To list or not to list....listing information on Realtor.com

A friend of mine by the name of Karen used to work with me here in our real estate office in Silverdale, WA. She had been both an agent and an assistant manager. Some years ago (they fly by way to fast to count) she moved to the east coast and eventually to Florida where she practices real estate.

Karen e-mailed me this morning asking for my take on this article; http://realtytimes.com/rtapages/20061130_seattlepullout.htm

Here are some of my thoughts:

This article comes from an interesting angle….”why are brokers choosing not to put their listings with Realtor.com”. I would come from the other side…why would brokers want to???

The Realtor organization is a fantastic organization for providing services to its’ members like; education, a consistent code of ethics, cost savings from third party vendors and for acting as a political watch dog regarding property rights, land use and legislation that affects our business.

They were not used for marketing or promoting our listing inventory. That has always been the broker’s job. In some areas there may be a crossover. Some Multiple Listing Services (MLS) are owned by the local Realtor organization.

So lets break this discussion into a two pieces; context and reasoning:

Context:

Some years ago, National Association of Realtors decided to start Realtor.com. They hired a third party to put this whole thing together and it is now operated solely by this third party as NAR has distanced themselves from it. The third party was Homestore, but is now known as Move Inc. and trades on the NASDAQ as Move.

The reason NAR felt there was a need for Realtor.com is because real estate firms in the midwest and on the east coast did not share their listing information in a way that the public could access it on line. The consumer would have to access each broker’s webpage, one company at a time to see what was on the market.

This is very different than those of us in the northwest. From the beginning we felt it was a benefit for the public to get their listing knowledge and market information right from the horse’s mouth. So each of us share with the other all of our listings. We would rather have the consumer go to our competitors website and get accurate up to the minuet information then to a third party vendor.

So now we have a for profit company, who looks and feels like NAR but really isn’t and they want to collect, distribute and profit from the listings that our agents have worked so hard to get.

Here is some of the information from their web page, italicized:

Stock Quote

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

MOVE (Common Stock)

Exchange

NASDAQ GS (US Dollar)

Price

$6.29

Change (%)

Stock is Up 0.03 (0.48%)

Volume

1,403,481

Data as of 02/26/07 4:47 p.m. ET
Minimum 20 minute delay

Move, Inc. provides consumers with the real estate content, decision support tools and professional connections they need before, during and after a move.

For the last ten years, MoveT, the new Homestore®, has been providing information and decision support tools for consumers looking for home and real estate-related information on the Internet. Visitors to Move's Web sites, including operates REALTOR.com®, Move.com™, (formerly Homestore.com®, RENTNET® and HomeBuilder.com®) and SeniorHousingNet™ have access to the most comprehensive selection of existing homes for sale, new homes, apartments for rent and senior housing. Consumers also have access to home plans and construction-ready floor plans through Move's Homeplans Company .

This information is provided so that you may put Realtor.com in context. Realtor .com is not the “Mother ship” as the author of the referenced article would have you believe. In fact it is just like many of the marketing vehicles currently available to brokers such as newspapers, home magazines and other third party website vendors.

Some reasoning:

Now that we know what Realtor.com is, or isn’t, let’s talk about the reasoning behind the decision not to turn listing information loose.

In an earlier blog I addressed “whose listing is it?” If you’ve taken a moment to peruse past articles you’ll see that I firmly believe that the listing is the property of the listing broker. It is their privilege to be able to help sellers sell their home but it is also the broker’s responsibility to ensure the information is true, accurate and up to date. It is also the broker’s responsibility to market the property in a way that reflects positively back on the seller and the brokerage.

In its simplest form, a website is much like a flyer. If done correctly it can illuminate the high points and features of a home as well as carry an image of the broker. They can also look pretty poor if not done well. We have all seen a flyer that is a third generation copy that does not carry the image the broker or the seller would be proud of. So why turn this responsibility over to a third party web designer whose goal is to sell banner ads? In essence they increase the value of their site by publishing our listings. This drives more traffic to the site which means their electronic real estate becomes more valuable to advertisers.

While I appreciate the importance of earning a profit and running a business, it is important to keep in mind our goals. A third party internet web companies goal is to attract traffic to their site so that they can sell advertising and or spin a lead off to an agent to earn a referral fee back. The goal of a real estate firm is to promote a listing, provide accurate and timely information, provide a searchable data base, allow the public to meet our agents and promote the image of the company.

Lets take a moment to talk about accuracy. Currently the Department of Licensing in Washington state (I’m sure other states as well) requires a broker to promote a listing with accurate information. If we were running a listing in the paper that was already sold, or contained incorrect information we could be called to task. This same standard is carried out to the internet as well. While I’ve not heard of DOL prosecuting agencies for improper internet advertising their light will be shining in that corner soon. No one will be as responsive as the broker to make appropriate changes. Before we had our listings removed from a local home magazine website we had a lot of calls on listings that had long ago closed but had not yet been removed by this third party vendor. The same has been reported about Realtor.com.

Different solutions for different companies:

If you are a small company who has just surfed in on this latest real estate market then Realtor.com may be a good solution. You need to employ every tool possible to make yourself appear larger than you are. If you are a larger company who has successfully invested marketing money into a website, then there is no better tool for providing the consumer with the best experience. That is the benefit of running a business or being an independent contractor….you get to make these decisions. Don’t forget to read the fine print……”all decisions are subject to change.”

3 comments:

Dustin said...

Frank,

While very interesting, some of your history of Realtor.com is a little off... For some more background, you might find this video I created helpful where I interviewed a long-time employee of Move.

Also, just so you know, NAR has more than a passing interest in Realtor.com. As a matter of fact, they still own the site and have final say over all new products and design changes...

Sellrealest8 said...

Frank, you are one smart man. I enjoyed working with you and enjoy our continued Friendship. Keep up the good information! It benefits us all.
Karen

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