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Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Etc. are taking away your business

For decades it has been a system that has worked flawlessly without any hold backs. Modern times and have change but people still prefer to do business with a live person and not online when it comes to making one of their most important decisions of their lives. Selling or buying their homes is one the most important decision people will make and we have always been more than happy to help them with everyone of those needs. Today we are facing a dilemma, one that should be addressed with urgency. Brokers/agents have always been able to provide prospects with current, accurate, & straight from the MLS market analysis, comparables, net-sheets, and so on. Today we are being undersold by Zillow, Trulia, & Redfin just to name a few of these companies. They have been obtaining our information once with upload our listings to the MLS by agreeing to send listing to the internet. At that time they will contact a random agent to purchase a zipcode  where he/she is farming and they will mislead prospects by showing them as the point of contact for that listing- making them appear as the listing agent.  Funny thing is that you will find the listing agents name and listing website at the very bottom of the page which we all know nearly no one will take the time to scroll to the bottom of the webpage. Which brings me to why is it that we have to obey by state and local boards thus pay hundreds of dollars to use the MLS while these rules and fees to these 3rd party companies don't apply. Moreover I was contacted by the above mentioned vendors wanting me to sign up and when I asked if their listings were up and current they declared they were, therefore I decided to test them. I made them search one of my listing's, they had it as active; note that same listing had sold 4 months prior. I did that with two additional listings with the same results, one of them had sold 6 months prior and still showing as ACTIVE. Moving forward, they wanted to charge to put me as the contact agent for my own listing, Why would I want to do business with any company that is misleading anyone. As an agent I feel that we as a community should make a stand and put a stop to any company that is willing to mislead anyone for a quick dollar gain. We pay and deliver high customer service to everyone in need of it. When I say we, I am talking about you & me (US). Everyone of us needs to let our congress, NAR, CAR, BRE, Etc. that we as brokers/agents want a halt to these companies that want to monopolize the Real Estate Market. I believe that the MLS should be the only way to provide anyone with up to date, current, and correct market analysis, comps, active, and so on information that can be provided by any active broker/agent in the nation via MLS portal. Sometimes things might not concern us because we are to busy to stop and look, today I am asking that you stop and look before it's to late. Make a stand contact your local boards about boycotting any company that is willing to mislead ANYONE doing Real Estate or any business in that matter. I am not here to sell my company I am here to make a stand for all of US. Finally I want to thank anyone that brings this matter up as this is a battle and war we should win if we stand united.

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Heheheheh..... I printed a copy of this discussion board after my posting and emailed it to the Executive Officers of the Board of Realtors of CVAR, Tri-County Board of Realtors and West San Gabriel Board of Realtors who are also members of the board of our local AREAA Tri-County Chapter. I am still waiting a response. You can also discuss this issue to your own local board of realtors and see what they have to say.

I received this letter below by email sent by NAR President, STEVE BROWN and NAR CEO, DALE STINTON. All NAR members could have received this also.....


The Fault Lies not in the Stars …

Much has been made of how technology has and will affect our lives and chosen vocations.  Technology speeds things up.  Technology provides instant access.  Technology feeds the insatiable demand for more and more meaningful information. Information wants to be free.  Technology and ‘change’ are often used interchangeably to remind us that our world tomorrow will be very different than it was yesterday.  Then you throw in a healthy dose of ‘who moved my cheese’ and all those other consultant driven mantras about adapting to the new world order and quickly your head is spinning and you just want it all to stop.  But it doesn’t and it’s not going to!

The legendary Steve Jobs was described as mercurial, a little crazy, and passionately driven.  But one of his favorite quotes tells us everything we need to know about him:  “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.  So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.  You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.  This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

So what’s all this got to do with you and your participation in organized real estate?  Let’s go back and connect the dots.  An industry that’s come together for over one hundred years.  Inventors of cooperation and compensation.  Inventors of self policing through a strict code of ethics and professional standards.  Inventors of MLS.  Inventors of RPAC, the countries strongest political force.  Inventors of yes,®, the first viable real estate portal, the traffic leader in the space for the first 15 years.

Here are a few dots.  The business case for®, now 18 years ago, was summarized in the popular “lions coming over the hill” speech which has been repeated many many times.  In its’ rawest form it said – if others harness the ability to aggregate data from your listings, and capture the consumer upstream, you will be disintermediated.  Therefore, in exchange for using your listing data to make commerce, we will cause to be created a Realtor®-friendly, accurate, time sensitive, site with explicit guarantees not to threaten your commission or disintermediate you.  To this day,® has kept its promise and it will continue to do so.

But as in any business, where there is a vacuum, the market will move to fill it.  This is a good thing.  We need to embrace competitive forces, learn from them and adapt.  Competition should strengthen us because of the healthy tension it can create but we must also strengthen our resolve and stand up for ourselves.

As Realtors®, data does not define us; our insights, experience and expertise run much deeper than that. So as the industry moves forward, we have to look at ourselves – and better define our value proposition.

NAR believes that a highly skilled and professional Realtor® is and will always be integral to the process of buying and selling real estate. The association and its leadership is committed to promoting and supporting the Realtor® brand and Realtor® value proposition to consumers.  In the internet age, consumers are going to go online for real estate information, but they will continue to rely on local experts when they buy and sell property. NAR is committed to ensuring that Realtors® are those local experts. 

So just as data does not define us, nor should we allow service providers to become too comfortable in defining how you conduct your business.  In practical, actionable terms – this is what you can do:

  • Demand the brokers and the listing agents identity be prominently displayed

  • Demand timely, ‘fresh’ listing display

  • Do not allow your listings to be modified

  • Do not allow co-mingling of your listings with FSBO’s

  • Demand preservation of copyright notices on your listings

  • Understand the terms of use you agree to for your listings

  • Demand that your provider highlight and promote the term Realtor®

  • AND – NEVER, EVER let any provider threaten your commission!

