2/28/2012 3:39 PM ET|
The backlash against Zillow & Co.
Real-estate agencies are taking a harder look at national aggregators. They say the websites can be inaccurate, frustrating potential buyers.
It used to be a given for anyone selling a house that a real-estate agent would put the listing on national real-estate aggregator websites like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com to maximize exposure and sell the home quickly. But that could be changing fast as aggregators and agents face off.
Since 2005 or so, real-estate agents have shared data about homes they have for sale with those national sites, which have millions of visitors (Zillow, for example, had 32 million last month). But even though the sites have grown, sales haven't in the distressed housing market, and some agents believe the sites may not be helping. They accuse the sites of engaging in practices that give buyers inaccurate information that may hurt sales.
Among their complaints are that the sites allow any agent, for a fee, to have his or her name and photo appear prominently beside the homes listed for sale in a given region, even if the person in picture isn't the agent representing the seller. In reality, the agent in the photo may know little about the property or the neighborhood where the house is located, frustrating customers' efforts to get accurate answers, according to a report last year by real-estate consulting firm Clareity.
Some agents also claim that many listings on the largest sites are inaccurate. "The wrong photos often appeared with our listings," says San Diego Realtor Jim Abbott, whose firm no longer shares data with the national sites. He also says that the sites kept up listings that were no longer on the market. Clareity CEO Gregg Larson says Zillow and Trulia get information about the same property from multiple sources, such as the listing agent, the local multiple listing service and syndication services. "The duplicates sneak through, and then you have (the same) listing with different prices, listed by different brokers."
One Massachusetts agent, Jack Attridge, notes in a letter to Inman News that because homes he's listed appear on national sites, he's often contacted by agents and customers well outside his area who have questions about those properties. Most of the time, they have incorrect information, and Attridge wrote that none of those calls has resulted in a sale.
These and other problems hurt agents' reputations and do nothing to sell houses, they say. Abbott argues that inaccurate Web listings, combined with side-by-side links to agents who know little about the property, frustrate potential buyers and may actually drive them to look elsewhere.
Abbott studied three years of his agency's sales data and compared listings that the company didn't share with national sites to those it did. "Time after time, the listings that we did syndicate compared with the listings that we didn't had no better outcomes," he says. "In fact, the ones we didn't syndicate often sold faster" and closer to the asking price.
Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff has fired back, asserting that an internal company study shows that homes in the top 10% of page views on Zillow sell more than a month faster than their counterparts in the bottom 10% of views and achieve sale prices closer to their asking price. He also says Zillow "invests massive resources in making our listings as accurate as possible."
Nevertheless, Abbott and a few others have opted out. Edina Realty in Minnesota fired the first shot in November by announcing it would no longer list its data on aggregator sites like Trulia and Realtor.com. Abbott pulled out on Jan. 27 with a hard-hitting Web video announcing his company's plans. Then on Feb. 6, a bigger player weighed in: Metrolist, a Denver multiple-listing service (a member cooperative that agents jointly buy into that advertises properties locally), announced it would no longer allow a Zillow subsidiary to use its data.
Some agents in larger metropolitan areas say they have better local listing service options. "It would only take a few good-sized brokers in every community before these sites either drastically changed how they do business or went away altogether," says Abbott.
But other industry insiders worry that agents will lose business by pulling out of the aggregator sites. "All it takes is (brokers who don't share data) losing a few listings and having a couple of their top-selling agents complain," Larson says, and "they'll cave."
Jay Thompson, the owner of Thompson Realty in Phoenix, has chosen to continue listing with the sites. "Good luck explaining your decision to not market a listing on high traffic sites," he writes on his blog. "I can assure you that if a Phoenix area brokerage chooses to do that, then we will use their decision to our advantage."
Abbott argues the opposite could happen. Since he posted his video, he's had 12 people who were interviewing for an agent to sell their home ask him about his company's new policy. "We got all 12 of those listings," he says. Calls to the company, he adds, have "gone through the roof."
