I’ve been pretty focused on my new role at NAR for the last six months, but finally made some time to write again. This white paper is a side project I did for the Center for REALTOR® Technology. The Intelligent Internet Lead explores some of the cool stuff happening behind the scenes when it comes to converting Internet leads into client relationships. Here’s the blog post I wrote about it, while the full report can be downloaded here.
Real estate technology startup Reesio made a few waves this week when they announced that their own audit of MLS data shows that agents on their platform were updating the status of their listings well before they made the same updates in their MLS, if at all. This is creating a situation where the data coming from the MLSes is not completely up to date. From Reesio cofounder and CEO Mark Thomas:
“We then started comparing this transactional data to the big search portals like Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com, and we were blown away at how inaccurate those search portals were compared to what was actually happening in real time within Reesio.”
“There are some industry studies that state that 36 percent of the listings on the large search portals are inaccurate. We were finding it to be closer to 50 percent when we compared our transactions to those on the search portals.”
“Because this process requires the listing agent to manually create the listing in their local MLS system and manually update it every time there is a change in the transaction, a lot of the data is significantly delayed in terms of when it’s actually updated in the MLS. Or worse, the data is never updated in the MLS at all.”
For Zillow and Trulia, this isn’t a criticism that’s new to them, but for Realtor.com and anyone publishing listings that are exclusively sourced from the MLS, this is an issue that everyone would like to keep swept under the mat. Of course, the MLS is the most accurate source of listing data, but it’s no gold standard. Anyone who’s worked with listing data feeds know this, publishers are just too polite to say it in public.
There are plenty of errors in the MLS.
Reesio has some big ideas, and it will be interesting to see how much traction those ideas earn. The establishment reaction was less than positive.
I see a missed opportunity flying by. Imagine if MLS’s worked with transaction management companies to help keep the data in the MLS up to date. Imagine if MLSes worked with Zillow and Trulia to identify published properties in their market that aren’t being updated, or even listed in their MLS. Imagine if MLSes, publishers, and transaction management companies all worked together to identify and eliminate out of date listings. If these factions really cared about improving data accuracy, they would all do more to work together. Instead, each faction is looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage over the other. They could improve data quality, but they don’t. Why?
Improving data quality does not matter.
The players will never publicly admit this, but their actions tell you everything you need to know. Most MLSes refuse to work directly with the portals, and we all know Zillow and Trulia could improve their data quality tomorrow if that was their focus. It isn’t.
MLSes seem to believe their agent listed data set is good enough. However, the folks at Trulia and Zillow know that even the MLS’s data set is flawed enough that consumers will stumble across stale data on IDX and MLS-sourced sites as almost as often as they do on the portals. They’re betting consumers will perceive those databases to be no more timely than what portals offer. They know that many will continue to expand their search to more comprehensive databases.
If the industry really cares about improving data quality, cooperation is the path forward. It is time to end the lip service. Do we want to move forward on data quality or not?
Flickr image courtesy of paulscott56
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 brokers 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 realtor.com (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
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for my family. We are in the process of moving back to Chicago, and I haven’t had much time to write. Last week, the National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors met to approve “historic” changes to their agreement with Move Inc, to operate realtor.com. Inman News provided good coverage here.
Basically, realtor.com will be able to display non-listed rentals, new construction properties, and some distressed properties. Basically, idea 3 from my prior post. I’m a proponent of moves like this.
NAR definitely paid a price to make this happen. REALTOR.com is no longer the members-only club it was a week ago. The site is now offering about the same member benefit as Trulia.com offers every real estate agent, REALTOR® or not. What will NAR receive in return?
These changes should help Realtor.com improve traffic, but will they be enough to regain the lead among real estate portals? I’m skeptical. It would be interesting to know what the BOD’s expectations are, which leads me to a question I would love your input on.
What result should NAR expect from Move Inc, now that it has “let realtor.com soar?”
Furthermore, will Move be able to deliver? The BOD’s decision is definitely a step in the right direction, but at best, they are playing catch-up. Trulia and Zillow have robust rental, new construction and distressed property programs in place. Move’s incorporation of New Home Source listings will likely make them a leader in new construction listings, but by how much? Meanwhile, Zillow is still meeting consumer demand for things that remain taboo for the REALTOR® family (agent ratings, Zestimates, FSBOs…). If NAR is expecting Move to regain the lead in traffic, they have their work cut out for them.
Only time will tell what will happen, but I think NAR will have some interesting decisions to make in the near future. Should the association bet on their horse to win, place, or show? If Move can’t deliver, the next special BOD meeting could be about a partnership with Zillow instead.