News of Abbott Realty Group’s decision to stop syndicating its listings to real estate aggregators such as Trulia and Zillow renewed the discussion in the industry regarding the value of third-party sites in marketing properties. To summarize the point made by the likes of ABR and Edina, which made the decision in November, is that third-party aggregators take listing information (which is ‘owned’ by the listing brokerage) as content for their sites, which drives traffic to these sites. The resulting traffic then becomes a valuable commodity which can be leveraged into selling advertising, whether to individual agents, brokerages, or add-on services (i.e. moving companies). A consensus among the anti-syndication crowd is that data is often outdated, automated-valuation models (i.e. Zestimates) are inaccurate, and that ultimately these portals are using listings to attract traffic to their sites, so that they can sell those ‘leads’ and ad space to real estate agents.
The flip side of the argument, at least as made by Zillow’s CEO Spencer Rascoff, is that portals such as Zillow are ‘most likely to provide the most exposure to the most buyers,’ which results in listings selling faster and at a higher price. He goes on to say that ‘not putting listings on Zillow, Realtor.com and Trulia is tantamount to abandoning any hope of finding a buyer who is using a mobile device’ (emphasis added by Mr. Rascoff), which would lead one to believe that the big aggregators have a monopoly in mobile technology – a point that many leading innovators could argue against.