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To Syndicate or Not to Syndicate

Should real estate brokerages reduce or eliminate listing syndication?

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Computer Marketing a Listing

Computer Marketing a Listing

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Real estate listing syndication has become big business. After all, the argument goes that if it's good for our sellers for their listings to be on the Internet,then it must be REALLY good for those listings to be on as many real estate websites as possible. Marketing can sometimes take the "bigger is better" approach to extremes, but few listing agents would argue with the "more eyes on the listing is better" strategy.

I was jogged into this as a topic just this morning when I received an email about a service aligned with my local association and offering syndication services for MLS members. Here's a quote from that email:

    With more control and an easy-to-use interface, the recently upgraded XXXXXX Syndication Dashboard is your ticket to increased exposure for your listings:

  • Control your syndication strategy - easily send listings wherever you choose
  • Know exactly where your leads are coming from with performance reports
  • See all of your online leads instantly, now in one convenient place

I'm definitely not knocking the email or the service. However, there is definite disagreement among real estate brokerages as to the real value or lack of value in syndication. The negative viewpoint is definitely in the minority right now, but it's growing. In mid-2013 ABoR, the Austin Board of Realtors, announced that it would be terminating a syndication agreement with provider ListHub.

After a year-long study, a task force set up by ABoR found various problems related to syndication that contributed to the decision to pull back all information into the MLS. Inaccurate listing data is the main concern. The business practices of some of the websites getting the data contribute to inaccuracies. Many listings on those sites were long-since sold or taken off the market. There were also a significant number of homes listed in the MLS that never made it to these sites. The consumer is not getting complete or accurate information, according to the task force.

Though the board as a whole is ceasing organized syndication for the group, the individual real estate listing agent and broker are encouraged to make independent decisions based on the needs of their clients. They are encouraged to make decisions on a site-by-site basis after evaluating the value of each site and the accuracy of the data displayed.

Whether this will be a growing trend is just conjecture at this time. And of course there will also be critics who want to attribute this decision to a desire of real estate brokerages to "hoard" data and be gate-keepers again. I tend to believe that it's better if we do keep our data in-house, as our rules are strict and the data is generally far more accurate and timely than it can be on any other site or in other databases.

If you're in the mood to argue with yourself about the value of syndication, no doubt you'll find value in your marketing approach in listing presentations showing all of those sites showing off your sellers' homes. However, consider taking the educational approach and explaining that you are dedicated to the most accurate display of their listing. Explain IDX to them as well, so that they understand that the very accurate MLS data on their home is being "syndicated" to all of the other member sites.

If this trend grows, it's going to be interesting to see how sites like Zillow.com, Trulia.com and others will adjust their marketing and "goodies" offered to real estate agents who place properties on the sites.

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