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2008-11-14 19:46:27

Who's In Control of Your Listings? Often, It's Not You

How can Agents control where their listings on sites like Trulia are linking to? The answer: not easily.

There's been an explosion of syndication and feed services that send your listings to the various real estate search portals. Your listings are almost certainly being included in such feeds without your knowledge. So it was not surprising to find a lot of confusion with Agents at NAR about how these syndication services work and how REALTORs can maintain control over how their listings are presented in these search portals.

Listing syndication and XML feed services have grown dramatically in the past year as a way of getting listings in front of buyers. Sites like Zillow, Trulia and GOOGLE base make it easy for practically any vendor or service to submit and post property information to their site, and, as a result, everyone's doing it. It's not uncommon for an Agent, a Brokerage firm, the local MLS and listing marketing services like SPS to all be feeding listing information simultaneously to these sites all at the same time.

How does an Agent control this? It was a question on the minds of a lot of agents we talked to at NAR. Many Listing Agents invest considerable time, money and effort in specific listing marketing approaches (such as SPS) and expect their listings to be presented accordingly. For example, the ubiquitous 'Click here to view details' link could be going back to your plain old MLS listing page, rather than the showcase website you created in SPS or other services.

How do these listing portals deal with the duplication? The answer appears to be "not well" - at least from the Agents perspective. As a REALTOR, you certainly hope that you are in control of your listings, but automated feeds to listing syndication sites mean that its quite often not the case. If listing information is syndicated from multiple services into a listing portal like Zillow or Trulia, which one is chosen as the primary one to display?

The answer to this question is important because as an Agent, you have made choices about how market that listing, which is aimed at driving traffic to a specific site for your listing, i.e. a Single Property Site. That's why it's frustrating to see that your listing on Zillow is linking back to your basic MLS page, NOT your optimized, fully featured Single Property Site that you know will generate leads for you.

Portals like Zillow and Trulia do have some logic in place to deal with the duplications and determine which listing feed gets the primary display on their site. We asked them at NAR about the set of rules they have in place to determine which listing gets priority, and here's what they said:
  • Feeds from the Broker Web site usually get first priority.
  • Feeds direct from an Agent's Web site get second priority.
  • After that, things get unclear. The portals don't have a logic in place to deal with feeds from vendors and usually offer little solution for the agent themselves to take manual control over the process.
Some portals have "preferred feed partners", whose listings are given a higher priority. Others let agents become "premium partners," which gives them more manual control over how their listing data is linked and displayed. But these solutions still aren't the easy answer Agents are looking for.

The fact is that at the moment, there's very little an Agent can do to guarrantee how their listings apear in these listing portals. However, in our discussions with the portals at NAR, we got the sense that there's a growing realization of this problem in the industry. Agents are frustrated, and the portals are looking for a way to respect the wishes of agents. There may even be solutions in the next couple of months.

But for the moment, it looks like these "free" sites might move toward a REALTOR.commodel of having a featured listing. It's unfortunate, but paying a bit of money might be the only way to take control over your listings on these sites, at least for the foreseeable future. We'll keep you posted as we learn more.

(Editor's note: For more on listing syndictation and MLS options, check out the recent article by Saul Klein. Go to



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