Consumers don’t give a rat’s ass about it.

All industries have an internal culture and politics that define systems and ways to conduct business.  Most of us don’t care about the internal politics unless it affects us directly.  When I go to the doctor, I want the doctor paying attention to me and  providing service to me.  I’m selfish that way if I’m paying you for something.  I don’t care if they hate Blue Cross’ payment system.   I don’t care if they don’t like how the state handles their licensing.  I don’t care because I have other things to do with my time like dream about marrying George Clooney.  Keep the internal bickering to yourself.  Seriously, it interferes with my day dreaming.

Edina Realty, in a bold move, pulled all their listings from syndicators in 2011.  Tired of dealing with Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com they said, forget it, and walked away from those real estate sites.  Recently a San Diego brokerage followed suit and did a video about their reasoning.  I started to write a comment on YouTube, but realized that what I had to say was an entire post.

The reasoning behind pulling their listings was that it was a disservice to buyers and sellers due to the inaccuracy of the data displayed, the fact that leads are generated and sold away from the listing agent, and copyright concerns.  I just wanted to say to brokerages that do this that consumers don’t care about our politics.  The concerns mentioned in the video are our internal politics to hash out and deal with without bringing consumers into it.  I’ve yet to see a doctor do a YouTube video about why they won’t accept a certain insurance carrier, or a attorney explain the inner workings of the BAR on video.  The reason they don’t is because they know that people (ie consumers that pay money for our services) are completely uninterested in our internal dysfunction.  The real estate industry functions like a bunch of addicts except we are addicted to our MLS data.  It’s the crack of our industry.

So let’s look at the arguments presented in the video.  Trulia and Zillow are slow to update feeds and have erroneous data on them. This is true.  I find they both take anywhere from 1-5 days to update the feed and changes to the MLS data sent to them.  The cool thing about both of those sites is that we agents can go in and manually correct something.  Wow…imagine that.  Managing the data and double checking it to make sure it is accurate.  Isn’t that part of our job?  Oh, wait…that means I might have to put one more task on my to do list after a price change or something.    That’s right…we want easy.    Really, it isn’t the Zillows and Trulias that are the data error problem, it is the other sites like HotPads, etc, that don’t update as often. I have been contacted about homes that sold and closed months prior but those sites don’t update their feeds.   The good news for consumers about those sites is that they are so small you probably aren’t aware of them.

Consumers should care about getting accurate data from these sites because you don’t want to waste your time either. But ssshh, you should expect that from MLS data too.  I had a listing that closed in December that wasn’t marked under contract by the listing agent for about three weeks, and it wasn’t marked as sold until about 2 weeks after close of escrow.  If we as an industry are holding our MLS data as the pinnacle of accurate data, we are a hypocritical industry indeed.   Let’s get over ourselves on this one shall we?  Our MLS data isn’t the end all be all of accuracy either.

The second main concern, but the true agenda,  is the selling of leads away from the listing agent.   What Trulia, Zillow, and Realtor.com all do is sell zip codes.  The way this works is that an agent can buy into a zipcode and if a consumer requests information from that zipcode it gets sent to one of the paying agents.  Listing agents don’t like this because they are being bypassed by people that pay.  Listing agents often have a buyer agents that work as part of their team and these leads (that means you the consumer, btw) are getting sent away from their team to another agent.  This is money away from the brokerage and potentially to a competitor.  You can see why we real estate agents aren’t fond of this system.   This is a blatant power grab as the more complete listings you have, the more consumers you can draw to your site.  Real estate brokerages are in it for profit so this is fine, but let’s not pretend that this isn’t what it is about.

In fairness to the biggie syndicators,  consumers do indeed have contact information for the listing agent but it is often waaaaaaay at the bottom of the page or in the fine print.  They want you to click on one of the buyer agents since they are paying for your information.   Consumers that read can find what they are looking for.

Real estate agents can always say no to buying zipcodes, and if agents feel so pressured to cave in and pay for a service they don’t believe in, why in the world would I want a person like that negotiating on my behalf for a hundred thousand dollar transaction.  Seriously?  Pressure?  If agents feel like their arms are twisted then they lack a backbone. I wouldn’t choose to hire an agent without one.  I mean if an agent can’t handle the Zillow rep that calls and says “hey do you want a zipcode to increase your business” how in the world are they going to handle the collections rep they have to deal with on a short sale.  Is this really the message we want to send out to consumers?  Apparently, the brokerages that have left syndication feel they have to protect agents from themselves.  That isn’t saying a whole lot about our confidence in our agents ability to handle pressure well.

