On the eve of publishing a WAV Group paper on listing syndication, consulting firm Clareity Consulting published a paper on the same topic days ahead of us. They did a great job on their paper and Victor Lund considered delaying or eliminating the WAV Group paper from publication. But a read of both papers is probably healthy for today’s real estate brokers, MLSs, and publishers. Clearly, listing syndication remains an abrasive business struggle in real estate. Both Clareity and WAV Group address syndication issues with clients every day – which is certainly what prompted both firms to independently publish papers on the topic.
I do not think that there is much value in recapping anything in the Clareity or WAV Group papers to compare and contrast the points made. The papers agree, representing the acute consciousness of the issues that face our industry today.
It is quite clear that although solutions and strategies exist for improving the effectiveness of listing syndication, the process is moving forward in a dysfunctional and disorganized way. Unfortunately, the strategies compete with one another in a way that undermines the success of the others.
- Point2 and Listhub are trying to raise the bar to improve data accuracy and listing attribution – but in doing so are in competition with each other. Moreover, each of them are agents for the customer (franchise, MLS, Board of REALTORS, Broker) and many of the customer do not agree about how they want their vendor (Listhub or Point2) to negotiate on their behalf.
- Trulia and Zillow have joined Realtor.com and Homes.com at pursuing direct licensing feeds from MLSs. This skips the value of hub and spoke solutions like Listhub or Point2, eroding their negotiation strength and further segmenting the feed sources. Segmented feed sources further the issue of the same listing going to the same publisher from many sources with no authoritative agreement that articulates the true listing record for display. Here is a new problem that has cropped up. Often, the publisher website is now more accurate and timely at displaying property updates like price changes than the listing broker’s website.
- Whenever brokers (even large ones) try to take on the issues, they can only manage what they do with their listings. It becomes a competitive struggle against other brokers in the market place who would rather go left when a competitor goes right regardless of what is “best for all concerned.” US Law does not allow them to collude with one another without an intermediary – so nobody is talking about working together.
- MLSs are in an excellent position to work on the problems, but it may be beyond their scope of their core responsibility to facilitate offers of cooperation and compensation. When asked, many have stepped up and done a great job. Others have proactively researched the issue and worked on solutions. But the vast majority of MLS hardly understand the issues or harbor the resources to impact change.
- Franchise Organizations are taking on the issue, but they are not the content owners. Some of their own franchisees believe that franchises compete with them online. Regardless, they have done the best job at fixing issues overall (IMHO).
Neither paper really nominates a savior or a leader. That’s appropriate for consulting firms. We do our best to support our clients with well-resourced information and to facilitate their process at developing and executing strategies that work well for them.
WAV Group supports brokers like Howard Hanna who are “all in on listing syndication.” We also support many brokers who do not syndicate. WAV Group studied the effectiveness of listing syndication when the strategy was first deployed in 2008; and WAV Group has supported MLSs who have dropped listing syndication as a service
We are certain of a few things:
- Brokers can have success with syndication or they can turn it off. Both strategies work if executed effectively.
- Franchises can have success with negotiating solutions with publishers, but need to do so carefully to avoid disenfranchising their brokers.
- No MLS should ever offer listing syndication as an “opt out” solution. That means that data does not move unless the broker explicitly requests that it goes to a specific publisher.
- Listing syndication decisions are best made in the conversation between the listing agent and their seller.
- Buyers’ agents will soon find out that they are helpless at removing listings from the internet after the transaction – exposing the industry to liabilities when consumer privacy is breached or when listings continue to be marketed after the closing. Ask any home buyer if they want the inside of their newly purchased home plastered all over the internet and they will reply with a resounding “NO!” Everyone needs to focus in on fixing this.
Download the Clareity Paper Here http://clareity.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/BEYOND-Syndication-July-2014.pdf
Download the WAV Group Paper Here https://www.wavgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/2014-WAV-Group-Guide-to-Listing-Syndication-Final6-23-2014.pdf
The one issue that I keep coming back to is that the REALTOR(R) community is shooting themselves in the foot and hurting the consumer by supporting third-party non-REALTOR(R) affiliated syndicators (this puts Realtor.com in the non-REALTOR(R) affiliated camp since they are a third-party company). Listing data has great value and property search websites are a dime-a-dozen with easy to use functionality and great local information. Yes, the syndicators have good websites but not break through technology. Some market FSBO’s, publish inaccurate valuations, and others withhold listing data from the brokers lest they pay a fee to get ALL their listing data displayed – the very data the broker gave to the website for FREE in the first place. Here in Austin firms large and small have stopped syndicating and there has been no negative impact on sales that I’m aware of. Like you say in bullet #1 above – “Brokers can have success with syndication or they can turn it off.” But if Brokers choose to give their listings to these non-REALTOR(R) affiliated companies they are fueling an industry that is competitive with our own and harmful to the consumer.
Plus, why shouldn’t REALTORS(R) monetize their own data on behalf of their agents and their customers?
It is also interesting to me that Google has awarded more exposure to these syndicators. When one of these syndicators presented to Austin they mentioned that they get preferential treatment by Google in the rankings because they do so much advertising. I’m certain Google and the syndicator would deny this to be true, but the fact IS that these national syndicators have gravitated to the top of the search engines over the last few years for many short and long tail search terms. Is that because they provide more or better data than other local websites? Well, if we are talking about FSBO’s and inaccurate property valuations then yes. But if we are talking about the number of Active listings in the MLS then absolutely not! Regardless, REALTORS(R) need to start taking back control of their data. In doing so – unlike what much of the media reports – Brokers will be protecting the consumer and our industry.