Online listing syndication presents complex strategic challenges to real estate brokerage in America today. The structure of economic trade between real estate brokers and publishers has many variables that are often misunderstood and often hard to measure. At the heart of the conversation is an unresolved understanding of the exchange rate in listing syndication. Even people with business analyst certification may be baffled.
Do brokers subsidize the success of publishers by providing listings?
Do publishers subsidize brokerages by providing willing homebuyers?
Some of the policies by publishers to create revenue have been deemed to be very damaging by some real estate brokers, and applauded by others. The sentiment among some brokers is that publishers have become too dependent on the financial support of real estate professional to sustain their publishing business. Other brokers believe that enhancing listings on publisher websites provides an excellent return on investment.
The early exchange rate premise was that brokers would supply real estate listings to publishers, who would in turn derive revenue through sources like advertising from non-endemic entities like building supply companies, banks, phone companies, utility companies, and others who depend on the home buying and selling consumer. This was a breakthrough paradigm contrasted against the cost of newspaper advertising. A bi-product of providing listings to online publishers includes leads and listing exposure that brokers previously paid for.
This early exchange rate premise eroded over time. Today these websites continue to generate revenue from advertising, but are considered by some to be too financially reliant on the numerous revenue-generating programs that involve selling products real estate professional. Online publishers are beginning to behave more like newspaper publishers – charging to display listings.
Publishers and brokers both believe that it is in their mutual interest to make this system work. The success of each group relies a lot on access to the others’ business competencies. One would hope that this symbiotic relationship would generate enough incentive for these two groups to reform and balance the exchange rate.
Many leaders in our industry were surprised when some brokers determined that the relationship with publishers could not be repaired. Shorewest REALTORS, Edina Realty, and others abandoned listing syndication all together.
Any broker who is managing their business strategy seriously is weighing the exchange rate of listing syndication. Business leaders on both sides of this issue have sound, legitimate, and compelling support for their positions.
The question among brokers today is twofold. Is the exchange with publishers providing long term value for our industry? Does the exchange rate benefit the listing brokerage? The answer is always individual.
Finding balance of exchange between the interests of brokers and publishers sometimes seems daunting and distant. This is a hugely challenging issue. There is a lot of unfinished business to reform these relationships. The industry needs to revisit the foundational underpinnings of syndication to create better business policy outcomes. I am confident that there exists an economic structure allowing publishers and brokers to thrive together, rather than oppose one another.
There is a lot of hard work that needs to be invested in this topic, contrasted byt skepticism about the willingness of publishers to make improvements. Our judgment is that we still have a chance to deliver a balanced exchange.
There will be an announcement in the coming months about how two publishers, Zillow and REALTOR.com, who worked in earnest with one of Americas’ largest brokers to bridge differences and create a partnership that works.