This advice is provided as a way to emphasize that your listings, your data were acquired by you through tremendous work and effort, and a heck of a lot of money is being moved around in the marketplace predicated on you continuing to provide it.  It’s seed corn – don’t squander it.

Now comes the hard part – we must be brutally honest – you must change and quickly.  Your value proposition is not data – it’s YOU!  You must be the best and you must be the most professional and ethical.  For too long we’ve allowed the term Realtor® to be bandied about as a low ranking career choice.  Your future lies in upgrading and elevating our profession to make you absolutely indispensable to the real estate transaction.  Do not fall in the trap of thinking if we just regain control of the data that everything will go back to the way it was.  It won’t.  A quote from the NAR Strategic Plan says it all – “We need to be totally consumer centric – not what we want but what they want – and be able to adapt quickly.”

With over 1 million members it’s time, as Steve Jobs said, to trust in something, and that something is a history and a future of which we all can be proud.  Connecting a million plus dots is never easy, change can be excruciating – but if not now, when?


Steve Brown
2014 NAR President

Dale Stinton
NAR Chief Executive Officer


Ahhh well. I was writing similar stuff as far back as 1981 about 'being more professional' and trying to take the public opinion of us to a higher level than snake oil sales. I had several articles published in REALTOR TODAY, I believe that was the magazine name.


The letter above seems to be saying to just laugh it off and be a pro and these wont be problems for you. NOT. They are and will. Already we are (Preparing to duck for cover now) just barely needed in the listing process. In fact, an entire new batch of brokers are taking listings away by just charging a flat fee for MLS input and they do not represent the seller at all. Some even tell the sellers not to call them again. Double in fact---if someone with the money were to put together a nationally advertised PUBLIC LISTING SERVICE all the broker controlled MLS services would close down. The ONLY thing we have as an ace card is control over each local MLS. Almost all buyers now find their own properties through the internet. I see a future of a huge for sale database and real estate agents as semi paralegals just hired to help facilitate the paperwork. The main reason we even have this job is that lawyers dont play taxi,  and they charge by the hour regardless of outcome. We prostitute ourselves and often receive no pay for hours of work when transactions do not close.


So we can stick our heads in the sand and ignore Zillow and data companies like it but we will hurt from it.

AMEN and AMEN. Ive been complaining about Zillow for years. They screw up the publics minds with their stupid estimations of value. They should not be allowed to do that. Are they licensed brokers? Appraisers? I know they have a disclaimer and its just an 'estimate' but I have to try and convince people that their $250,000 home according to Zillow is realyy worth $225,000 or sometimes $265,000.  All they are is a giant SPIDER WEB. They are filled with mistakes.


And now they JUST BOUGHT TRULIA so there go the both of them---herders amoung the sheep. Can I have a big BAAAA BAAAAA from the crowd?

I believe the public should know about these false advertisement.  You probably could mention this in a forum such as or that you were solicited for business (does not matter if you are a Realtor.  Consumers get contacted too.) and you decided to give them a test on those old listings. Maybe one of the consumers will decide to sue them for false advertisement as a consumer.

I think the MLS/board need to do a database check on those companies to see how often they update their website.  There should be some kind of code within the MLS database for the listing information to disappear on those websites, when it is no longer available.

BAAAAAAAAAAA from me Marvin. But, Looks like Arnold's letter from NAR tells us how they feel about it. Would be difficult to fight that giant I think. Really is not not fair to us at all.

follow the money-

trulia was just sold for millions-what did they sell, public access to OUR listings. We do all the hard work of getting listings-they somehow get the information-then resell it-

this makes no sense to me-

how is it they make millions off of our listings?

Hi Neal - Because agents pay them to have their mug on our listings.

here is the thing- I am pretty sure they are getting the access directly from the MLS-how else would they be able to upload each listing? by hand? I doubt it-it seems top me the MLS's are selling the information and keeping the profit.

Julio - well written post. Just to add a correction. Zillow and Trulia are media companies (they are in the media category) and Redfin is an actual brokerage firm that marries technology with agents. I have been  a full time agent  for 11 years (5 in REO), am a Senior Agent with Redfin, and previously was with RE/MAX, so I know the real estate model. Just wanted to clear up any misconception. Thanks for the post.

I just noticed that Brigitte, thank you for that. I'm glad agents are reacting to the issues that need attention before it is too late.

Your right, but again as I mentioned before in a previous blog, NAR,CAR,BRE etc..etc.. and their attorney's seem to focus where there is more contributions and funds sent to them.  So, In my opinion they are focusing on letting the banks,websites from and 3rd party bank asset management vendors get away with alot of stuff they should not be ignoring as well as with unethical practices from brokers/agents in the business.  Anyway, websites like Zillow & Trulia etc..etc.. are always outdated and not to mention the private memberships that have "POCKET LISTINGS" which I see all the time that have half the information needed for a buyers agent to contact and know anything about the listing to put in an offer.  NO CONTACT # AND NO EXTACT LISTING OFFICE LOCATION (specially when its a franchise that's when they are really hard to locate).  This is unethical because it puts the listing agent to an advantage.  They will only respond to consumer request and ignore buyer agent requests.  Again, when these listings are outdated as they are, there is no way an agent can really do a good BPO.  But these 3rd party bank vendors don't care, as long as you are accepting low ball BPO fee's.  The people who really suffer at the end ARE THE CONSUMERS with all the false information.


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