The final concern in the argument to pull information was copyright.  I laughed, truly, when this was mentioned. Yes, legally the information on the MLS is copyrighted.  Do consumers care?  No.  Let me reiterate that.  Consumers don’t care.  As someone that has initiated a copyright infringement suit against another party, talking about MLS data in terms of copyright is the biggest mistake I have ever heard.   Here’s the thing…when I write a blog post, I am doing that for profit for myself (yeah, big surprise right).  When someone writes a novel, movie, music it is for profit for themselves.  When we enter information in the MLS, take pictures, video etc, we are paid to provide a marketing service to someone else.  We are functioning in a work for hire mode.  This is a totally different thing.  Sellers pay us for our marketing expertise.   We are generating that information for them, on their behalf, as part of our service.  It is in our seller’s best interest to have that accurate marketing be in as many places as possible.    To claim copyright issues on this is just lame.   I can’t imagine very many consumers sitting at home thinking, yes…MLS data is just like writing a novel.  This has to be one of the worst PR moves I have seen.   It sounds arrogant in my opinion.     There is legal and then there is reality.  They don’t coverge well here.

The problem with being vocal about business decisions like this, is that it is too transparent.  Yes, there is such a thing.  Really I don’t want to see pictures of my neighbor, in the shower, online.  Too. Much. Information.  We are standing here naked in front of consumers and it ain’t pretty.  Sort of like watching a 500 pound man walking on the beach in a speedo.  Some things, you just don’t want to know.

No other industry complains more publicly about itself than the real estate industry.   Consumers want one thing:  good service and advice from professionals.  The rest? Consumers don’t give a rat’s ass about it.   Now…if you’ll excuse me, George awaits.

If you want to watch the video that triggered this post you can watch it here.  I’d love your opinion on it.

 

28 Comments on “Consumers don’t give a rat’s ass about it.”

  • Karen Rice January 28th, 2012 4:04 pm

    Melina, very well put. As I commented on another blog about this same subject, I can truly see *all sides* to this issue but when the day is done I want to be seen as coming out on only ONE side – that of the consumer. The consumers don’t care about our hissy fits within our industry…they just want houses to buy (or they want to sell theirs.) Period.

  • melina@tomsonburnham.com January 28th, 2012 4:14 pm

    I agree Karen. What matters for consumers is the experience. We want them to have a good one.

  • Wayne Harriman January 28th, 2012 4:46 pm

    Well said Melina, not a rat’s ass do they care, nor should they. I’ve commented a few places on this issue and find I’m starting to not give a rat’s ass about it either. Our brokerage will continue to syndicate listings until and unless our clients tell us to stop. We will gladly comply. If our listings are wrong in the MLS, we fix them. If they’re wrong on any of the syndicators, we fix them. Simple. As I said somewhere else, I don’t care where the buyer for my client’s home comes from. They can come from Mars for all I care, as long as they’re qualified buyers; if I sell my client’s home I’ve done my job. Bottom line, it ain’t about us, it’s about our clients and how well we serve them. This whole dog and pony show that Edina and now ARG has put on is a big time suck. Let’s get back to working for our clients.

  • Thesa Chambers January 28th, 2012 5:18 pm

    Melina, your points are right on! I personally do not pay for any of the zip codes and so on, and if a buyer purchased a listing via another broker they found through one of these sites – we have all done our job.

  • Colleen Kulikowski January 28th, 2012 5:30 pm

    Excellent article! This is going to play out across the country and you are so right — the consumer only cares about what we can do for them.

  • Dena Stevens January 28th, 2012 6:07 pm

    It’s up to the seller to ultimately decide if or where they want their property marketed. I suppose standing up for their (ARP) individual morals is admirable but I have to wonder if they aren’t cutting off their nose despite their face. We’ve all had sellers who didn’t want a sign in the front yard – is that any different?

  • melina@tomsonburnham.com January 28th, 2012 6:40 pm

    Wayne I feel the same way. If my client doesn’t want it syndicated, I will check the no box. I talk with all my clients about the pros and cons of syndication including all of the Craigslist scams that are out there.

    My job is to provide options, inform them of what I think we need to do to effectively market their property, and allow them to choose.

  • Jay Thompson January 29th, 2012 2:51 am

    BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO!

    That’s me cheering loudly for every word in this post.

  • Charlie January 29th, 2012 5:15 am

    What a great post – consumers ONLY care about the user experience, the value and customer service. Didn’t Steve Jobs prove that?

