A debate is swirling through the real estate industry as some brokers have decided to try to wrest back control of real estate buyers access to information from popular syndication sites like Trulia, Zillow, and even the site many assume to be run by the brokers themselves, Realtor.com. Large regional brokerages in several areas have concluded they have lost too much control over buyers to these and other internet sites that provide information and services once available only through a real estate agent and will no longer make information and photos of their company’s listing available to these sites. The brokers rational is that the listing data is the fruit of their labors,that they are uniquely positioned to provide consumers with the most accurate information and that the sellers they represent are best served if buyers get their property information from the listing agent who is very familiar with the property instead of through a buyers agent who may know little or nothing about it. Many of the syndication sites sell placement of real estate agent contact information, which is displayed on the property information page, to potential competitors of the listing agent, making the brokerages feel as though they are providing free content to the sites which then turn around and use it against them.
Since we are talking about listings here, the important part of the discussion from an agent (fiduciary) standpoint should be what is in the best interest of the client who has listed their house for sale. Is it in the best interest of the seller to have their house appear in searches on these sites or are they indeed better represented by the buyer only being able to access this information from the listing agent directly, through their web site or through another real estate agent with access to the MLS rather than through a syndication site? While these sites have suffered from inaccurate and out of date data in the past, that is not nearly as big a problem as it is made out to be currently. TMLS utilizes a service that manages the information flow to these sites and does a good job of making sure the data is accurate and current. The listing agent probably does know more about the property than a buyer agent who has never seen it before, but a good buyers agent can quickly get up to speed on the property, the area and the comparable sales. Some buyers do indeed prefer working directly with a listing agent for a variety of reasons, but possibly even more prefer not to due to the inherent conflict of interest that and agent working for the seller faces when working directly with an interested buyer. Some listing agents even view their listings as lead generators, not for that listing, but as a way to connect with active buyers who they can convert into buyer clients for a different listing.
Given the way that most buyers currently approach learning about the market and searching for information on available properties, I think it is very much counter to most sellers best interests to not appear on these syndication sites. The syndication sites have developed research tools, mapping features, etc., that many consumers like to use. Traditional real estate brokerages and organizations such as NAR, local Realtor groups and MLS’s have lagged behind, more often devoting their resources to trying to preserve their out dated and anti consumer methods of doing business than in providing consumers with tools they want. The syndication sites have filled that void nicely, and while they still have room for improvement, their concentration on providing features that consumers want means that they get used , and used a lot, by potential home buyers. If you are selling in today’s market, where homes for sale exceed buyers, you can not afford to be left out of of searches being done by buyers using these sites.