Years ago real estate clients had one way, and one way only to get access to the active real estate listings in their market.....a Realtor. Enter the age of the internet and tech-savvy buyers, and viola....the birth of customer independence~ third-party real estate sites. Sites like Realtor.com, Zillow.com, Trulia.com, etc. were born out of this desire for independence to search thoroughly through hundreds and hundreds of listings all over the country, and then make decisions about where and when to buy a home. The consumer demand for this market skyrocketed and the number of third-party sites exploded- I can't begin to even name all of the sites that receive syndicated listings from local multiple listing services.
Are these days over? For some real estate offices- yes. A growing trend among real estate brokerages around the country is to disallow the syndication of their listings to these third-party sites. Obviously it seems it makes sense to publish listings on as many websites as you can in an effort to get the greatest exposure possible to the general public with the least effort or cost. However, there are flaws to these sites which is causing many brokerages to refuse to syndicate. Here's a very short list of the cons to these sites as I've experienced as both a listing and buyer's agent:
1. Third-party sites don't manage their listings with the same rules local listing boards do to ensure accuracy. For instance in San Diego County, when a home is under contract the listing agent must move it to "pending" within 24 hours or face hundreds of dollars in penalty. Third-party sites don't penalize themselves for inaccurate listings and many listings stay "active" for months or longer after they are under contract and even sold. This creates a lot of unnecessary heartache for buyer's excited about a home that is already sold. It creates extra work for a buyer's agent to track down a listing that is already sold when their buyer brings the listing to them from the third-party site, and headaches for a listing agent getting angry buyer calls when they have to tell them the property was sold months ago and the buyer's accuse them of not taking the property off the market. Although we may move them to pending on our listing service, the syndicated sites don't reflect the information in consistent, accurate manners.
2. Offering property values that are unrealistic. Some of these sites offer to give you an "estimate" of what your home is worth by simply typing in your address. This not only demeans the entire appraisal/valuation process of Realtors and appraisers, but it makes for very unhappy consumers. These "estimates" are nothing more than per sq. ft. averages based on recently sold homes in the area. It doesn't take into consideration that the sold homes it's comparing it to were sold at auction or was a refinance rather than an actual sale on the open market. It doesn't consider upgrades versus a tear-down structure. Most agents wish these sites would eliminate the "estimates" from their sites and leave the evaluations to professionals rather than create more misinformation and frustration for all parties.
3. Falsely advertising who the point of contact is on the listing. These listings are the earned "property" of a real estate broker. A broker worked to earn the listing and have the opportunity to sell it. When the property is syndicated to dozens of third-party sites, all these sites are required to do is state in small print "Used with permission" or "Listing provided by" and the brokerage name. That's it- no contact information is required to be provided. The only way a consumer gets the full contact information for the listing agent is if the listing agent is a paid subscriber to that third-party site, which is hundreds of dollars per month per site to be placed next to their own listings for the consumer to locate them. If the listing agent isn't a paid subscriber, then another paid subscriber agent is placed next to the listing as the point of contact. Yes, this can be a source of lead generation for a subscriber agent, but it doesn't protect the buyer who is trying to get the most information about a property directly from the source of the information.
These are just a few of the major deterrants I have found to these third-party sites. Have I abandoned them for my own listings? No, I have not. Currently, all of my listings are being syndicated, but I am seriously considering joining the others who are pulling their listings from syndication until the system can be better regulated to provide all parties, including agents, with the protections that the local Boards of Realtors provide. In the meantime, I'm sure the number of brokerages firing third-party sites will grow. To my clients and potential clients out there, continue to use those sites, but please realize the information you are looking at should not be considered accurate. Always consult a local Realtor for the most accurate information about the market.