According to Woolley, Homes.com is not only committed to data accuracy, but also to shoring up the broker’s and/or agent’s brand. “Our advertising policies are very clean and very pro-REALTOR®,” said Woolley, explaining that Homes.com does not allow for competitive advertising on listings. “Our job is to provide value to our customer by connecting agents and brokers with buyers and sellers. We forego a lot of revenue opportunity in order to be as pro-REALTOR® as possible.”
Other portals allow access to potentially competitive agents, but in a controlled manner. Trulia, for example, provides an opportunity for consumers to check a box that grants them access to information from other real estate professionals, a dynamic he likens to a Yelp model.
As Chaver explained, “It’s your listing, and your lead. But if the consumer wants to check other boxes to contact other agents, they have that choice. We try to create something that makes the consumer feel like they have options. Most of the time, however, if the listing agent is properly trained, they’ll get the lead.”
Beardsley, however, disagrees with this strategy. “Brand is very important. On any of our listing pages, there is never a competing agent brand. We take a fairly hard stance and there’s revenue we leave on the table because of it, but we are friendlier to the industry because of it.”
Hale believes that the online listing environment will follow the Yelp model even further with the increasing presence of agent ratings, a trend he believes is good for the industry. “If a consumer goes to a movie or a restaurant, they’re looking to see how it’s rated first. We have 70,000 agents rated on HAR.com now,” said Hale. “There are not may other sites that do this, yet 92 percent of consumers want to know how agents are rated before they pick them. A crowd overcomes one or two people’s opinions. To ignore ratings is foolhardy; it’s just a fact of life.”
The other challenge in the portal space is the issue of data scraping. “Over 1.5 million times a day, someone is trying to take detailed information off our site and use it for other purposes,” said Beardsley. “We spend over $2.5 million to prevent data from being scraped. This is a real issue and we are making a concerted effort to prevent third parties from getting that information and using it in unintended ways.”
No matter what the pros and cons of the various listing-portal strategies may be, Charron believes it boils down to brokers gaining back control of the data. Charron is asking his members to periodically reaffirm where they want their listing inventory to go, therefore, as opposed to just using a “set-it-and-forget-it” approach. “Determine the extent to which you want the MLS to protect your data. That’s what we’re here for.”