head of industry relations at Trulia.
The changes are part of new policies ListHub has been implementing over the last couple of years, said Luke Glass, ListHub’s general manager. All new syndication agreements between ListHub and listings portals will have them, he said.
Glass would not comment on whether Zillow’s current long-term syndication agreement with ListHub, announced in April 2011, had the same provisions. But Glass said these ListHub policies are now consistent and present in all contracts the company signs, and have been for a year or more.
After years of polling listing providers, which now comprise 47,000 brokers and 420 MLSs, Glass said ListHub found a "consistent theme." Listing providers wanted their information available to consumers, but many objected to other uses like productivity tools for agents, a category that Trulia’s agent apps fall into.
Trulia notified its broker clients in an email this week of the provisions of the new ListHub syndication agreement, including the restrictions on ListHub-sourced listings on Trulia agent apps.
As of Wednesday, Aug. 22, the notice said, the syndication agreement also stipulates that agents will no longer be allowed to edit their listings directly on Trulia. Those changes will have to be made by the agents to their listings on their primary database.
The notice also said broker listings sent as a direct feed to Trulia would trump all other data sources. In all other cases, it noted, ListHub-sourced listing data would take priority.
Some brokers have pulled listings from third-party sites in recent months, citing problems with inaccurate or duplicate listings, and advertisements and lead forms for other companies’ buyer’s agents that sometimes appear on listing detail pages.
In late July, Trulia follwed Zillow’s example in offering brokers incentives for listings like expanded listing detail pages, viewing metrics, and direct broker and listing agent branding on listings. The incentives Trulia offers brokers are not restricted to those that syndicate directly with Trulia, a spokesperson for the company said.
Greg Robertston, co-founder of real estate software company W & R Studios, sees the notice Trulia sent to brokers as a play to obtain listings directly from brokers, bypassing ListHub.
Trulia’s notice advises brokers to inquire about information on how to send a direct feed to Trulia, and invites them to "contact us to discuss … how we can minimize the impact to your brokerage and any confusion for your agents" arising from the new syndication agreement.
"One thing is clear, ListHub has both Trulia and Zillow by the short hairs," Robertson wrote on his blog, Vendor Alley. "In Trulia’s latest communication they ever so subtlety suggest to their broker clients that instead of using Listhub they can send feed directly to them instead. You don’t ask, you don’t get, I guess."
The provision that restricts the display of ListHub’s listings on Trulia’s agent apps does not affect Move’s subsidiary, Realtor.com, a competitor of Zillow and Trulia.
Realtor.com, which plans to release a free agent-branded mobile app this fall, is operated by Move under an agreement with the National Association of Realtors, and receives listings directly from nearly all of the nation’s more than 900 MLSs. Third-party portals like Zillow and Trulia rely heavily on syndicators like ListHub and Point2 to aggregate listing data from brokers.
When Move acquired ListHub in 2010, some real estate industry leaders expressed concern about whether ListHub would continue to treat all third-party listing portals equally.
In an S-1 registration statement filed last week with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in preparation for an initial public offering, Trulia noted its dependence on an unnamed listing aggregator.
"We currently depend on a listing aggregator to provide us with a substantial portion of the unique listings in our database," the company disclosed to investors. "While these listings are available from their original sources, it would take substantial time and effort for us to aggregate these listings from all of the original sources."
If Trulia’s agreement with its largest listing aggregator is terminated, "we may not be able to fully replace the listings in a timely manner or on terms favorable to us, or at all, which would adversely affect our business and operating results," the company warned.