  • Angie @AgentKnowHow January 29th, 2012 6:24 am

    Thanks for the perspective. It was insightful indeed. My good, long time friend is a doctor and he and I talk about some if his internal politics, which usually involves streamlining patient visits so that the private practice that he is apart of can see more patients in a given shift. Personally, I never really questioned my own medical care until I realized that my own doctor was streamlining and my family to a certain extent and that quickly influenced my decision to change my family care doctor to someone else who was more attentive and not running a timer in the background. You mentioned that consumers don’t care . . . Could it be that they don’t know what’s happening in the background? I know what you are going to say: agents have a responsibility to explain pros and cons of syndication and I wholeheartly agree they should. But a move like this by this broker is synonymous to a doctor not proscribing a specific drug or treatment because they know best and have another treatment in place that’s just as or even more effective. At my friends private practice, they argue about other stuff like what type of insurance they will accept, doctor schedules, labs ordered, etc. Like I said, I never really care, but now that I am more aware of the possible internal politics, I am more in tuned and an advocate for myself with regards to the type of health care my family receives. Knowledge, the message, the medium he choose is powerful. With that type of transparency, accountability across the industry will certainly change.

  • Angie @AgentKnowHow January 29th, 2012 6:30 am

    Sorry, meant to say prescribing and oppose to proscribing.

  • Jody Moore January 29th, 2012 7:17 am

    Good post. I don’t care if the broker dispatches all their agents with Sharpies to truck stops to draw pictures of my house on the crap house wall. All I want is my home sold!!! All that stuff about copyright, whatta bunch of $h!t. I’m a real estate photographer and I know good and well what my work is going to be used for. Syndicate on!!!

    Melina – please take it easy on George.

  • Francces Flynn Thorsen January 29th, 2012 8:00 am

    Good post! Let me add a couple more thoughts.

    (1) Pulling listings out of syndication makes it easier to DOUBLE DIP because fewer consumers who are working with other brokerages will see it.

    (2) Brokers up their bottom line in-house selling leads to their agents. That is becoming an increasingly popular revenue model. If an agent can generate his/her own leads at Zillow and Trulia, there is less likelihood that agent will pay the broker 35% for an inhouse lead.

    I will be anxious to see what Edina’s and Abbott’s agent ranks look like in the next year.

  • Brandon January 29th, 2012 9:31 am

    Excellent points. I also hate the internal bickering when I’m receiving a service. It’s a shame he did this so publicly.

  • J Philip Faranda January 29th, 2012 9:40 am

    About a year ago I went to see a dermatologist about a growing freckly thing on my face that concerned my wife. Since cancer runs in our family like rapids, it was worrisome. It took me about 10 minutes of discussion and running a credit card to get the doctor to be a doctor and not a bean counter over the fact that my insurer-whom he was on the list for- was objectionable to him. I would never go back to that guy again. So yes, the consumer doesn’t care.

    But if that doctor handled his insurance problem on his own time and not mine, we wouldn’t have a problem. This is not a discussion to have with a client on their time. But it is a discussion to have.

    Full disclosure: I write a check to just about all of them to the tune of 5 figures annually so I’ll be the contact on my firm’s listings. If I am writing a check I get to speak my mind.

    You are right- the Consumer doesn’t give crap. But we should address this. The rank and file agents don’t know how all this happened- they just know that their listing doesn’t have them in the sidebar or that they have to write a fat check to get the calls. And they wonder where their association dues went. I have 2 choices- suffer or suffer. That is bullshit.

    I’d love to be enlightened about this issue, I really would. As a business owner, however, I have to applaud the companies that are doing something to get the aggregators to play nicer with the very people they are selling to. There should be a way to hold the “Truzilltor” to be more accountable. If that happens, we can have a win/win scenario instead of the extortion or out in the cold options currently on the table.

  • melina@tomsonburnham.com January 29th, 2012 10:37 am

    Phil I totally agree that it is a discussion to have. I just don’t think the public cares about our bickering. I also think that reframing it as best for the consumer isn’t genuine. This is a brokerage business issue that the business owners need to deal with either as a group or independently. I’m not pleased with some of the things that TruZilTor does but I’m not going to spin my displeasure into something it isn’t.

  • melina@tomsonburnham.com January 29th, 2012 10:39 am

    Unfortunately George is staunch in his position to stay single. That’s a good thing for my husband ;-P

  • melina@tomsonburnham.com January 29th, 2012 10:44 am

    One of the reasons I use my current doctor is because he will tell me…hey there is this drug but your insurance doesns’t cover it. Am aware of all of my choices. We need to do the same for our clients. map clients know that is they want Craigslist syndication that the house will likely be hijacked for a rental scamm as it has happened to every one of my listings for the past two years. Most pass on Craigslist these days. I inform. They choose. I won’t yank a choice and spin it as being in their best interest when it is really in mine.

