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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 02/01/2012

The fight behind online home listings

Special to The Washington Post


Web sites like Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com are “third party syndication” sites which take real estate listings and add other content to deliver to homebuyers and sellers. (Heather Elias)

When you get the home buying itch, the first thing you do is start looking at homes online, right? You’re not alone. The National Association of Realtors 2011 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers showed that 88 percent of consumers used the Internet to shop for homes.

With a myriad of sites available to search on, consumers can use their agent’s website, a brokerage website, or the consumer site of a multiple listing service like HomesDatabase.com. However, many consumers prefer to use “third party syndication sites” like Trulia.com, Realtor.com, or Zillow.com, which bring in all of the listing data and add extra information like market statistics, neighborhood data, walkability scores, and more.

But what homebuyers and sellers may not know is that there’s no love lost between the big brokerage firms and these web sites as they compete for homebuyer traffic. Still, many brokers have found a way to make the relationship work. As Century 21’s CEO, Rick Davidson told the Washington Post recently, “I view them as helpful. It’s about the consumer experience. If consumers can have the experience of looking at all listings available in that marketplace, then I view these aggregator sites as a benefit to the consumer and an assistance to our business.”

Not all real estate firms feel that way, though, and there’s been quite a dustup taking place within the industry this week. A small brokerage out in San Diego, ARG Abbot Realty Group, declared that effective immediately, they are pulling all of their listings off of Realtor.com, Trulia, and Zillow, via an impassioned video posted on YouTube (a video syndication site, natch).

In the video, ARG Abbott Realty Group’s broker and president Jim Abbott said these syndication Web sites often display inaccurate information that helps neither the homebuyer nor the seller. He claims that these sites often display homes as for sale when in fact they are under contract or they make it difficult for the consumer to contact the listing agent. Instead, he says, they often try to get brokers and real estate agents to pay them fees for sales leads.

“These sites are nothing more than slick advertising platforms,” Abbott said. Unlike real estate professionals, he said the sites do not have to follow any regulations governing the accuracy and responsibility for the information provided to consumers. He also claims they are making money off the “content” that brokers produce, such as the marketing text, the professional photography and video that others create.

As a potential homeseller, your home listing should absolutely appear on these real estate web sites. Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com are among the top three real estate sites in the country. As the person hired to sell your home, it is most advantageous to not only put your listing on as many sites where there are buyer eyeballs as I can, but also to ensure that the photos display correctly, the open house information is there, the links to the virtual tours work, etc.

The blunt truth is that consumers flock to Realtor.com, Trulia, and Zillow because they are easy to use, and they all have slick mobile apps, too. Would you want your listing hidden from the consumers searching there?

What has your experience been in using these web sites? Share with us in the comments.

Related: Read more on this topic on Heather’s blog.

Heather Elias is a real estate agent with Century 21 Redwood Realty. You can read more on this topic at Heather’s blog, LoCo Musings.

By Heather Elias  |  11:15 AM ET, 02/01/2012

 
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