As the internet continues to become the dominant force in the real estate industry, many agents & Boards of Realtors are now realizing the long term impacts of choices that they may have made several years ago, and how they are impacting their business today. The latest news is of an IDX Civil War in Austin Texas regarding listing syndication and its impact on the industry as a whole.
Listing syndication is definitely a hot topic nowadays – and is definitely gaining momentum as persons realize the importance of their online presence. However, there is some misunderstanding even amongst agents themselves.
The issue REALLY needs to be broken down into 2 topics:
#1 How listings should be handled with syndication/advertisement on 3rd party listing aggregation companies (such as Zillow, Trulia, etc.).
#2 How listings should be handled among cooperating licensed brokers & agents on their respective websites that are members of the same Board of REALTORs.
Many persons mistakenly are attempting to lump it all together as “all internet advertising”. Touching on the first topic of 3rd party listing aggregation companies: essentially, these are a 3rd party group of venture capital funded persons whose primary business model is to take Listings for “free” from agents – and then sell leads directly (through selling of buyer leads themselves) or indirectly (through featured agent/listing placement on their site). Basically – they take something for free from agents, and then repackage it – and charge agents a fee for something that agents gave to them in the first place.
These 3rd party companies typically are not licensed to practice real estate, nor are they typically members of the local Boards of REALTORs. This also means that they do not have to comply with the same exact rules as licensed agents that are furnishing the listings in the first place. (Such as: These 3rd party companies generally are able to display SOLD listing data on their site, whereas licensed real estate agents generally are not.) This places agents at a tremendous competitive disadvantage. They have more rules and regulations with which to comply – and yet, they are competing for the very same internet presence that the 3rd party companies are attempting to get.
As a result, many agents are wanting a more level playing field. They feel that whatever these 3rd party sites are able to do (or not do) from a marketing standpoint, the same should be applied to agents. For the agents that are concerned about listing syndication for the 3rd party sites: its all about free trade, fair play in business – and a level playing field.
Additionally, many REALTORs that are primarily Listing or Seller’s Agents, are also wanting to get items added to the listings that are displayed such as Their Phone Number, Website Address, Email, Logo, Watermarking of their Photos with their Team Branding Contact Information, etc on these syndicated sites – so that customers can contact them directly without having to pay for the leads.
Editorial Note: I personally have no issue whatsoever with additional agent branding, contact info, etc being required for use on the 3rd party syndication sites.
The 2nd half of the topic is listing syndication commonly referred to as IDX across other agents websites. This is where the issue takes an entirely different spin. It needs to be recognized that there are 2 types of agents:
1. BUYER AGENTS
2. SELLER AGENTS (aka listing agents)
Unlike the above issue, Agents are all operating on the same level playing field from a rules/regulation standpoint of marketing. Those persons that want an internet presence to create a Buyer’s Brokerage, are free to allocate their time/resources/money toward that end. Those persons that want to solicit listings and be a Seller’s Brokerage (listing brokerage), are free to allocate their time/resources/money toward that desired goal.
Its all about cooperating and working together for the good of the industry, and making it easy for consumers. The addition of listing broker team branding/logos/contact information, etc – would cause the Buyer’s Agents to essentially be providing advertising for Listing Agents, as the consumer would be more likely to call the Listing Agent despite the lead being generated from the Buyer’s Agents website.
This would be fairly akin to saying: “Buyer’s Agents should be able to place THEIR sign in the yard of listings that other agents have”. After all, more advertisement is good for their seller, right? It makes the exact same sense.
Listing agents already have a tremendous amount of advantages in place: yard signs, open houses, local media advertisements, postcard mailouts, etc, etc. Beyond the internet, what do Buyer’s Agents have that will realistically generate business in today’s market? Very little. The conversion numbers of customers from a postcard that says “Want to Buy a Home? Call me.” are going to be very low, compared to what the listing agent is able to generate with advertising their listings.
If listing agents were allowed to have the additional contact information, or branding advertisements (logos, watermarking of photos, etc), this will completely segment real estate agents as a whole – because Buyers Agents will not advertise listings that have their competitors contact information on it. What would consumers do if this happens? This would be a tremendous blow to the industry, as it would force consumers to go to the 3rd party listing aggregation sites to find “all the listings” that are currently on the market.
The solution is to separate the topic into 2 issues. Address them separately. And to unite REALTORs together for the common good of the industry.