In November 2011 Edina Realty made the decision to discontinue syndication of its listings to Trulia and REALTOR.com. Over the last few years these syndicators had changed their tactics to the detriment of the listing brokers and Edina Realty had finally had enough. While Edina Realty never syndicated to Zillow, Zillow most certainly has the same issues.
This pullout by a large broker, the flagship broker of HomeServices of America (the second largest broker conglomerate in the country), created quite a buzz throughout the industry on both sides of the debate (1, 2). Would we see a large exodus from the syndicators? How big of a problem is this? At what point do brokers say enough is enough?
In late January 2012, Abbot Realty Group put to video many of the same arguments made by Edina Realty and by doing so amplified the debate. Edina Realty did pull out of Trulia shortly after their announcement, but due to ongoing negotiations regarding 82 of its agents that have contracts, listings are still being sent to REALTOR.com though that is likely to end shortly. There have been some other brokers that have followed, including the trend-leading GoodLife Team pulling out of Trulia just last week.
Since this move, Zillow, Trulia and REALTOR.com (Move Inc) have all made moves to address concerns of brokers and agents, including:
- Hired Jay Thompson, Broker-Owner of Thompson’s Realty, national real estate speaker, and known by many as The Phoenix Real Estate Guy.
- Hired Bob Bemis, CEO of the Arizona Regional MLS (ARMLS), a nationally recognized leader in MLS and REALTOR association circles
- Hired Duane Fouts, former Arizona broker and a former President of both the Arizona Association of REALTORS and ARMLS
- Partnered with Tom Ferry to provide new tools to brokers and agents
- Releases plans to hire nearly 100 new salespeople to market its offerings
- Launches new CRM, analytics and information plaform
- Created a “Trulia Data Pledge for Listing Syndication and Display“
- Released new broker dashboard and substantial changes to property listings from brokers that have signed partnership agreements.
- Enhanced data reliability with direct feeds from several large MLSs like MRED
- Hired Todd Carpenter, the Director of Digital Engagement at the National Association of REALTORS
- Signed many new partnerships with brokers across the country
Move Inc. (REALTOR.com)
- ListHub, a subsidiary of Move Inc (REALTOR.com), just released enhancements to their syndication tool to provide brokers more guidance on which aggregation websites adhere to certain standards of practice. This should help address concerns by brokers about not knowing what happens with their data when they submit it to these third parties.
- Hired John Whitney, another industry insider known well in association and MLS staff circles
The new hires will not only give the syndicators more understanding into the minds of agents and brokers but also provide better outreach to these people to both listen for ways to improve and to better sell agents and brokers on the tools the syndicators offer.
While conversations about the diminishing value of syndication to REALTORS had been going on at one level or another for several years, I argue it was Edina Realty’s bold step that raised the volume on the conversation and really got the ball rolling. Since then, syndicators have been very busy with hiring, retooling and partnering – all things I believe were inevitable eventually but slow in coming till now.
No matter how you feel about syndication, the firestorm of debate in the last six months has moved these companies to action. I believe this will benefit all REALTORS and brokers that choose to stay with the syndicators as they now have a healthy fear of going too far and thus will be more cognizant of their actions going forward because they know everyone is watching.
I also believe the relationship to syndicators will increasingly become more like how REALTORS and newspapers used to interact (payment for eyeballs) versus just a barter system (listing data for eyeballs) we’ve enjoyed with syndicators till now. I’ll leave that discussion to another post.
Full disclosure: Edina Realty has been my broker for 9 years, these views are mine and not necessarily the views of the company nor its agents.