Technology is a wonderful thing…. I think. Especially if you are a syndicator or an aggregator. When I think of “Syndicate” I think of the FBI busting a bunch of guys for running numbers. When I think of “Aggregator” my brain presumes some secret society that is revealed on the History Channel. Hopefully not. Real Estate Syndication is a real estate broker’s ability to send his or her listing for exposure via software to an aggregator site. Sites like Trulia, Zillow ,Realtor. Com. and Yahoo. That so everyone in the world who is looking for real estate can find your little piece of the American dream on those gazillion sites. You know, so the folks who live in Abu Dhabi can find that 2 story Colonial in Little Rock. This syndication process can happen by the broker individually or through the local Realtor association and MLS(Multiple Listing Service). If the organization does it, they contract with a service to supply the listings for massive distribution to a plethora of web sites, those aggregators I mentioned.
Well there is a lot going on right now regarding brokers’ desire to continue in the syndicating process through their local association. You see the problem is that if your local Realtor association provides that access for the aggregators, some of those sites gather leads and the sell them back to the broker who has the listing. Basically paying for leads that come from their inventory but via that third-party who wouldn’t even get the lead if it wasn’t for the brokers listings in the first place. I apologize for any confusion. It gets worse.
Because of the rise of the internet and over 85% of all buyers starting their home search on-line, this has given rise to an entire digital industry devoted to the marketing of real estate. While it was true that at one time the Multiple Listing Service was primarily a venue to share listings between member brokers, it’s now pretty much a consumer necessity for immediate access to those listings. Thus we have IDX(Internet Data Exchange). Fancy words for sharing all brokers listings on each others web sites. That sharing of info comes through the local association and MLS guided by rules of the National Association of Realtors and their subcommittee on MLS. The customer in some cases see the houses before other agents do. In the old days, the really old days, listings came in books or sheets that we had to purge every week or so and then we would send them out to clients. The customer maybe knew about the house because of an ad in the newspaper…. newspaper??? what’s that? or from the sign outside or maybe an open house. From the seller side that’s about all they could expect.
Well the big mahoffs of the National Association of Realtors, that would be the board of directors, just met last week in California and decided, effective immediately, that franchisors can no longer upload IDX information from their local franchisees . So if you go to those national franchise sites you are only going to see branded listings from their franchisees. You will only find IDX on the local franchisee site. It’s important to note that IDX is not Syndication. The brokers certainly have the option to continue to syndicate on their own to the aggregators sites. As Saul Klein ,CEO of Point2 Technologies and InternetCrusade, indicates in a really good presentation “It’s about distribution and not destination” See the link below.
From what I gather there is a movement afoot to just bail out of MLS and the Realtor Associations. The large franchisors and Independents think with their own websites and huge marketing departments that they can capture the buyer on their own and not have to pay an outsider any fee. Syndication will continue without the aid of the local association and IDX. This movement doesn’t have much traction right now but who knows.In tough economic times I certainly can appreciate these actions.
But the big question is, how are the sellers and buyers going to take this? It’s been pretty much standard fare to offer sellers as much internet exposure as possible. If you are a seller you need to be asking your agent about a detailed internet marketing plan he or she has in mind. Where do their companies or franchises stand on this issue? And of course what is the total marketing plan? i.e. open houses, videos, and social media, radio, tv, etc.
As far as buyers go we know they want pictures and videos of houses on-line. The Realtor. Com site will allow a few pictures but as an agent you have the ability to purchase an “enhanced site” that will allow you to put several pictures on-line with your picture and contact information. But it costs the agent a lot. If you carry a large inventory in this market it could run the agent several thousands of dollars a year. In a lot of cases the broker is picking up the tab for the entire company. If you are a buyer and you are on a company or national franchise site are you seeing all the listings in your area or the area you might be relocating to?
All in all it is very confusing. I am not proposing any answers here but it is certainly something we as agents need to be aware of. Our sellers have come to expect a full marketing program that includes total internet exposure through many web sites. The buyers of today want one stop shopping. If companies start to pull out of traditional boards and MLSs ,what kind of business relationships will develop to keep the flow of properties coming between those companies that stay and those that don’t? Right now, not a lot of answers. Some how I don’t think this one is going to be easy or short-term.