MLS CEO Cameron Paine stood up at the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR’s) midyear conference last week and asked a question that, for a moment, stunned a room of hundreds into silence: Why is realtor.com operator Move Inc. — a third-party company owned by News Corp., not NAR — pitching its products to NAR members, while Zillow and homes.com are not?

  • The National Association of Realtors says it has excluded Zillow Group from its events this year due to ongoing litigation between the two.
  • NAR declined to comment on whether its decision was consistent with a promise to have conference attendees "learn about the future of the real estate industry from the very people who are helping to shape it."
  • Thousands of agents are likely customers of both NAR and Zillow. NAR's leaders consider Zillow a competitor.

MLS CEO Cameron Paine stood up at the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR’s) midyear conference last week and asked a question that, for a moment, stunned a room of hundreds into silence:

Why is realtor.com operator Move Inc. — a third-party company owned by News Corp., not NAR — pitching its products to NAR members, while Zillow and homes.com are not?

Although not explained at the time, this is why Zillow was not presenting: Zillow Group and its companies have been banned from NAR’s 2016 events, including its Association Executives Institute, the midyear legislative conference and the annual conference in November.

February 2016 email thread between NAR and Zillow excluding Zillow from NAR 2016 events

February 2016 email thread between NAR and Zillow excluding Zillow from NAR 2016 events

“In light of the ongoing litigation, we elected not to permit Zillow to exhibit at or sponsor NAR’s meetings this year,” NAR spokeswoman Sara Wiskerchen told Inman via email.

Contrary to a rumor that Zillow’s exhibit and sponsorship funds had been returned for the midyear conference, “no funds were ever exchanged,” she said.

February 2016 email thread between NAR and Zillow excluding Zillow and Trulia from NAR's AEI event

February 2016 email thread between NAR and Zillow excluding Zillow and Trulia from NAR’s AEI event

NAR’s midyear and annual conferences each attract more than 8,000 agents, brokers and other real estate professionals each year.

NAR declined to comment on whether its decision to exclude Zillow Group from its events was consistent with a promise on its site for NAR’s annual conference to have attendees “learn about the future of the real estate industry from the very people who are helping to shape it.”

Move, which operates realtor.com on behalf of NAR, was allowed to present several times during the midyear conference.

NAR and Move are co-plaintiffs in a two-year legal battle against Zillow and Zillow executives Errol Samuelson and Curt Beardsley. The suit alleges the company and its execs misappropriated NAR and Move’s trade secrets, among other claims.

Last week a Washington state judge elected to punish Zillow executive Curt Beardsley for willful evidence destruction in the case but declined to sanction Samuelson or Zillow itself. The trial for the case starts June 6 and is projected to last until August 25.

“It’s unfortunate that NAR felt it necessary to deny our application to exhibit at their 2016 events. We look forward to seeing all of our industry partners at one of our many upcoming Zillow Group events,” Zillow Group spokeswoman Amanda Woolley said via email.

Zillow Group didn’t attend the midyear conference, but the company had an event offsite at the same time, Woolley added.

‘No. 1 competitor’

It’s no secret that NAR has increasingly viewed Zillow Group as a competitor.

Dale Stinton

Dale Stinton

In November, NAR leaders made clear — without actually naming their opponent — that a deal to offer free transaction management software to all 1 million-plus Realtors was made in part to counter what they see as encroachment from the nearly $5 billion media and technology behemoth.

“I actually have a theory that our No. 1 competitor is beginning to look more like a trade association than a business,” NAR CEO Dale Stinton told state association executives at the time.

“The difference is they are asking people for a lot more money than we are.”

“The listings battle has shifted to the transaction,” Stinton added. “We all have to be moving forward in the same direction or they’re going to get us.”

Zillow counts over 92,000 agents as advertisers. Given the company’s focus on “super agents,” many, if not most, are likely to be members of NAR. Zillow Group websites now account for 64 percent of the online real estate market share, according to comScore’s latest report. Realtor.com’s traffic spiked 25 percent year-over-year and it remained the second most popular site after Zillow.

Source: comScore and Zillow Group

Source: comScore and Zillow Group

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