MLS & Associations

Zillow balks at taking ‘intentionally degraded’ listings from MLS

Nashville-area MLS says portal has warned it will stop accepting RealTracs listings next week

Learn the New Luxury Playbook at Luxury Connect | October 18-19 at the Beverly Hills Hotel

A Nashville-area multiple listing service says it’s been told by Zillow that the search portal doesn’t want the stripped-down listing feed that the MLS plans to start providing to all public portals later this month.

RealTracs Solutions CEO Stuart White says Zillow has informed the MLS that it will no longer accept its listings, starting next week.

The nearly 10,000-member Brentwood, Tennessee-based MLS recently announced that, starting later this month, it would limit the information included in direct data feeds it sends to public portals, including realtor.com. The MLS also said it was in negotiations with listing syndicator ListHub to limit third-party portals’ display of listing data, Zillow and Trulia among them.

Now, White says Zillow has informed him it would reject any data feed that did not have complete data and would therefore terminate the feeds of RealTracs listings it receives from listing syndicators ListHub and Point2 on Sept. 23. Zillow is the most highly trafficked real estate portal on the Web with 46 million unique visitors via desktop and mobiles devices in June, according to comScore.

“They will do whatever they want to do. Our priority at this point is to get our agreement with ListHub in place. I basically told (Zillow) if you want to turn off the data feed on the 23rd, that’s up to you. We’re fine,” White said.

The changes RealTracs plans to implement include a four-photo limit; the elimination of several data fields; listing descriptions will be restricted to 150 characters; and public portals will be required to include a link to the listing detail page on the listing broker’s website. The MLS’s goal is to drive more traffic to listing brokerage sites.

3 essential tools that will 10X your real estate marketing
Smart landing pages, a synchronized database and automation generate results READ MORE

Katie Curnutte, Zillow’s senior director of communications, declined to confirm the Sept. 23 termination date.

“Generally, we do not accept feeds of intentionally degraded listings, which harm agents and home sellers. We are in conversations with RealTracs, but the specifics of those conversations will remain between us,” she said.

Whether Zillow can refuse listings from RealTracs under its agreements with ListHub and Point2 is unclear. Move Inc., which owns ListHub, Point2’s listing syndication arm, and realtor.com, did not respond to a request for comment on this question by publication time.

Move declined to comment on RealTracs’ decision to limit listing data to realtor.com, saying it had yet to receive any direct contact from the MLS about any changes.

White said RealTracs had contacted realtor.com via a support email it has on file for any data changes.

When asked whether Trulia would continue to take RealTracs listings, Trulia’s vice president of industry services, Alon Chaver, said, “We respect the choices MLSs make to serve their brokers and will continue to engage with RealTracs. We don’t have any plans to change our current arrangement with them.”

Both Zillow and Trulia have contacted RealTracs about obtaining direct data feeds, White said.

“They (Zillow) are willing to talk with us about a direct data feed contract with ‘some’ stipulations that meet our brokers’ needs, but no guarantees on what that means,” White said.

He said sending them direct data feeds is not out of the question, “but that will take months to get it figured out.”

White said Zillow had pointed out that many large brokers send their own direct feeds to the portal with full listing information, potentially putting RealTracs’ smaller brokers at a disadvantage.

So far, White said smaller brokers who have reached out to him about the decision to limit data haven’t questioned it. But RealTracs is working with ListHub to give brokers the option of sending full information on their own listings should they wish to.

Earlier this year, the Combined Los Angeles/Westside MLS tried altering its data feeds to public portals in a different way, becoming the first MLS in the country to delay its syndication feeds by 48 hours.

But that experiment was short-lived, because the majority of the MLS’s brokers decided to send their listings to Zillow and Trulia through their own direct feeds. CLAW has since signed an agreement to provide a direct feed to Trulia.

Zillow said its general rule against accepting intentionally degraded listings has been its policy “for some time” and applied to the delayed listings CLAW sent as well.

Still, CLAW CEO Annie Ives said the move to delay was worth it. “Now Trulia and Zillow provide more free member benefits because they don’t take the MLS and the broker and the agent for granted,” she said.

Industry opinions about offering limited listing data in syndication feeds have been mixed. After Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman advocated the strategy in a guest piece, an Inman News poll found that 70 percent of 635 reader respondents were against adopting Kelman’s recommendations.

In another survey by stock analysis firm PAA Research, 49 percent of 400 agents surveyed said brokers should offer limited information in syndicated listings with a link back to the broker’s site. Just over a fifth of respondents, 21.4 percent, said brokers should end syndication of listings to aggregators, and 7.6 percent said brokers should delay syndication of listings to aggregators. Only 21.9 percent said the system worked fine as is.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with a comment from Trulia.