Controlling the Data: Asserting Our Role as the Best Real Estate Resource
Steve A. Brown, Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations, NAR
Lennox Scott, CEO, Chairman, John L. Scott Real Estate, Seattle, Wash.
Bill Plattos, Executive Vice President, First Team Real Estate, Irvine, Calif.
Jon Coile, President, CEO, Champion Realty, Baltimore, Md.
Steve A. Brown: In last month’s column, as I took over the Roundtable moderator’s seat, we introduced the issue of the control of industry data—and more specifically, how we, as brokers and agents, can best assert ourselves as the undisputed experts and the best resource for accurate and timely real estate information for buyers, sellers and the media. The widespread sharing of data with third-party aggregators is already under discussion in many real estate circles and is touching a nerve in others because it’s an issue that directly affects our pride, our professionalism and, ultimately, our profitability. Today, we’ve invited a few industry leaders to weigh in on the topic. Lennox, you were part of the discussion by the Data Strategies Committee at the last NAR Midyear Meeting in Washington. Why don’t you get us started with a recap?
Lennox Scott: As you know, Steve, the committee is focused on all the strategies that affect the sharing, distribution, capture and utilization of real estate data. Exposure on the websites of the major listing aggregators can be important to every REALTOR®. But with some third-party aggregators selling the data we provide, using it for their own purposes, and directing consumers away from the listing agents, there’s growing concern that perhaps the pendulum has swung too far—that the quality of the data we share is being compromised, and that the focus should be on underlining and expanding our reputation as the informed, accurate real estate resource.
SAB: We understand that third-party aggregators are not brokers and they are not required to abide by the same rules and regulations as we are. They get listings for free from brokers around the country and then display them online, collecting and distributing leads for a profit—and not necessarily driving business back to the people who provided the listings. And the data on some of these portals is frequently incorrect or outdated. That’s a major issue for serious buyers and sellers.
Bill Plattos: I don’t know that we’re ready to pull back from the sharing patterns we’ve put into place for the last 15 or 20 years, but I do believe the broker’s first responsibility is to promote the growth of his or her agents. One way we do that at First Team is to put our emphasis on promotions that drive business to our own call center, which monitors every lead that comes in and does drive the calls to our listing agents. The other thing we do is promote our own sites and encourage effective prospecting strategies so that agents expand their own sphere of influence to help them connect and build relationships with consumers.
We’re very cautious and don’t like the idea that third-party aggregators can pick up our listings and then charge us referral fees for leads. We’d rather try and generate those leads ourselves.
Jon Coile: To an extent, the aggregators are using our listings as eye candy. For buyers and sellers, there’s no substitute for the proactive agent. The local agent should be at the center of every transaction, and the trick is to use technology—including the portals—to support agent activity, but not replace it. Individual agents—and MLSs—should be able to decide for themselves whether or how much data to share. But if the aggregators are part of the problem, they should also be part of the solution.
SAB: You’re right that unbiased display of listings produces the best outcomes for agents, aggregators and consumers alike. NAR offers some pertinent resources for brokers considering syndication of their listings at REALTOR.org. It’s also important to remember that the data from 900 MLSs across the country are fed into realtor.com®, and more than 90 percent of the listings are updated every 15 minutes. Realtor.com® has become the industry’s most accurate repository of timely listing data because of the efforts of brokers and MLSs to keep their data fresh.
The Power Broker Roundtable is brought to you by the National Association of Realtors® and Steve A. Brown, NAR’s Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations. Watch for this column each month, where we address broker issues, concerns and milestones.