Brokerage

Allen Tate Realtors pulling listings from Zillow, Trulia and doubling down on realtor.com

Zillow and Trulia are top real estate search portals in Charlotte market

Allen Tate Realtors is pulling all of its listings — approximately 10,000 — from Zillow and Trulia, and doubling down on its presence on realtor.com by paying to spotlight its listings there through the portal’s Showcase Listing Enhancements ad program.

Like a handful of other regional brokerages that have stopped sending listings to Zillow and Trulia, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based firm cited concerns with the accuracy of listing information displayed on the sites.

“After hearing enough noise from our agents and clients (about problems arising from inaccurate data), we decided to make the move,” Allen Tate Realtors President and Chief Operating Officer Pat Riley told Inman News. The firm had provided the portals with feeds “from the beginning,” he said.

Accuracy issues weren’t the only reason Allen Tate Realtors gave for pulling its listings from the two portals.

The brokerage, which has close to 1,500 agents in 40 offices throughout the Carolinas, also cited a distaste for Zillow and Trulia’s resyndication practices and ads for buyer’s agents with competing brokers that the websites run alongside of listings.

Riley questioned the practice of sending consumers to “another agent on a listing that hasn’t necessarily seen the property.”

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(Realtor.com also runs lead forms that generate business for buyer’s agents, but the ads are unbranded and listing brokers can elect to block them from appearing next to their listings. Brokers who allow “Connection for Co-Brokerage” lead forms to appear next to listings they represent get free perks, like additional photos, in exchange.)

Allen Tate Realtors’ agents can still put their listings on Zillow after presenting sellers the pros and cons of listing their homes on the two portals, Riley said. Agents cheered the decision when the brokerage announced it in-house last Tuesday, he said.

Ranked by Real Trends as the 21st-largest brokerage in the U.S. by 2013 dollar volume, Allen Tate Realtors is also doubling down on its realtor.com presence by paying to enhance its listings on the site.

The realtor.com program will give Allen Tate Realtors’ agents branding and links back to their sites on all their listings on the portal. The brokerage will also get its logo and links back to its website on all its listings.

“(Allen Tate Realtors’ decision to pull its listings from Zillow) is a real disservice to their clients and their agents,” said Katie Curnutte, Zillow’s director of communications.

“By pulling for-sale listings off the most popular real estate site and set of mobile apps in Charlotte, the brokerage is severely limiting the audience of potential homebuyers who are seeing these listings and are able to easily connect with an Allen Tate agent,” Curnutte said.

Without its for-sale homes on Zillow and Trulia, consumers won’t be able to find Allen Tate Realtors’ listings on the two most popular websites in the Charlotte metro area. Zillow and Trulia attracted an average of 350,000 and 187,000 unique visitors, respectively, to their networks from desktop computers in the three months through August, according to analytics firm comScore.

Total unique visitors to Allen Tate Realtors’ website didn’t meet comScore’s minimum threshold for reporting in the Charlotte metro.

Unique visitors from desktop computers to real estate sites in the Charlotte, North Carolina, demographic market area, August 2014

Network Number of unique visitors from desktop computers in August 2014*
Zillow Network** 350,000
Trulia Network^ 187,000
Move Inc. network (realtor.com) 138,000
Homes.com network^^ 61,000

Source: comScore. *Average for the three months through August 2014 **Includes traffic to Yahoo Homes ^Includes traffic to RentPath Inc. sites ^^Includes traffic to ForRent.com 

But that loss of potential exposure doesn’t bother Riley, who says that inaccurate listing data on the portals created a headache for his agents and their clients.

Unlike Zillow and Trulia, realtor.com gets a vast majority of its listings through direct feeds from more than 800 multiple listing services across the U.S., giving it a more complete and fresher listing database than its third-party competitors in some markets.

Zillow and Trulia, on the other hand, get listings from a variety of sources, including brokerages, agents, franchisors, MLSs and syndication platforms, which can result in duplicate listings, inaccurate for-sale statuses and other flawed data in some markets.

For Riley, the distinction between realtor.com on the one hand and Zillow and Trulia on the other has to do with both accuracy and his perception that “realtor.com is still playing by the rules.” If realtor.com — which is set to be acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp — changes its strategy in ways the brokerage doesn’t like, Riley says his firm will consider ending its feed to the portal, too.

