Tennessee Limits MLS Data To Zillow
Inman recently wrote about Zillow’s refusal to accept a Tennessee MLS’s offer to provide painfully limited data about listings. The article is of course, well written and takes a very professional and balanced approach to the topic. Then… I made the cardinal mistake of reading the comments and I began weeping (hyperbole – I never weep) for the future of our industry and most importantly our clients.
The comments were a predictable mash-up of Zillow-bashing and NAR-blaming and it was crystal clear that there were a lot of comments that were not based in fact and even more “likes” on the fact-less comments.
I’d like to share here the comments I left on the Inman post in an effort to help educate Brokers about the unintended consequences of restricting data from clients. We tried that and it didn’t go well for us.
The Comments That Became A Blog Post
Here are my comments/rantings:
The sheer amount of misinformation in these comments is not only sad, but indicative of an industry that forms opinions before understanding the facts.
Please take some time to understand how syndication works, how it evolved, the benefits to agents and clients as well as the disadvantages.
We need to take responsibility to be better informed about the world around us and who we serve.
The aggregators exist because agents did not take enough responsibility to understand who the consumer is/was and what they want. Aggregators and syndicators filled a void that was left by Realtors who elected to put their head in the sand as the online world was in it’s infancy.
If you don’t want qualified buyers to see your properties on Zillow, Realtor, etc… than it’s incumbent on you to develop a marketing campaign that will serve your Seller-client’s best interest.
When the seller hired me, he did not do so with the intent to ensure that my firm gets the first, best chance to “double-end” a transaction or ensure we made the most money. He hired me to find a buyer. If buyers are using Zillow than I want my listing on Zillow. If there are more buyers on my personal website, than I want it on my personal website. Right now I want it on both so that buyer’s will find my listing – not find me.
Until we create a better mouse-trap, than degrading content to the most utilized resource by buyers is simply putting the Seller at a disadvantage.
Yes, the AVM model is broken and estimates are inaccurate, but any programmer will tell you that garbage in is garbage out. When the quality of data improves, so will the AVM model. That’s on us.
One more thought… I hear a lot of complaints about Zillow’s inaccurate data and how it hurts consumers. If that’s the case (and I agree that Zestimates are harmful at this point) how is limiting the data that is provided by MLS to aggregators going to be an improvement to the consumer?
So now what will happen is a consumer, who doesn’t necessarily understand the process, will look at data in Virginia and say, ‘Wow, look 30 photos a great description, etc…” and then begin home searching in Tennessee and say ‘Wow, look how lazy these agents are. Only a two sentence description and four photos?’.
The buyer then calls agents in Tennessee only to realize that the agents have colluded together to hide the data from the consumer so that the consumer is forced to change their buying model and go ask the agent to send them data. Why would a consumer not assume that an agent who is willing to hide the data that it provides to Zillow not also be willing to hide listing data that does not suit the buyer agent (i.e. hiding the listing that do not offer a certain preferred commission).
Google’s Digital House Hunt survey tells us that buyers are looking for about a year before actually wishing to work with an agent. So in Tennessee’s model, the buyer will be struggling thorough a frustratingly limited amount of data for a long time, forming a negative opinion of Tennessee agents before an agent gets the chance to say “Yeah, we kinda tricked you into calling us. But look, if you call us we’ll share all the data we have.” …said every crack dealer ever.
We need to find a better way to make the client centric in the transaction and harming our sellers by hiding data from buyers and trying to force buyers back into a 1990’s model is not going to end well for us.
I’m don’t know if Zillow is the best model, but I do know that the current industry model for the marketing of listing is not consumer centric and thus broken.
One commentator stated that he’s tired of aggregators being the middle-man between he and his customers. I’ve heard sellers say the same about agents and I’ve worked with agents who were not only a middle-man but an obstacle to the successful completion of the transaction.
We all have a lot of growth to go through and I have no idea what the perfect answer will be. I do know that restricting access to data in order to serve ourselves over the client is not the right solution.