Tag Archives: IDX

Concerning MLS Enforcement of Cooperation and Compensation, An Observation

In the comments section of my post on Listhub and Zillow, an intelligent discussion and debate broke out. Given the rarity of such thing on the Interwebz, I think we should celebrate that.

Now then, the subject of the discussion was around the “value proposition” of the MLS in the 21st century and how the rise of these huge tech companies, as well as potential threats from things like the as-yet-unknown Project Upstream, could impact it. The discussion turned to what many consider to be the core value proposition of the MLS: “cooperation and compensation.” As it turns out, there’s something to think about here, so let’s get into it.

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Musings On Direct Feeds

Direct-Feed-Skills-Mix

In the aftermath of the Listhub-Zillow divorce, which was my last post, I stumbled on a comment from the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) Kipp Cooper and the main man at his vendor, Turan Tekin. [Disclosure: I’m friends with both men, like them both, have shared adult beverages with them, and my bias may bleed through here.]

Kipp is the CEO of ValleyMLS (or North Alabama MLS), which was the first and possibly only MLS so far to cut off Listhub and Realtor.com last year for a while. Turan is the VP of Bridge Interactive, the vendor that Kipp used to put his MLS Direct Feed into place.

The relevant comments from a Facebook thread is as follows:

Kipp-Turan

Now, what struck me as I was reading those comments — especially Turan’s — is the presence of some unexamined assumptions. I think it’d be fun and worthwhile to lay them bare and look at them.

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Initial Thoughts on the Listhub-Zillow Divorce

By now, any reader of mine has heard about Listhub and Zillow waving goodbye to each other. As the great American philosopher Louis CK once observed, “No good marriage ever ends in divorce.” Clearly, this divorce was coming for years and years.

I’m writing this in large part to figure out what I think about it. The overwhelming impression within the real estate industry appears to be that this is bad news for Zillow. Inman’s headline is “Rupert Murdoch Playing Hardball With Zillow” (Subscription Required) after all.

If this is playing hardball, it comes a few days late and more than a few dollars short. We’ll see how it plays out, but I wonder if this isn’t worse news for Listhub/Move than it is for Zillow.

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It’s Time for a Grand Conversation on the MLS

I just got back from NAR New Orleans where I got to see old friends (not enough of y’all, because that event is so f’in huge) and meet some new friends. But I said that I would be watching for some things at the event. Turns out, there wasn’t much to watch. Not a lot of drama at all.

The CoX thing sailed through, but the result is that some workgroup will write up something. So we’ll wait to see what they come up with. The MLS stuff, with its very broad, general language, turned out to be important.

In fact, I think this vote approving the changes to the MLS is far more significant than most people seem to appreciate. The changes go right to the heart of what the MLS is and should be. And those changes may be really positive ones whose time has come.

For those reasons, I am now formally calling for a “Grand Conversation” about the MLS. If the industry is going to make these fundamental changes, then it ought to do so consciously, knowing what it wants to achieve, rather than making incremental changes here and there without realizing where it’s ended up.

Let’s get into it.

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Edina Realty Reverses Course on Syndication

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Jay Thompson of Zillow celebrating the Edina deal. With what I assume is coffee.

I realize that the news of the day will be the News Corp buying Move, which certainly requires some thought, but since important details are missing from that story as yet and may not be clear for months to come… I figured I should take notice of another sort of significant story that just crossed the wires.

Here’s the official press release:

SEATTLE, Sept. 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Zillow, Inc. (NASDAQ: Z), the leading real estate information marketplace, today announced that Edina Realty, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate, has joined the Zillow® Pro for Brokers program and will display all of its thousands of listings on Zillow for the first time ever. Launched in June 2012, Zillow Pro for Brokers is a free, five-point program that improves listings accuracy, provides better reporting, includes a powerful contact follow-up system and increases the visibility of listing agents for participating brokerages.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be building a relationship with Edina Realty whereby their direct listing feed will be updated every 15 minutes,” said Spencer Rascoff, Zillow chief executive officer. “It has always been our goal to be the best partner to the industry we can be, and in turn, offer the millions of consumers who visit Zillow the best experience possible. Edina Realty joining Zillow Pro for Brokers helps make that a reality. Now, home shoppers in Minnesota and western Wisconsin will have the most accurate and up-to-date view of the market, while home sellers can rest assured their home is being marketed to the largest audience of home shoppers.”

