Real Estate Portals and Your Agent

There is a rather droll, but interesting conversation within the real estate industry, about third party real estate portals. You know the sites I am talking about, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com. The conversation has to do with the use of agent won listings being used by these sites to generate leads that are sold back to agents; sometimes they are even sold back to the listing agent…

Right off the top, understand that my position on this is that I will do what is in the best interest of my client. After all, I have a fiduciary responsibility to execute my duties on their behalf, to achieve their aims. This means that, if my seller wants to sell his home for the highest dollar in the shortest amount of time, and gaining maximum exposure for the property will achieve this end, I make this happen. I view third party real estate portals as a great way to gain tremendous exposure for my clients homes. At the least, by creating some quantifiable goalposts, I can take the data gained by all that exposure to the market and advise my selling clients on what the market thinks of their home’s value proposal.

Besides, I am a self-proclaimed “destroyer of the real estate fortress of suckitude,” so I need to keep my focus on my clients.

Over at SparkTank Media founder and CEO, Jeff Lobb has a brilliant article and video on the use of third party sites by agents, for their clients. Keep in mind, dear consumer, that you are witnessing some “inside baseball” discussions within the real estate realm. To summarize his article and video relating to listings on these sites, agents should focus on their selling consumers and how these sites help expose these listings to a much greater buying audience than agents have traditionally had. His postings are in direct response to a common claim that he hears as an agent coach and active real estate leader, that these sites are depriving agents of business by selling off the leads generated by listing agents hard work at securing and promoting their listings. I share Jeff’s bemusement at the vitriol spewed at Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com, but not at the agent down the street with a listings feed on their personal website.

But Todd, why even bring this discussion to the consumer’s attention?

In my opinion, a more well-educated consumer, can make better decisions for their real estate needs. Too often I run into questions similar to what my friend shared on my Facebook wall recently:

Granted, he has a great grasp of just how off the Zillow can be, but joking aside, I field serious questions like this on a daily basis. This is another example of just how overwhelming the amount of real estate data we have access to can make the process more frustrating and bewildering.

The Way Back Machine

Back in 2006(!) I wrote what now feels like a prognostication on where the real estate industry was headed. The Changing Role of a Realtor was my attempt at putting into some kind of framework the rapid change we were experiencing then. Then, as now, I am floored by how many agents believe that their value add to a real estate transaction is data. When Zillow came on the scene, I will not forget the agents running around my office worried that their livelihood had just been ripped from their hands. As my buddy’s post above shows, our value is not in the data. It once was, when our MLS’s consisted of a walled garden and thick books of listings. Now, however, an agent’s true value lies in our:

  • ability to analyze the data;
  • ability to mine the appropriate information for our clients;
  • ability to assist our clients in applying this analysis to their current real estate need;
  • ability to negotiate;
  • networks of service providers;
  • communication skills…

Honestly, the list grows from here, but I think you see the point.

My value is not in the data. Data is the oxygen of the real estate industry. We all need it to breathe. How we make use of that life giving breath is the difference.

Final Analysis

As buyers and sellers of real estate, consumers should understand the purposes of third party real estate portals. At their core, these are media companies. They have created a wonderful interface to the data that is freely available. The third party portals do not make money on your ability to buy a home or sell a home. Their business model makes money by selling your information to business hungry real estate agents. Don’t become an unwitting commodity in the real estate industry. Do so with eyes wide open. Check out my solution to becoming a real estate commodity.

4 Responses to Real Estate Portals and Your Agent

  1. Thank you, Jay. Data aggregation is what it is and is here to stay. Why we continue to fight it, as an industry, is beyond me. So, as when the Zillow first came to life, it all goes back to education.

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Todd Waller Real Estate
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