You may know by now that Zillow has closed on its acquisition of Trulia, without so much as a blink from the US Department of Justice. You may also know that uniform listing feeds — aka House Porn — to Zillow from all 810 MLS in this country ends April 7, when the age-old agreement Zillow has in place with ListHub expires. ListHub is the company that syndicates real estate listings and feeds for more than 50,000 brokerages, and over 500 MLSs, in the US. These listings are then channeled to third-party publisher websites, like Zillow, Trulia and others.
But this is where it all gets kind of fuzzy and gives the average consumer a headache. ListHub is a subsidiary of Move.com, which was owned by Realtor.com, which is basically every dues paying Realtor in the U.S. So ListHub, kind of owned by Realtors, gives (soon, gave) the listings to the portals like Zillow, who then turns and sells ads on these sites to agents. I mean, advertising is Zulia’s chief form of revenue. Kinda crazy.
According to my sources in the industry, it was Zillow who ended the ListHub contract as the two companies could not come to terms. At Inman last month in New York City, industry experts said it’s no big deal for the megaportal: Zillow will now go directly to the MLS and their listings will be even fresher. No more of this $512,838 zestimate for Champ D’Or stuff.
Well by golly it happened in Texas lickety split. The 24,000 Realtor strong North Texas Real Estate Systems has agreed to a direct agreement with Zillow to keep the North Texas listings flowing their way.
The Board of Directors of the North Texas Real Estate Information Systems, Inc. has approved an agreement with Zillow to provide a direct feed of MLS Listing data. NTREIS Listing content is currently provided to Zillow through a third party syndication partner and various direct feeds from Brokers. In light of upcoming changes to the syndication agreement, NTREIS Participants that wish to send listings to Zillow would be required to find an alternate means of delivery. By approving a direct agreement, the NTREIS Directors have ensured that marketing of North Texas listings for sale will not be interrupted. Brokers and their sellers who do not wish to participate in distribution of content to Zillow or other syndication sites continue to have the ability to opt out. There are a number of websites in addition to Broker owned sites that market listing content to consumers and NTREIS will continue to provide the technology to deliver such content in accordance with the wishes of property owners and their representatives.
Now the important thing is that brokers and home sellers who DO NOT want their homes/listings to appear on Zulia or other can opt out of this agreement. It is unlikely many will do so because Zulia has tremendous web traffic. And as one agent told me, your clients, who are getting more sophisticated and know the web is where they need to be, will ask why their home is not on Zillow, etc.
“The public relies on Zestimates! Again public perception is that we may not deserve to get paid for our expertise but Zillow gets paid for it!”
Realtors have sort of a love/hate relationship with these portals — the Zillows and Trulia. This is important if you are a consumer and buying or selling a home. You need to understand and monitor what your agent does, how they market your home. With 98%of all real estate searches starting online, is a presence on Zulia a good thing for your home? A lot of that depends on where you live. In larger metro communities like Dallas, sophisticated brokers have marketing networks in place to get a home maximum exposure. Real Estate is still a hugely fragmented industry of independent business people. In a way, Zulia bypasses this with one huge technological sweep. And the portals have made better deals with the large brokerages, like Coldwell Banker, for better exposure. But homes in outlying areas may not have these networks and Zulia becomes the best way to market a home, even you have to pay for an ad right next to your own listing.
Many agents, particularly smaller ones who do two to three transactions a year, feel that Zillow pushes them out as the bigger agents buy the top, more expensive advertising spots. I think sellers of more exclusive homes are reluctant to get on Zillow, too.
But other agents get tons of leads from Zillow, sell homes, pocket great commissions and remain loyal clients.
Personally, I cannot imagine how a buyer would meet a complete stranger on a website and have them handle the most important financial transaction of their life — your home. Real estate is a relationship-based business. As I relayed to a Broker the other day — I bought a home in an out of state city where I knew no agents pre-Zillow. Every agent we called about a listing wanted me to sign an exclusive listing agreement. I didn’t, because I didn’t know them. I didn’t sign jack until we found the house and was about to write an offer, this after I sifted through a dozen agents. In Dallas, in past real estate transactions, I have used agents who were sent to me by friends — strong word of mouth. I get searching on it, but I don’t get the whole Zulia lead thing. I think it’s a great entertainment website for House Porn and vital information about the neighborhood, crime, walkability, etc. put together in a very easy, consumer-friendly format. And the blogs rock! Let’s face it — Zulia is a media network. I’ve been to dinner with Zillow and Trulia editors and they are talented writers, many of them former journalists.
Tell me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I’d ever pick a random agent from Zillow.
Still, NTREIS must think maintaining the presence is important. NTREIS spokeswoman Cindy Miller told Inman News there is no timeline for when the direct feed will be live.
The direct feed deal with Zillow is an opportunity to make syndication choices more transparent to the MLS’ brokers, Miller said.
“Having a choice for Zillow specifically rather than ‘syndication’ makes that selection more transparent on input,” she said.
NTREIS has not worked out specifics yet on whether and how Zillow’s new listing management and reporting platform, the Zillow Data Dashboard, will integrate with the MLS’ systems. Zillow announced the dashboard in January as an alternative to ListHub for Zillow’s direct feed partners.
When asked how long Zillow had been trying to obtain a direct feed from NTREIS and whether Zillow will be paying NTREIS for the listings, Miller declined to comment. She also would not say whether NTREIS charges a data access fee to third-party vendors in general.
“We will not discuss terms of any of our vendor agreements or negotiation timelines for reasons of confidentiality,” Miller said.
Not all MLSs seem so eager to join the ranks of Zillow. The Austin MLS does not share listing data with Zillow and has not for awhile. However, at least three brokerages there are now sharing directly. Not sure what Houston does, but the Houston MLS is totally available to the public, which I think is the smartest thing since the hamburger. (Why doesn’t NTREIS do this?) And though Zillow recently landed direct listing feed deals with two Florida MLSs, one association, Palm Beach, does not wish to participate and has warned the portal behemoth that it would sue if data is displayed or shared without permission,
The Jupiter-Tequesta-Hobe Sound Association of Realtors has said it has the right to send the listings of another association, the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches, to third parties, including Zillow, but the Palm Beach association disagrees and has warned Zillow that it could take legal action if the portal displays its data without its permission. That feed has not gone live yet.
Palm Beach — luxury home market.
This post is already too long, this discussion will continue. Please tell us — if you are a Realtor, do you approve of the NTREIS board move to send listings to Zillow? Love or hate?
Consumers, tell us what you think about Zillow/Zulia. How influential was it in helping you buy or sell your home? Do you want your home listed on Zillow to “fetch top dollar” or do you not care that folks in Denver and Seattle with no plans to move to Dallas are looking at your family home on line, for sale?
And my other burning question: if all this transparency is so vital, why are we seeing the rise in off-market listing sites? One more coming down the pike!
Let the talk begin!