Warning: Long read ahead. IT’S WORTH THE TIME.
Ok. So the truth is that I have NEVER been a fan of REALTOR.com®. I just never really bought into to the idea that they were ANY different from a syndicator (because they ARE a syndicator) and I still cannot understand why the National Association of REALTORS would opt to, years ago, sell off the online TRADEMARK for their membership to a third party with the EXPRESS purpose of charging more money to their members. I have been told that some of the leadership profited handsomely from this move . I have no proof so I would love to hear from anyone that can either confirm or put that rumor to rest.
And yeah, I realize that some of what I am about to say was part of a kerfuffle last year that ended in a lawsuit – blah blah blah. I realize for some people that this is water under the bridge, but I keep finding examples like the one below and each time I do, my sense of right and wrong gets violated. I don’t like Mall Cops acting like they are REAL cops. I don’t buy cheap knock offs of REAL products to save a few bucks. That is just how I am. And I have a different solution to the issue than whining and going to court about it as seems to be the typical solution. But we will get to that. MLS s may not be able to filter out non-realtor listings from their feed but that does not stop Realtor.com from doing so. If they can identify which listings are realtor listings and put an “R” on them they can identify non-realtor listings in the feed and remove them from public display.
I was going through some MLS listings the other day in a city where I have clients where I work on their website. As I am looking through them I see these:
http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/126-Birch-Lane_Suffolk_VA_23434_M61935-14450 This is a listing by Shaffer REALTY (NOT REALTORS® – Simply Real Estate Agents)
http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/3520-Forest-Haven-Ln_Chesapeake_VA_23321_M57863-62262?mlslid=1222198 A listing by Shaffer Real Estate LLC who actually ARE REALTORS®
BOTH are being advertised on REALTOR.com® REALLY???? Pretty confusing to the general public. (And kinda less than upfront in MY opinion on the part of Mr. Shaffer, whoever he is). (Please bear in mind that I am NOT a REALTOR. I did NOT just violate any ethics rules) I simply publish a news blog on the real estate industry…as such, I can offer my opinions on whether people are being “shady” freely.) I get it Mr. Shaffer, you want to save a few bucks and have some of your agents get advetising like REALTORS when they are not. As I said above, I (personally) think that is lame and I kinda have to ask myself how the folks in your brokerage who ARE REALTORS feel about this? (Turns out after about 5 minutes of digging that it appears that Mrs Shaffer owns the REALTOR® brokerage and Mr Shaffer owns the Mall cop (knock off non REALTOR) version and that it is their method of dealing with loopholes in the system. Nice. Again it is just my point of view. If you want to explain why you do that I will offer you space on this site to do it and equal time. REALLY. Contact me. To me, trademarks actually mean something. I respect them. I would love to interview you on the subject. I do not mean to single you out, but yours is the handiest and most obvious example of this that I can find.
And YES – I applaud R.com for putting this:
I think it is really a cop out to put a little itty bitty logo on their denoting the difference (kinda) on the one that is a REALTOR, WAY down the page. If you are a REALTOR who did not know about this subject before reading the post, look down the page on those links and find it. Not very obvious. And when the NAMES of the brokerages are EERILY similar as above, it seems clearly designed to pass one off as the other.
And yes, I know there will be people who respond to this with “Legal ruling this” and “Legal ruling that”. I DON’T CARE.
Here is the bottom line. REALTOR.com SHOULD be the PROPERTY of REALTORS and noone else. If it is NOT a REALTOR listing, the difference should be on the page and SO CLEAR that a CONSUMER would see it and ASK – “Why are you not a REALTOR®?”. It is DISINGENUOUS of Non-REALTORS to use REALTOR.com® in their listing presentations in my opinion. (The counter arguement to that is: We are just ADVERTISING. ADVERTISING on a website that says it is the ONLINE Brand of REALTORS. Nice)
If REALTOR.com cannot REFUSE to put NON-REALTOR listings on their site due to some legal ruling. Fine. I dislike that, but I guess I have to live with that. (Will someone in the comments EXPLAIN that to me? Zillow can list or NOT like whoever they want…not the legal-eze but the rightness and wrongness of that).
If REALTOR.com® cannot ( or is simply not willing to for revenue reasons – **snort**) put a MUCH bigger difference on the pages that are REALTOR vs Non-REALTOR so that EVERY consumer starts asking agents at a listing presentation why they are NOT REALTORS. MLS s may not be able to filter out non-realtor listings from their feed but that does not stop Realtor.com from doing so. If they can identify which listings are realtor listings and put an “R” on them they can identify non-realtor listings in the feed and remove them from public display. I guess I view it as the LEAST that REALTOR.com can do to protect the people who have paid for their services (a lot I might add over the years). Question of REALTOR.com: Why not take the extra step to do it right?
If they are not willing to do that who needs them? What good is REALTOR.com? Are they truly protecting the REALTOR name?
Why shouldn’t everyone just GO EDINA ON THEM and opt out of REALTOR.com? (Most are simply scared because they do not want other brokerages saying “we use REALTOR.com and they don’t” in a listing presentation. When pray tell was the last lead that you actually GOT from REALTOR.com? #justsayin} I applaud Edina Realty for taking a principled stand and being consistent in how they approach syndication.
I think if REALTOR.com cannot get this simple thing right, folks should just opt out of their little weak enterprise. Stop the “enhanced” listings. Just stop paying them to take our trademark and use it to sell space to others. Whether they cannot or won’t defend it is not the question. The Opt out option is the solution either way. Just my opinion as an outsider. By the way. I offer the same opportunity to representatives of MOVE, Inc. that I did to Mr. Shaffer. Feel free to rebut my remark. I will offer you space and time.
I think a PUBLIC discussion about this is HEALTHY. We do not need a sub-committee to look into this and comment back in 6 months. Realtor.com should be able to answer this QUICKLY, EASILY and in the affirmative. If there is a valid reason for this treatment of the REALTOR brand AND if the REALTOR brand has value (and that is what NAR’s ads say, correct?) then it is worth talking about in public.
It’s my point of view, what are your thoughts?