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Many Real Estate Agents Are Pulling Their Listings From Syndication Sites

January 31st, 2012

I became aware of this issue this just this last weekend when Texas agent Lee Jinks commented on a PFRE post about this issue.

Today there is an article on this subject on GeekWire. There’s also been a discussion going on on Geekestate.com on this subject. It appears that this is a rapidly evolving real estate marketing issue that real estate photographers need to be aware of mostly because it’s likely going to be a hot issue for your clients.

With this syndication backlash going on clearly you are not going to want to be automatically syndicating tours to all sites. There may be a benefit to be able to control specifically what sites. Realtor.com, Zillow.com and Trulia.com seem to be the sites at issue.

 

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21 Responses to “Many Real Estate Agents Are Pulling Their Listings From Syndication Sites”

  • What I found interesting was the response from the public this video generated. The public didn’t seem to like it that much. I agree with ARG. The agent isn’t served by syndication and I now don’t believe the public is well served either.

  • Like Lee above, this has catapulted across the internet with waves of support. I applaud those taking this first stand.

  • Having just bought and sold a home ourselves, in addition to my background as a real estate photographer, I find this video to be completely apt. Sifting through sites and trying to find any information from the actual listing agent was extremely challenging. However, I did find the home we bought on our own, not through our Realtor, through a syndication site. I found the options for a comprehensive site that had all MLS homes to be quite limiting, as the one in our area run by our board of Realtors had more properties, more accurate information, but too few narrowing search options. The efficacy of both board/MLS sites and syndication sites are both still very lacking, and homeowners still are not able to shop for available homes in a convenient or efficient way.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMQm3ZvVRl4&feature=player_embedded here is the rebutal video…i think it make a lot of sense…what i see is the ability for those sites especailly realtor.com, they take the virtual tour off the front information page so it is not visible as it was in the past…and then turn around with this free (MLS) information and charge back the realtor in basic fees or “enchanced” membership, all based on the info they got for free. this is so they can turn around and resell as space to banks and other RE professionals…i think that is the base of the argument and where i feel should be resolved…the use of the info should offset cost the of the agent and brokerage …not make a site wealthy while using free info, and have it held hostage by not allowing a link to a virtual tour.

    Lee it is interesting…but how would you like your pictures used for free? all while somone else is making money off them. if it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck it probably is a duck…the first video sounds like he needs to make more with dual agency and can’t because of syndication…self serving? I think yes, sombody needs a raise and can’t get anymore from his agents

    most photographers don’t know that realtor.com is not owned by realtors….FACT

  • I just finished viewing the smug rebuttal video by Glick. To him anything and everything is okay. He firmly believes that ANY exposure is good exposure. Apparently he could not care less about the theft of our intellectual property, rolling his eyes at the notion. I found his attitude offensive and arrogant.

    I’d bet he wouldn’t be so smug if competitor planted their sign in front of his at all his listings!

  • I added a comment to the rebuttal as well.
    Amazing that he talked about transparency when he is combined Realtor and Mortgage broker.

  • To all….I am a Realtor and a photographer. I use Zillow, Trulia & Realtor.com. My local MLS will NOT allow me to watermark my photos because it is against their rules. They then sell the information I provide them (and charge me a fee to give it to them). I then go into the syndicated sites and drop my listing information & photos in there with all the watermarks and marketing I desire. I also purchase the zips and areas where my listings are from the syndicated sites. This is known as feed & data control. There are several other steps I take to do this but it works amazingly well. The enemy is the overbearing MLS systems who regulate our information and then sell it to others. The MLS systems also subscribe to public records of the counties and areas where they do business. This information is often flawed. Atleast Zillow & Trulia give me the ability to correct these mistakes without breaking the MLS rules.

    The issues started with mismanagement of the MLS systems throughout the country. They are fragmented. NAR should consider having a national database (USA MLS) with a separate log-in for customers and a dashboard interface for licensed agents. This would cancel out the syndicated sites. They would be obsolete. Unfortunately each MLS is it’s own fifedom with different rules and different information. It is complete information anarchy. It is sad to say but the closest thing to any standardization may be the syndicated sites.

    The video posted represents a way for brokerages and MLS systems to continue to give faulty information and control their kingdoms. Buyer should consider using a buyer agent when purchasing a home fair and simple. I have worked with Mannnyyy buyers who found me through the syndicated sites. Both they and I are glad we found each other.

    Read REVIEWS below:

    http://www.zillow.com/profile/JeffreyHogue/Reviews?my=y

    The key to using your IP properly lies in feed & data migration.

    Larry, I would love to do an article some time on how this technique works. I have worked on it for over 2 years and it has been a boon to my business.