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Redfin is a live feed from the MLS.
Redfin.com awesome!! and always up to date.....
People more and more apathetic towards why they need a realtor when they basically do all the research themselves via open source sources like Zillow. Even if Zillow etc. is slightly dated this could easily be fixed if the Realtors opened the MLS to the public. So lots of hypocrisy here. Keep up the good work Zillow etc!
I've lost all faith in Zillow's estimates. They are way off base.
The house next to me sold for $199,000 within the last month. Today, Zillow values it at $190,300. Earlier this week it was valued at $192,00. The house has a brick front and vinyl siding on the other three sides as well as vinyl soffits and trim. It is 1,801 sq. ft.. The lot is slightly bigger than mine and the elevated stone patio is very nice.
Today, Zillow values my house at $186,800. Earlier this week it was $183,000. My house is all brick with rough cedar soffits/trim; i.e., no vinyl. I have a covered 3-season porch with awning windows all the way around. My house is 2,144 sq. ft. (which doesn't include the porch). My patio is just a cement slab. My property taxes are higher, which translate into a bigger/better house. Yet Zillow values my house for a lot less than the neighboring one.
Based on the $199,000 sale price, my neighbors got $110.50 per sq. ft. for their house. Therefore, if all things were equal, my house should be worth $236,912 -- $50,000 more than what Zillow says.
Zillow is a zero in my book.
Zillow is worthless.
They devalued my property by $100,000 in one 30 day period last year.
When I questioned them about it they acted like I knew nothing about real estate, not knowing I had been in the business for over 20 years.
None of the other properties within 3 miles of mine was devalued more than a $1000 in the same period.
They made a typographical error, and were not professional enough to admit it and fix it!
By the way Brad from Zillow give me your contact info and I'll provide the address.
We'll see if you make it good and fix it.
To armtdm…You may want to get your facts straight before you make comments like you have here today. Real Estate Agents did not take over Zillow. All agents are allowed to do is advertise homes for sale on the site. What this article is talking about is that Zillow pulls information from multiple sources and in turn it creates some inaccurate information advertised on their site. Zillow also will advertise agents contact information other than the listing agent’s info next to the property being sold. This is not good. Do you want your home being discussed with an agent who knows nothing about your home? SO…do your homework before you go shooting from the hip!
By the way what do you do for a living that makes you think that you are so much better than Realtors and car salesmen?
Your comment about RE Agents (they are part of the reason for the housing depression) can’t be further from the truth. If you have been around and following the news and gathering facts for the last several years, you would have found out that it was the greedy banks that sold crazy mortgage products, i.e. No money down, stated income, LTV up to 125% of homes value, etc. is the reason our housing market is in the state it is in. Not to mention all the people who believed in such a pipedream and signed on the dotted line.
I won’t get into the fact that we need jobs too in order to afford homes.
So armtdm get the facts straight before you go an post misleading and uneducated information.
I have no respect of RE Agents, (they are part of the reason for the housing depression) IMO they are lower than used car salesmen and deserve the poor income that they are now seeing as they gouged the public when times were good.
Unfortunately they ruined Zillow for the general public and it is now just another semi useless site to visit.
I am fortunate enough to be the winning bidder on a foreclosure in another state although awaiting action by the lender(s) at each stage of completing the transaction is absolutely pitiful. I suppose the people working there are afraid if they finally sell some their jobs will be at risk! Shameful.
Back to the topic at hand, I found the aggregator listings at Zillow, Trulia , homes.com and Realty Trac (subscription) to be helpful in my research. Yes there were any number of listings for homes that were no longer on the market but the check on that is to look up the property on the local MLS database. The latter are much more current. For Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac foreclosures which often are not shown in commercial lists, one can visit their websites to see what they have available in all states.
My advice, if you are looking for a home to live in, you should have the name of a broker recommended to you by someone you know or speak to one or more by telephone to see how they might fit your program. That way if you see something interesting on-line you can double check with that person about availability, the particular area, schools, etc.
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