Leslie Ebersole has outlined a very informative explanation of the current real estate data players and the possible changes that may take place and why this is important to the public and to Realtors.
Ok, I'm not calling anyone specific stupid, but the real estate data providers are changing the real estate business and it's time to pay attention. The myriad of competing data.com providers who wish to lead in the hearts and minds of the real estate consumer is dizzying. And the fact is that the consumer cat has been let out of the bag and will likely refuse to go back in. And this is all costing money...a lot of money.
The consumer wants data he trusts and can use on his own terms and in his own ways. Third party aggregators Zillow.com and Trulia.com quickly rose to prominence equal to that of Realtor.com because they provide views into sold data that Realtor.com does not; they also operate as the back end to hundreds of consumers sites such as CNNMoney.com and WSJ.com, further enhancing their perception of trustworthiness. Brokers and agents try to reach these straying consumers and so pay for ads, premium services and enhanced listing placement. Endless complaints by brokers about the integrity of the data has failed to dissuade the increasing numbers of users. But the broker behavior could be called a little psychotic. Brokers and agents syndicate to these sites, pay to advertise on these sites and then try to unhook usage of the sites.
The NAR, of course, believes that the listing and sold data should be under control of the MLSs and their member brokers. While Realtor.com has remained the most recognized brand name, it's usage has been oriented to buyers. But today's consumer feels disenfranchised by this system. Realtors have been admonished to fill this gap and provide value to the consumers by providing and interpreting data. But real estate agents, with or without the brand name Realtor, are commissioned sales people and are simply not trusted by most consumers, period. The explosion of banners, ads, buyer assists, and offers for free cmas continues to clutter the Realtor.com site.
GoogleBase seems to be laying in wait, sweeping the internet and rather indiscriminately displaying real estate listings based on syndication. But counting out Google in any race they choose to win would be foolish. More on GoogleBase in a future post.
The NAR and the MLS broker population desperately wish to control their listings for sale and the sold data. All that data has value....and the value is in ad revenue and usage fees, in addition to the broker subscription and syndication fees.
The Realtors Property Resourse (RPR) is the NAR's initiative to provide a technologically robust and sophisticated system for NAR member brokers to more easily share and display information, but it is not a national MLS. It's purported goal is provide business and government users of data better access to data across MLS boundaries. Yawn. RPR went live last week in 2 MLSs and claims over 265,000 members from over 100 MLSs. Hmmmmm. And while the RPR stated in December of 2009 "There will be no public access to the RPRTM, and the database and its data cannot be shared through consumer websites" the data will certainly be available. Double hmmmm.
Two days ago I posted Move Inc Is the New 800 lb Gorilla. Move, Inc. is a public company that has operated Realtor.com for over 14 years on the behalf of NAR, and is in a race with to sign up MLSs to provide Sold data in order to provide a more relevant and useful experience for consumers. Posted today on Inman News" "The race to license historical listing data from multiple listings services continues to heat up, with Realtor.com operator Move Inc. saying it has new licensing agreements in place or in the works with 17 MLSs representing 238,000 subscribers".
Zillow is preparing for an IPO, perhaps the looming backstory to the NAR's seemingly competitive initiatives. Mock the Zestimate if you wish, but millions are run every day by consumers who use them for everything from pricing their home for sale to negotiating divorce settlements.
Ad revenue in all it's forms is fueling all these engines, sitting on top of the value of listings and data in the MLSs. Brokers additionally pay to have them syndicated (either by the MLS or through other services). Brokers who claim not to pay for syndication may be naive, as it may simply hidden in the subscription fees to their MLS.
Control of the data will control the future of compensated real estate services. Control of the data and it's use will cost money. The many intertwining and difficult to understand initiatives are being undertaken by multiple competitive commercial and profit-motivated organizations. If ever there was a time to pay attention and get involved to control your future, this may be it.
This post was written by Leslie Ebersole of Baird & Warner Real Estate.
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