The IDX feeds that provide real estate listings to syndication sites have come under increased scrutiny with each passing week. Recently several members of the Austin Board of Realtors have moved toward removing their entire inventory of homes from sites such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. The reason that is generally provided by the brokers in this case and in others that don’t see the benefits of syndication is that the home buyer’s experience is diluted with misinformation. The brokers rarely list as a complaint the fact that by syndicating their listings, brokers are losing a degree of control, which had long been a sticking point of the NAR when they fought the allowance of complete addresses of the homes listed on their own Realtor.com site. Now that the NAR has sold Realtor.com to Move.com the tables have turned and the proliferation of syndication sites continues to grow, all each with complete addresses as well as all of the information that the listing agents have created and collected regarding their listings.
The need to control the data is not without merit. Many sites that fall into the rubric of “Syndicators” do not update their property information as timely or as effectively as they should do to the competition they feel from their rival real estate sites. The easiest way to set one site apart from another is to have “more”than other sites. More tools, more content and more listings. The problem with more listings is that the easiest way to have more listings is to allow listings that have come off the market to remain on the site. This means that the site has more to look at and gives the impression that the site is more, but the accuracy of the listings are compromised. If the site is not updating as often as it should it will show properties that have sold, been removed from the market as well as listing prices that are not accurate.
This is one of the contentions of Tim Abbott, President of ARG Realty Group in San Diego California. Mr. Abbott may not have started the argument but his compelling video and clearly stated points of concern certainly pushed the issue of syndication sites into the forefront. When ARG Realty Group then removed all of their brokerage listings from the IDX feeds last year his statement was backed with action that does not bode well for the sites that use brokers information to drive revenue for themselves with little regard for the listing brokers. His purpose as stated on his video was to maintain their listings on their own site exclusively and to ensure its accuracy and control their own intellectual property such as photos and content that his agents pay for while receiving little benefit from.
The fact that Mr. Abbott has made a claim that is similar to the argument that the music industry made regarding music file sharing sites such as Napster is valid as the photos of the homes and the associated information created by the listing agent is in fact the intellectual property of listing broker. The argument put forward by Napster was that people would listen and then buy the CD if they liked the single. This indirect benefit is the same argument that syndication sites present as their defense for financially benefiting from the intellectual property of others without recompense.