    The Bucket Truck guy:)

  • @ tom g….the rebuttal is definitely worth watching too. Thanks for posting!
    Carol

  • Jim Abbott spends a lot of money marketing his listings, I should know as I am his photographer. He has been a great client for two years now. Why should his advertising dollars go to another agent just because they give Zillow or Trulia money? That is completely unfair and I applaud him for taking a stand. Glick’s rebuttal was condescending and smug, and worse most of his points had no validity. In a moderated debate Jim would smoke him.

    Jeff has some good points. How did the MLS get such an iron grip on their local markets? Why isn’t there more continuity in the rules for MLS from market to market? A national database is long overdue.

  • Hey….To add to this conversation. I received a message from my local MLS which is TREND. They fined me $100.00 for having a simple watermark on one of my home photos. How is that for customer service. If I refuse to pay they will revoke my membership. If they do that all that is left is the syndication sites.

    A question…..If photographers watermark their work and it is all over the web would that help get them more business?

  • Were they fining you as a Realtor or fining you as a photographer. While I have to walk that similar line. Looking at the photos, the copyright is clearly the photography business where they have absolutely no authority or control over. The confusion may be that your photography business is you name photography (like my LLC is) but I use a different name as a DBA for the realestate photography. By having your name on the copyright, it is probably being interpreted as “branding”, which it isn’t as it is referring to a totally different business that they have no jurisdiction over. Their only control over you is as a Realtor and their rules on “branding” which the copyright isn’t as it clearly identifies a photography business.

    You may want to read their Rules and Regulations with specific interest in terms which vary by MLS. Specifically, look for areas where they specifically allow the photography business name – usually as they are discussing tours. Also look for prohibition of copyright watermarks. You may want them to clarify how they are going to remove membership of an business that is not a member in the first place to help them define what they are talking about.

    Alternately, you may want to create a DBA – like mine is Images or Real Estate – while other shoots are under
    Larry Gray Photography LLC.

  • Thanks for taking the time to discuss this.

    ipro-global.

  • @scott…jim abbot’s ad dollars are not going to another agent (they are going to you)…he is supposed to be doing advertising for “his” client…and yes the reason for you to defend jim is he is your client? i think yes. the only reason he would truly be upset is that he doesn’t get both sides…well he can’t truly represent both sides 100% either…would you want your attorney to represent the other side? i think not. you may look up to mr abbot, i don’t have to, as he doesn’t pay me for anything…a great contry, jim abbot can smoke anything he wants

    @george…theft of intellectual property? we get paid to photo advertise for the realtor and accept the fact that it gets posted on the internet thru IDX….we still retain the rights to the picture to keep intellectual property, but if we stop the spread of the “Photographer Branded” pictures don’t we stop our advertising syndicating that we get for free? who is geting hurt? i think this is short sighted reasoning…should the MLS pay us?…we provide a service, up front you need to accept that this industry is different than commercial or wedding photography, get the free exposure that you could not buy…the local MLS here watermarks the photos so the next listing agent can’t use the photos easily and supports the agent or professional’s right to those pics…would you call that stealing intellectual rights? on the surface it could appear that way, but after i point it out… i think you would agree they support our rights to our photos.

    ps the rebuttal guy was smug but so was the original post so all is fair…don’t you think?

  • @tom q….
    The whole having/wanting both sides is a Trojan horse to misdirect and opportunist at best as Glick makes that argument. Reality is, both side transactions only occur 3-5% of the time. More likely, when meeting an intersted buyer, that specific property may have the wrong floorplan, face wrong direction (fun shui), wrong schools or owner’s pet and smoke odors permeating the home that the photo’s didn’t show. BUT, you don’t tell a potential buyer that you met at an open house – or however – goodbye. They are in the market for a house in that pricerange and have the money or mortgage qualified…you find them a house. That is ancillary sales that you meet through your marketing efforts. There is no need to force them into your listing. Given the typical 6% commission, does it make any difference if you get 3% when the listing eventually sells and 3% by reprsenting this buyer elsewhere? Even better, repeat the senario a couple more times before your listing sells. Having both sides isn’t the critical and greed issue that people like to paint. Even on a worst case senario, the listing doesn’t sell…you have recouped the marketing costs throught the ancilary sale that occured due to the marketing effort.

    Even on the rare 3-5% senario, the broker may take the buyer away and assign to another agent in the office if representation conflict is an issue.Plus, some of those 3-5% occur backwards. A buyer interested in a property, you approach the homeowner and list it. I know an agent where that is part of her marketing plan as she owns the Realty Times zip code (exclusively). Property listed as beginning foreclosure (les Pendens) which people see on the internet, contact her, she note note for sale – even by owner – thn contacts the owner with a foreclosure rescue plan.

    It is immaterial that Jim Abbots budget includes a photographer on this board. Rather, Jim deserves a return on his marketing dollars. Such a return is not limited by actually selling the house. If his marketing dollars generated interest in the house, he deserves to have that traffic directed to him. It may be the quality of the photos that he paid for that a Zillow or Trulia search returning hundres of properties made this one stand out. That should be a return on his investment. However, Trulia and Zillow redirect it to agents that paid them for that zip code that they keep the subscription price high by limiting the zip code to 2 or 3 agents – and a huge premium if exclusive. That whole process is not transparent to the public.

