“Everyone’s up here playing nice, but we’ve been through a tough time,” he explained. “Years ago, everyone started taking their inventory and putting it on the portals, and this was great exposure. But given where you’ve been, would you make the same decisions today that you made 10 years ago as it relates to your listing inventory? It’s time to make your own determinations about where you want your inventory to go. The unfettered use of the inventory by third parties for their own monetization is something we need to control.”
According to realtor.com®’s Beardsley, among the unintended consequences of online data distribution, is the damage done to the integrity of the individual brokerage’s brand, the overall REALTOR® brand, and the data itself; in the current online listing environment, accuracy is often sacrificed for eyeballs and revenue. Beardsley likened this current scenario to a post-war landscape, advising that brokers and agents look at where the damage was done during the real estate downturn and take steps to better protect their assets as we advance in the recovery.
“Some of you came back from the war and one of the bullet holes you survived is the distribution of data,” explained Beardsley. “But this is one of the areas we now need to put armor around.”
With the increasingly ubiquitous distribution of data through various online portals, Beardsley feels the consumer may come to view the role of the listing agent as unnecessary, unless the portal takes the necessary steps to protect the REALTOR®’s branding. The REALTOR®, he contends, is invaluable to providing not only the proper guidance, but the most accurate information on available listings.
It comes down to credibility and reputation, said Beardsley. “A consumer needs to understand that if they talk to a professional real estate agent, they know they are going to get real information. They know that the listings they are going to walk into are actually for sale. Inaccurate information on a listing site doesn’t tarnish the reputation of the portal; it tarnishes the reputation of the agent. The information online has to reflect the reality of the world.”
According to Schwartz, the accuracy of the data is dependent upon the source: the MLS. “In Houston, we have an accurate MLS feed,” he explained. “When we don’t have a definitive source of data, and agents are left to their own devices and use hand-entered solutions, that’s when we have a problem. When we get good stuff in, we put good stuff out.”
“The reason we have clean data is that we do not take data from any other source, only the MLS,” countered Beardsley. “The question isn’t the source, but the limitation of other sources. We put clear, definitive license agreements around it.”
Hale, whose association represents over 4,000 brokers and 21,000 agents, firmly agreed. “HAR.com delivers about a million leads a year and a million click-throughs to their websites. We want to control the accuracy. Data accuracy is very important to us.”