Three ways MLSes can leverage Trulia and Zillow.

Fact: most listing agents choose maximum exposure for their listings and publish them to the nation’s largest real estate portals. Maybe these agents love the portals. Maybe they hate them. But overwhelmingly, they choose to work with them.

Today, most MLSes that choose to promote syndication as a value added service are basically farming it out to ListHub or Point2. Both syndicators provide a dashboard to help brokers opt-in/opt-out of syndication (most brokerdirects opt-in for every listing) and then handle the transfer of data to publishers multiple times a day. This service is free to the MLS, and very reliable, so many MLSes are hesitant to syndicate directly to Zillow, Trulia, etc.

I think that for many MLSes, they are missing out on a good opportunity. These syndication services are free, but remember if you’re not paying for it; you’re the product.

ListHub requires that Zillow, Trulia, Homes and (which is owned by the same company that owns ListHub) provide reporting data on the performance of each listing that it then compiles and sells back to MLS participants. Why not ask the portals to give you this data directly (in exchange for a direct, opt-in listing feed) and then sell the reports yourself? ListHub has already done the heavy lifting of requiring all the publishers to report the data in the same format, so just use their data-set. I imagine that Trulia and Zillow might even help you set that up if you made it a condition of direct syndication.

In addition to reporting, MLSes have the opportunity to drive traffic from publishers, to the MLS’s own public facing web site. For instance, Trulia links to the “listing source” for every listing they publish. Most of the time, the listing agent has provided enough information for Trulia to link to the broker’s website. However, when no other URL is available they link to pages set up by the feed provider. ListHub receives these links in most cases, but they could be going to your MLS.

Finally, there’s another missed opportunity that might go in the crazy ideas folder, but still deserves consideration. Make Trulia or Zillow one of your technology providers. You know who builds awesome real estate websites and mobile apps? Those guys. Zillow is already willing to build real estate search sites for agents on the cheap, I bet Zillow, Homes, or Trulia could build one heck of an awesome MLS site (or mobile app) for you. They may even do it for free if you’re willing to deliver listings direct.

Crazy? Maybe. But while Zillow and Trulia aren’t about to pay for listings, they really, really don’t want to be so dependent on syndicators like Point2 and ListHub. Going direct doesn’t have to mean you are giving it all away. Let me know if you’d like learn more about the pros and cons of direct listing syndication.

Photo: Creative Commons license via Flickr user gabriel amadeus

12 thoughts on “Three ways MLSes can leverage Trulia and Zillow.

  1. Robert Drummer

    I modified the title: “Three ways MLSs can leverage Trulia and Zillow who leverage MLSs.”

    Also, the saying “If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product”, while it sounds good, it’s just not true. Derek Powazek debunked it last year:

    1. Todd Carpenter Post author

      Zillow and Trulia absolutely leverage the MLS. So does ListHub. This post is about option for MLSes who want to get more back for what they are already giving out.

  2. Scott Vann

    It pisses me off that our Multiple Listing Services give our data for free to these national portals, but if you want an IDX feed to get listings to your own site you have to a monthly fee, on top of what you already pay to be a part of the MLS.

  3. Todd Carpenter Post author

    It’s a good point Scott. I think the reason MLS’s are able to charge for IDX feeds is that there is no strong demand among listing agents (or their consumer clients) for their listings to be displayed on competing broker websites, but there is a demand for those listings to be on Trulia, Zillow and In addition, many listing agents resent the fact that their listings go to too many competitors.

    1. Scott Vann

      I’m confused. Why would a listing agent care whether it is on my site or Zillow? I know agents all over the country and haven’t heard a peep from any of them wanting their listings there. Quite the opposite, many would just as soon they not be there.

      1. Todd Carpenter Post author

        Lots of brokerages resent that IDX gives virtually no credit to the listing agent. By comparison, Zillow and Trulia make it FAR more obvious to the consumer who the listing agent is and how to contact them. I’ve met with many brokers who don’t like the idea of their listings showing up on a competing agent’s local site.

        If I were a listing agent, I’d want it everywhere, but many listing agents resent buyers agents with IDX sites as much as or more than they resent Zillow. They just aren’t willing to say it in public.

  4. Barb Erdmier

    As long as we are throwing out “crazy” ideas. What if one day, broker owners woke up and understood the SEO power of their own listings and market data? They then think “Wow, I can use my agents listings and area data to power my OWN website rankings in Google, Bing, and Yahoo” They then turn off IDX and Syndication and post said listings and data to their brokerage websites. The public, searching for area homes for sale, find their brokerage website coming up first above syndicated websites. No more paying to be a Pro, Featured, or whatever you call it agent/brokerage in syndicated sites. A girl can dream, but I do believe someday someone that understands how powerful the listing data is will be in charge of local brokerages and will use it.

    1. Todd Carpenter Post author


      I think as long as consumers perceive value in having their listings published to Zillow and Trulia, it’s going to be very difficult for brokers not to publish listings to the portals. Selling the home is always going to be the top priority.

      For years, Zillow and Trulia have focused on owning the SEO for every address in America, regardless if the property is for sale or not. I’m not sure that the SEO power of a brokers own listings will be enough to trump that in most markets.

      1. Scott Vann

        If all of this data is so valuable, and it very obviously is else Trulia and Zillow wouldn’t exist at all, then why are we giving it away? This makes about as much sense as Apple giving iPhones for free to Walmart, and letting Walmart pocket all the proceeds. Great deal for Walmart. Sucks for Apple.

      2. Barb Erdmier

        Sellers, I agree want their properties featured there. But the buyers I am working with are leaning more towards local MLS’s and agent IDX sites as the information is updated quicker than thru syndication via List Hub and Point 2. Buyers are getting upset when they find a property on syndicated sites only to discover it’s sold or pending. Even more so when the information is incorrect. I’m seeing a shift in loyalty ( with buyers ) away from syndicated sites. ( I do ask where they go to search for properties )

        Syndicators may have focused SEO effort for every address in America but at a local level we can use current data to compete. Examples? Current tax records and assessments for every address in the counties we serve-the moment they are released. Current sold and closed data. Current Pending data. Current price reductions. ( List Hub and Point 2 take forever to get that info to syndication btw )

        I believe Broker owners do have the ability to compete with syndication. They just need to think about how to do it.

      3. Drew Meyers

        I think (know) there are brokers out there who understand how to use this data to their advantage. But it’s just very very hard to compete in the seo world at the level of Z/T/ The tax assessor and sales data you mention is data zillow pays for — are real estate agents and brokers going to be willing to pay for that, and put in the work to integrate it correctly into their web platform? I assume not, particularly since it’s available in the zillow api free of charge for those who want to display it (and yes, a link is required in return).

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