Your home is for sale, but where is your listing?
“If you let me list your home it will appear all over the Internet.” That’s true. What the real estate agent should have added is “…and there’s nothing I can do about that.”
Where it starts and how it grows.
It starts with agents entering the information about homes for sale on a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and sharing the listing information with all the members of the MLS. The member brokerages and their agents – can publish all MLS listings on their websites and most of them do. So when you list your Seattle area home with an agent, it can be found almost immediately on at least 20,000 local websites.
If an MLS has an agreement with real estate web portals to publish the listings, a home can be found on hundreds of additional websites. Add to that other agreements between brokerages and portals and there is no end to the number of websites on which the same home appears.
How listing syndication happens.
It happens via Internet Data Exchange or IDX for short. The data flows from the MLS via licensed IDX providers to their customers – brokerages, agents, portals, etc. The data is processed and prepared for presentation by the IDX providers for their customers. A few brokerages do this in house without an IDX intermediary. To protect privacy, some data, such as the seller’s identity, never leaves the MLS and cannot be seen by the general public.
Brokerage Websites versus Real Estate Portals
A brokerage is a firm licensed to transact real estate and makes money doing so. A brokerage has to comply with State licensing and real estate laws and local MLS regulations. Portals like Zillow are merely marketing the data they receive without any responsibility for accuracy. Portals make money from advertising and collecting fees from agents and brokerages for giving them preferential treatment.
The scope of portals is national while many brokerages are local. If a real estate company is national, each of the local affiliate brokerages needs to comply with State law and belong to the local MLS. There are over 300 MLS co-operatives in this country. By far the largest in Washington State is the NWMLS (Northwest Multiple Listing Service).
Rupert Murdoch versus Zillow
In September 2014, News Corp purchased a company called Move, Inc. which operates Realtor.com for the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Move, Inc. also owns Move.com and ListHub, a digital platform that aggregates and syndicates listings from various sources, including the many MLS co-operatives. ListHub feeds listing information to about 130 online publishers and reaches about 900 websites.
In another consolidation move, Zillow recently completed the acquisition of Trulia, its biggest competitor. In the past, both Zillow and Trulia received a good junk of their listings from ListHub. With News Corp now owning ListHub and Realtor.com, News Corp canceled the agreements with Zillow and Trulia. Zillow/Trulia fought this in court but lost. News Corp plans to grow the Realtor.com portal into a viable competitor of Zillow/Trulia.
Too much repetition but not enough information
If you’ve read this far, you have a good idea why your Seattle area home for sale appears automatically on thousands of websites. Unfortunately, everywhere the information about your home duplicates the information entered in the database of the NWMLS – with all the NWMLS-imposed limitations. For example, the description of your home is limited to about 80 words and pictures of the neighborhood are not allowed. In a strange way, the indiscriminate and repetitive publication of your listing is both too much and not enough.
When less is much more
To the extent possible, I avoid duplicating listing content on portals. It helps that RSVP Real Estate does not automatically syndicate the firm’s listings. Better still, the local NWMLS does not automatically send its listings to ListHub, Realtor.com or Zillow/Trulia.
Custom marketing through portals
Instead of relying on aimless proliferation, I target particular portals. For example, I promote luxury listings at the DuPont Registry and Juwai.com (a Chinese portal). Rural listings, I advertise on Landwatch.com. For each of these portals, I customize the presentation to appeal to the targeted audience. I always include Zillow/Trulia because I can’t ignore the sites’ popularity.
Custom marketing with website and social media
Finally, because my clients deserve it, I create a custom property website for each of my listings. I promote the listing and website through social media such as Facebook and YouTube and via email marketing to potential buyers.
If you let me list your home, it will be found on the Internet by the most likely buyer. And there is a lot I will do to make that happen.