I believe the REALTOR’S® biggest blunder was welcoming listing syndication with open arms.
This sad situation started shortly after the advent of the internet. Big brokers watched this new medium with amazement and wondered how it would fit into their marketing and sales plans for the future. They imagined being able to have all their listings on the web, with stats and tax data and all kinds of graphs and sales predictions; things that make you go “ooohhh”.
But somewhere along the way, they decided they did not have the savvy to jump into the world wide web of real estate marketing. So they took the easiest path available. They let someone else do it. And do it and do it and do it. We are now to the point where listings are syndicated (or is it SIN-dicated?) so much that you can find them at hundreds of sites with nary a REALTOR® to be found directly behind that site. Sure, some sites have pulled in big name REALTOR® exec’s to their Board of Directors, to legitimize their efforts on their sites. But beyond that, these sites are still there for one reason only- consumer ad dollars. Your listing is just a number to them (with MAYBE an updated photo but definitely with a 3-4 year old aerial view).
So, you say, who cares? Capitalism at its best right?
Whatever. In my opinion, listing syndication is a SIN-dication. Before I jump on my soapbox, I want to state that 1- my opinion is based on what I believe is best for REALTORS®, not me or my company 2- I am the husband of a Broker/Owner (I want what is best for her and her industry). 3- My brother is an Appraiser (who, unlike most consumers and some Brokers, knows a Zestimate is worth less than one half bar of Zest deodorant soap).
So let’s start this rant by stating the definition of SIN-dication.
SIN-dication (slang)- 1- the art of throwing money into the wind for no logical reason.
There, I said it. Now line up to the left if you disagree, on the right if you do agree. Whoa there, take it easy, no pushing, plenty of room for all of you, I’ll be here all day.
Ok, looks like we have 800,000 folks on the left and well, it’s still just me on the right.
Well, you’ve come this far, I might as well get this off my chest. I’ll be gentle- this won’t hurt.
You Brokers have screwed this thing up so bad it may never get fixed. You really, really blew it. You Brokers- you need a time out in the corner!
“What am I talking about?” you ask. “You’re the only one on the right, we’re all here on the left” you say. “You are outnumbered 800k to one!” you proudly exclaim. That’s ok I say. I’ve been up against bigger odds than this before. Hear me out first. Let’s start with the fact that you give away, I repeat, GIVE AWAY, the most expensive content on the internet. Unless NASA starts selling off planets, or Fort Knox opens an on-line Gold Depot complete with e-commerce, you Mr. Broker have the most valuable content on-line. And you give it away. Everyone is clamoring for it so they can sell teeth whitening ads around your listings. And you allow it. No wait, allow is not the right word. You endorsed it. You embraced it. You hugged it to the point that you are practically joined at the hip now. And that, my fine Broker friends, is where you drove off the road. You allowed a band of programmers, renegades and ad salesmen to steer you into the abyss of listing SIN-dication. You lost control of your valuable listings, all in the name of “exposure”. I cringe every time you tell me “Sin-dication is valuable because of the exposure”. My eyes roll around. I start feeling woozy. If I eat, I’ll throw up. Please, please stop saying you do it for “exposure”. I can’t believe that in 2011 you still think having 123 Main Street posted on 6,457 web sites means exposure. I mean, is it good to have 74 pages of search results show up when I search for “homes for sale, Clearwater Fl?” Does that mean more exposure for your listing? Really?
Let’s do the “what if” play and see what comes of it-
What if- Brokers pulled all their listings back from all the SIN-dicated sites and had them available on the internet in only 2 places- their own IDX website and their local or regional MLS consumer facing site? What would happen? Would it have the same “exposure”?
I’ll tell you what would happen- and it’s all good.
In a matter of a few days, all the search engines would re-index those sites and find there are no more listings on them. Then the search engines would find them on the Broker and Association sites and index them there. Joe Consumer would go on the internet, search for 123 Main Street and have a choice of visiting your site or your association’s site to view the listing. Either place they visit, if they are interested in your listing, they are directed to you. Not someone that purchased your ZIP code for leads. Now imagine 3 or 4 million Joe Consumers searching for listings each month. In your area. That you dominate with listings. Not only are you absolutely going to capture all those leads, you may (at your discretion) sell (or hire someone to sell) relevant advertising to display on those listing page views. Voila! Ah, I see your ears perking up a little now. Before you start saying “hey, maybe you’re on to something” allow me to give you the downside of this idea. There’s always a downside don’t you know.
First- you must do some math. Calculate all the traffic from consumers to the top 100 websites displaying listings. Use those figures to extrapolate how many visitors/page views your site in your MLS area would receive should all those Sin-dicated sites dry up and go away.
Got the number? It’s really, really big isn’t it? Ok, the best thing to do now is panic. Panic because you have some real issues to deal with at this point. Like bandwidth for one. You are going to need one big fat pipe to hold all that traffic. Not to mention the actual server holding all those listings and traffic. Now here’s the real biggie- perhaps the bane of all Brokers. Floor time. Yup. You have to convince all the agents to help take the load off and take the phone calls and emails coming in from your site now. I mean, you alone can’t answer every one of the 50 new phone lines in your office. That’s right, at least 50 phone lines will be needed because you are going to be jammed up beyond belief. Oh, and let’s not forget a good CRM. You’re going to need that to track the 1000 visitors to your site every day. If these 3 items have not scared you back to Sin-dication, you are well on your way to the Real Estate Listing Revolution!
But alas, methinks I dream too much. Ah but to live in a perfect Real Estate world! If only the Brokers could agree to unilaterally pull all their listings from Sin-dicated sites, if only for 60 days, the point could be made and Brokers lives would forever change, for the better.
This idea may not have legs today, but when Zillow goes head to head with NAR, adds compensation, education and a code of ethics (fat chance) and we have used car salesmen selling real estate on the web, then……well, there goes the neighborhood.
And that would be a real sin too.