(Ed Note: Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to read some controversial comments without edits)
Denver Realtors have a love/hate relationship with the large, real estate portals on the internet. Some Realtors love the business they buy from them. More despise what they see as unfair competition to snag potential buyers and sellers. So, the Realtors were ready when representatives of Zillow and Trulia entered the ring at the Metro Denver Association of Realtors last Monday.
Ostensibly, Jay Thompson from Zillow and Todd Carpenter from Trulia came to show Denver Realtors the “Here, There and Everywhere of Listing Syndication”. It sounded like a “how-to” for real estate agents to post their listings throughout the internet. But, immediately the pair was thrown into combat with the opening of what turned out to be Round 1.
Meeting Moderator Kristal Kraft became emotional even during the introductions. “I, for one, find Zillow’s data to be horribly inaccurate.”she began. “I don’t know why Realtors help them compete against us”.
Before the Portal Pair could respond, others in the audience began a litany of criticisms.
“We acknowledge that data integrity is a problem and we are working hard on cleaning up the problem”, Thompson finally was able to respond. “But, it’s hard to correct algorithmically. 1-2-3 Main Street is also picked up as 1-2-3 Main St in the various data mines we have”.
“That’s Bullshit”, an angry Realtor interrupted. “I’m sorry but you have to come up with something more believable than that. You can’t tell us there is not a software solution for something that simple.” The implication was that these internet Goliaths purposely allow old listings to remain in the system so the content of the sites seem larger to the search engines.
“Our lives would be a lot easier if Metrolist (Denver’s public MLS) would just provide us a feed of your listings”, Thompson proposed. ” We then use that data to trump data we get from other sources like virtual tours and county records. You would be helping to make the data more accurate”.
Metrolist currently will not provide listings to real estate portals. Many of the Realtors in the room thought they should have to pay a premium to get the feed of listings.
“What do you want from us?” Thompson asked.
“Pay enough to reduce our Board of Realtor dues”, was the answer from audience member. Other comments suggested that Metrolist should never provide the data because that would damage the ability of individual Realtors to compete with the big boys on the internet.
One of the many contentious disagreements between Realtors and the Portals nationally was never mentioned. Many Realtors are upset that these portals are duping usnsuspecting Realtors into providing free, original content with more than just listing data. Realtor profiles and Realtor forums on those sites add to the content and credibility of those sites with the search engines. And, Badges and Widgets, like free mortgage calculators, provide links to the Portals from individual Realtor sites . All of that contributes to higher search engine rankings for the Portals and pushes individual Realtor websites like All Denver Real Estate lower in the search engine rankings.
“We are cutting off our noses to spite our faces”, was a comment by a Denver Realtor following the hour and a half slugfest. The Chairman of the Metrolist Committee was present along with the Vice-Chairman for most of the meeting. They asked if these portals intend to become full-fledged real estate companies and open offices to compete against Realtors at the local level.
“No, that is much easier said than done in reality” was Thomspon’s response. Carpenter said he did not know of any such plans at Trulia.
The battle will continue. If other Board’s of Realtors and their MLS systems threaten to withhold listing data, this road show might likely be repeated in venues across the country. If so, Thompson and Carpenter might consider applying for combat pay with their employers.