  • Lisa Heindel January 29th, 2012 11:48 am

    Might I echo Jay’s BRAVO? At the end of the day, it’s all about what our clients want and how we accomplish those goes for them. I might not like some of the inaccuracies of the TruZilTor systems, but if I was selling my home and the agent told me that I wouldn’t be on those sites, I’d find another agent. I don’t care what they think about the data, the copyrights (red herring if I’ve ever seen one) or the lead distribution. I just want my home sold and if they don’t get to double dip, that’s not my problem.

    Too many agents and brokers are forgetting where their duty lies.

  • Amanda Hall January 29th, 2012 1:42 pm

    Seller: Why hasn’t my house sold?

    Agent: Because another agent put your house on Trulia/Zillow and the information is bad.

    Seller: Why didn’t you fix it? What’s the frikking problem?

    Agent: Because I am too busy with lead generation to make the job I already have a priority. I am the frikking problem, sir.

    ****

  • melina@tomsonburnham.com January 29th, 2012 1:49 pm

    That’s it in a nutshell, Amanda.

  • Tracey Thomas January 29th, 2012 6:53 pm

    I couldn’t agree more! It always boils back down to professionalism and priorities. Great Post, thank you for taking the time to say it like it is.

  • FSBO January 30th, 2012 7:45 pm

    I feel that this 3rd party issue only lowers the value of Realtors. All the tools I need are on Trulia or Zillow, so eventually I won’t need a Realtor as I have all the details on a website! Less money for me to spend if I remove them from the equation! Keep posting on those sites! Yea!

  • Anonymous January 30th, 2012 7:48 pm

    It lowers the value of bad real estate agents, which was pretty low to begin with.  There will always been a need for good agents.  Believe it or not there are still travel agents in business.

    Some people are totally comfortable negotiating on their own.  Some aren’t.  You obviously feel comfortable advocating for yourself and that is great.  Those that don’t will still hire real estate agents.    

  • FSBO January 30th, 2012 8:11 pm

    Most of the top agents don’t need Trulia or Zillow so your argument is false on lowering the value of bad real eate agents only. What has happened is agents have failed to educate consumers about their data and how their home is displayed and in the process these same agents that like sites like the 3rd party sites show how lazy they have become. Not educating themselves on IDX/RETS they turn to simple sites to do it all for them, eventually making them more obsolete. Most people start with google searches and if you’ve done your job on SEO on your broker/agent site you drive them to you not another site who doesn’t give a rats ass about YOUR consumer. But your market area in Oregon is not doing well so desperation sets in for your consumers so you bend to their will instead of controlling the market yourself. You as an agent are the expert and you alone have the access to the ML data and how it’s displayed and instead of controlling it you have allowed the customer dictate how you do business. You don’t sound like much of an expert if you are not in control of your most important asset.

  • Anonymous January 30th, 2012 8:30 pm

    I’m a great agent. I think you are confused about what great agents do. If you honestly believe that a great’s agents most important asset is a data feed then I’d suggest you start hanging around great agents.    The data feed isn’t our greatest asset.  It is the asset that agents that don’t have any other value cling to as being important.  

    I do agree that brokerages need to have a good IDX solution to drive traffic to their site, but the fact remains that Google controls the searching and they consistently rank the big three up there making it hard for agents to compete.  You need to chat with Google about their SEO tactics and how you think it is unfair that they choose to rank Zillow higher than mom and pop brokerages.  

    I’m not bending to anyone’s will. I am perfectly comfortable with my marketing strategy.  I don’t need Zillow or Trulia to get clients.  All consumers dictate how businesses do business. It’s called demand.    It is what drives any industry.  It’s that whole supply and demand thing.  

    So come hang out with me some time to see what good agents bring to the table. I think you will then understand that the data feed isn’t it.  

  • [...] Consumer’s Don’t Give a Rats Ass About It [...]

  • Anon2 June 11th, 2012 1:28 am

    Anonymous said: “If you honestly believe that a great’s agents most important asset is a data feed then I’d suggest you start hanging around great agents. The data feed isn’t our greatest asset. It is the asset that agents that don’t have any other value cling to as being important. [...] So come hang out with me some time to see what good agents bring to the table. I think you will then understand that the data feed isn’t it.”

    Amen.

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