Edina Realty is one of the nation’s largest real estate companies with approximately 60 real estate offices and 2,300 REALTORS® throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

According to Greg Schwartz, Chief Revenue Officer at Zillow, this is a non-monetary deal. Edina’s listing agents would receive preferential placement and clear identification as the listing agent on their listings (i.e., the listing agent would be the top contact among the 3-4 agents in the box). In exchange, Zillow would get a direct feed from Edina, updated every 15 minutes. Zillow would also get Edina’s completed transactions data, which will populate Edina agent profiles. (I assume Trulia’s deal is the same.)

The MLS is not involved in any way, from what I understand. This is an outside-of-Listhub arrangement.

That’s Zillow’s side of the story. For Edina’s take, we go to its official press release:

Edina, Minn. – Sept. 30, 2014 – Edina Realty, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate, announced that it will begin sharing its listings directly with real estate media companies Zillow® and Trulia, as well as industry portal realtor.com directly from the MLS, beginning Sept. 30 at noon Central Time.

Edina Realty will share its listings information with Zillow for the first time, and the company is re-entering into partnerships with Trulia and realtor.com after pulling its listings from those sites beginning in 2011, citing concerns over accuracy, adequate disclosure of listing agent and broker information, and more.

“The position that Edina Realty took nearly three years ago has positively influenced the business practices of Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com,” said Greg Mason, president and CEO of Edina Realty Home Services. “The national sites have made enhancements in order to improve the consumer experience as well as the relationship with the broker and agent. For example, on Trulia, the listing agent is now identified alongside their listing at no charge to the agent,” said Mason. “Additionally, the sites are striving for greater data accuracy.”

Edina Realty’s website and mobile apps average a combined total of over two million visits every month and are the most highly trafficked real estate website and apps in the region. The company has led the market in sales for 14 consecutive years and is the region’s largest real estate company with more than 60 offices and 2,300 REALTORS®.

“We remain confident that our clients’ listings receive the best online exposure on edinarealty.com and through our mobile apps, but now their listings will also appear on these national online sites,” said Mason.

Edina Realty’s groundbreaking move to pull its listings from Trulia and realtor.com beginning in 2011 contributed to an ongoing industry-wide discourse about data accuracy and ownership, customer service, and legal obligations by non-broker controlled media companies. “We’re committed to providing the best customer experience,” said Mason, “so we’re happy that our position brought greater awareness around issues with accuracy and listing ownership, and that it contributed to many key changes with the national partners,” he added. “We’ll continue advocating on behalf of our clients and agents to deliver the best real estate experience possible.”

So… Edina’s position appears to be that its move to pull its listings in 2011 led to changes at the portals. Specifically, we’re talking about greater commitment to data accuracy, putting the listing agent first (citing Trulia as the example), and improvement in the consumer experience.

Thing is… the three sites have always been different, with different problems.

For example, data accuracy was never a concern with Realtor.com. And given Realtor.com’s primary product — the Showcase Listing — the “three-headed monster” was never a major issue with them either.

If “data accuracy” refers to outdated listing information on the sites, Zillow and Trulia have been hammering that hard for the past few years. The whole point of things like Z-Pro is to get direct feeds so that the data can be accurate. If it refers, instead, to the widely-despised Zestimates… well, I see nothing in either press release suggesting that Zillow will be doing away with that, or using some new broker-powered AVM.

Bottom line, who cares what the motivations were for Edina to reverse course? Maybe it was because they felt that they had spanked Zillow and Trulia enough, that the portals had learned their lesson, and were now behaving correctly. Having achieved those goals, Edina is now going to partner with them. Maybe it was because Edina saw that failing to syndicate to the largest websites in the real estate category was hurting their recruiting, retention, and business. No one really knows outside of Edina’s HQ.

What we do know, and this is significant, is the implication of Mason’s statement: “We’ll continue advocating on behalf of our clients and agents to deliver the best real estate experience possible.”

As of October of 2014, it appears that the “best real estate experience possible” includes advertising on the portals, at least for Edina Realty.

Whether that has any ongoing significance for others remains to be seen.

-rsh