Reps for Zillow and Trulia said that Allen Tate Realtors had not reached out to them ahead of the brokerage’s decision to pull its listings from their respective sites. Zillow and Trulia say they do not resyndicate data to sites they have not established partnerships with.

For example, listings sent to Zillow also show up on the portal’s partner sites, including Yahoo Homes, HGTV, MSN Real Estate, AOL Real Estate, but not to others, said Zillow spokeswoman Amanda Woolley. That exposure is seen as good for sellers, who benefit from having more potential buyers learn that a home is on the market.

Both Zillow and Trulia have been working to address accuracy issues by securing direct feeds from brokers and MLSs across the U.S.

Setting up direct feeds would solve Allen Tate Realtors’ accuracy concerns, representatives of the two portals said.

“Direct feeds enable us to make updates as often as every eight minutes, or 180 times per day, ensuring the highest quality and most accurate listings data,” said Alon Chaver, Trulia’s vice president of industry services.

Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota-based Edina Realty, the most prominent advocate of withholding listings from portals, reversed its stance on Tuesday. It now provides Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com with a direct feed of roughly 9,500 listings.

With the added perks of improved agent and broker attribution and branding on the portals, including linkbacks to the brokerage’s website, Edina Realty tapped Zillow and Trulia’s broker direct-feed programs to improve the accuracy issues of its listings on those sites, Edina Realty CEO Greg Mason told Inman News.

Zillow and Trulia have worked to make the agent ads that show up next to unadvertised listings more palatable to the industry. Listing agents are now displayed next to their listings for free when agents claim them or when they identified as part of a feed.

Realtor.com also sends leads to competing agents on unadvertised listings, but competing agents’ branding doesn’t show up on a listing as it does on Zillow and Trulia.

Zillow and Trulia’s listing databases have a few regional dents

Allen Tate Realtors’ decision will put a dent in the listing databases of Zillow and Trulia in the markets where Allen Tate Realtors has listings, including Charlotte, where the brokerage is the clear market leader.

In that, it mirrors the decisions of other large regional brokerages who have recently made the move to cut their feeds to Zillow and Trulia in places where they have market dominance, including Memphis, Tennessee-based Crye-Leike Realtors in January and three markets in Arkansas in June.

By watching its performance closely in those four markets and seeing no ill effects of its decision, Crye-Leike is set to expand its Trulia-Zillow blackout zone to Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday, Crye-Leike Executive Vice President Steve Brown told Inman News.

Markets where large brokerages have stopped sending their listings to Zillow and Trulia

Market Brokerage Approximate number of listings pulled from Zillow and Trulia Date pulled
Kansas City, Missouri Better Homes and Gardens Kansas City Homes 1,500 listings June 2012
Rochester, New York Nothnagle Realtors 2,400 listings November 2012
Memphis, Tennessee Crye-Leike Realtors 3,000 listings January 2014
Little Rock, Jonesboro and Hot Springs, Arkansas Crye-Leike Realtors 3,000 listings June 2014
Cincinnati Sibcy Cline Realtors 5,000 listings Never syndicated to
Pittsburgh Northwood Realty Services 2.700 listings (just Zillow) September 2014

Sources: Inman News, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Kansas City Homes, Sibcy Cline Realtors. 

Many other firms are going all in on syndication with third-party portals, either by advertising with them — as Howard Hanna Real Estate Services does on Zillow and realtor.com — or sending them direct feeds through their broker programs, like Edina Realty does today.

Northwood Realtors, a large Pittsburgh-area brokerage that pulled its approximate 2,700 listings from Zillow in September, cited inaccuracies in Zillow’s automated home value estimates, known as Zestimates, as another factor. Riley said Zestimates also influenced Allen Tate Realtors’ decision to pull its listings (Trulia and realtor.com display automated home valuations with homes that are not on the market, but not alongside of active listings, which can irk sellers).

“Zestimates make for a dysfunctional marketplace,” Riley said.

Howard Hanna had issues with Zestimates as well, but by sending Zillow its data, they have become more accurate, Howard Hanna President Helen Hanna Casey told Inman News. Howard Hanna blocks agents from other firms from advertising on its Zillow listings in its marketing agreement with Zillow, which was established in February 2012 and renewed this summer, she said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that Howard Hanna Real Estate Services provides information to Zillow to help improve the accuracy of “Zestimates” that appear next to its listings. Howard Hanna does not prevent Zesimates from appearing next to its listings.