    As I look at my own home, Zillow would be my worst enemy if I went to sell it. Their Zestimate is $156k where most of the homes, including the identical floorplan, are in the $225k area. Listed 3 schools are wrong and not eligible to attend because in different county. 4 agents live in the subdivision and obviously would know it but none of them were the three listed that bought the zip code…and their offices were the other side of town. Looking at one of the agen’t 47 listing, and they were all rentals.

    That is the issue. Jim Abbot may have stated it awkwardly which gave the impression of wanting it all, but at least he brought the issue forward. The self serving and self initiated “rebuttal” raising the false issues and minimizing use of intellectual property is simply a publicity stunt for themselves. Don’t be sucked into it!

  • @ tom g… True, some of Jim’s advertising dollars go to me, but a very small percentage. He spends thousands of dollars per listing in magazines like Dream Homes and Premiere Properties and Lifestyles. He spends a ton on brochures and a strong web presence. He has spent many years and countless hours representing listings in downtown San Diego. Nobody knows that territory better. I like Jim and I make no excuses for that, but that’s not the basis for my opinion. I just think it is wrong that the time and money he spends would be diverted to a random agent who knows nothing about the listing or area just because that agent gave money to Zillow or Trulia. It doesn’t seem fair to me.

  • I still don’t know what all of the fuss is about. Where are the “many” agents who are pulling their listings from the major RE portals? I just see one agent. This one agent seems to have received a lot of press, but what have the responses to this been like and have others been taking similar action recently? I am not entirely sure I see much difference between using the RE portals and advertising in a newspaper, where an agent’s listing advertisement will be seen along with ads for many other agents and brokerages. For example, with Trulia at least, the listing agent can have his or her name and contact info prominently displayed directly beside the photos, for which, no doubt, Trulia charges a fee (just as a newspaper would). As for outdated, inaccurate or incomplete info, well, that would certainly seem to be a problem; but I haven’t heard that this has been an insurmountable one so far, and I rather suspect that this situation will either get remedied in time or a better model will come along to replace it. As for misuse of intellectual property, exactly how is this occurring? As photographers, we are interested in the images. Are the RE portals using the images for anything other than overt marketing of the individual properties? Regarding RE portals handling home-buyer inquiries, that does seem like they are setting themselves up as a additional middlemen, and I am not sure I would like that either, if I were an agent; but I don’t see anything unethical about it. It is just business, and one can take it or leave it. So far, it seems that the advantages of the widespread exposure afforded by the RE portals has outweighed this disadvantage for the vast number of real estate agents. Regarding dual agency, I also have the impression that a large part of the reason for Mr. Abbott’s complaint is that it limits opportunities for this kind of representation.

  • Great points Larry and Scott, i know over 90% of people start their search online, it is the future. Jim Abbots print ads and associated cost have nothing to do with the internet. And yes I agree the taking of data ( which is still free) doesn’t give listing agents/brokers any value for what contract and associated info they hold, i think those sites should pay to play, but how do you do it and not be accused of restraint of trade issues…do it as a group and that is what you have. Isn’t that what he is ultimately trying to do without coming out and outright saying it?

    zestimate doesn’t accurately value properties based on municipalities not having money or time to update their databases…zillow whould take it down because of that, agree again.

    I love this discussion and the maturity and depth of those that debate the issues…thanks for the platform Larry

  • Realtor.com has a strangle hold on realtors. ITs not fair how they juice them for their listings and their money to properly represent them (100’s or 1000’s per year for showcase member, 20 bucks for a vtour link; wth!) I hope realtor.com falls hard for this; they have always gotten away with it bc they were the number one RE search site so Realtors have no choice but to pay it or short change their seller. Every time I have to explain why it costs $20 to post their tour to r.com I like them less. They offer less info than other syndication sites and charge more for it, they have gotten fat from cannibalizing their members and should now be taken to the slaughter imho.

  • “[Realtor.com] have always gotten away with it [because] they were [are?] the number one RE search site[,] so Realtors have no choice but to [either] pay [Realtor.com] or short change their seller[s].” For shame. A company has a market advantage and wants to try to make as much money as it can from this position. How capitalistic of them.

  • I just saw an announcement on my local MLS that watermarked photos will no longer be allowed. I have always watermarked my photos because I sell condos in large buildings and I photograph the building, clubhouse, and amenities and watermark them. Why should other agents, who haven’t taken the time to photograph the building or amenities, be able to copy and paste my photos into their listings? Why should I be working for free for all the other agents around the area and for real estate websites who use my pictures but don’t want to promote me? I think this will lower the standards for everyone in the business as I will take off the watermarked pictures but not replace them with non watermarked pictures.

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