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Edina Realty Stops Syndicating Their Listings — I'm Confused (Again)

Sorry, I’m slightly confused for the second time in a week. You’ve probably heard the rumblings in the industry for awhile about brokers threatening to stop syndicating their listings. But no one has put their foot in the sand — until now. Edina Realty announced they were going to stop syndicating their listings to top sites like Trulia and

Here is the statement they released:

Edina Realty is responding to the changing business models of third party aggregators.

Third party aggregators are not brokers and they are not required to abide by the same rules and regulations as a broker. They get listings for free from brokers around the country and then display them online, collecting and distributing leads for a profit. While some of you in the industry may understand that is an independent company, many of you may be surprised to learn that is NOT affiliated with NAR. They are a separate, publicly held business. Just like, their business model is based on selling lead generating advertising to agents.

We’ve since discovered that much of the data and information showcased on aggregator sites is inaccurate if it comes from non-MLS sources. According to a recent data quality study conducted by and published on, 69 percent of errors in online real estate listings information were directly related to third-party syndication of information by non-MLS sources. This points to the need for more diligence regarding ownership of our clients’ data and where we send it – be it directly to an aggregator site or through syndication.

“The company reviewed about 1.2 million listings from about 250 data sources during the third quarter and found about 120,000 inaccuracies in listings information. More than half
(51 percent) of those inaccurate listings had errors in price, 41 percent had status errors, and 8 percent had errors in both price and status.”*
*Source: and respectively

Edina Realty will no longer provide a broker feed of our listing inventory to starting Nov. 30, 2011. We also intend to discontinue sending our listings to by the end of the year. Third party aggregators are not brokers. They get listings for free from brokers around the country and then display them online, collecting and distributing leads for profit. We believe it makes the best business sense for our agents and Edina Realty to control our own listings in
order to ensure that:

  • Our agents don’t lose future business opportunities because a non-listing competitor pays to present themselves as the contact for your listing.
  • Our agents don’t have to pay – directly or indirectly – for leads on their own listings.
  • Our sellers can be assured that leads on their listing are being handled by an expert
  • The quality and accuracy of your listing data is assured.
  • Potential buyers are provided with fast, knowledgeable responses via the listing agent or our seven-day-a-week customer service department.

I really don’t get how NOT sending their listings to the largest real estate sites on the web (for free) is good for their clients. When an Edina Realty agent takes a listing — they are paid to sell the house. End of story. Ask a seller whether it is okay for you to not advertise their listing on the real estate sites with the most buyers, and I all but guarantee of what their response will be. The conversion would probably go something like this:

Seller: “Huh? Why would you not want to do that? It’s free”

Listing Agent: “They charge me for leads because they have more traffic than my own site”

Seller: “And why should that impact me? I’m paying you to sell my house, right?”

Listing Agent: “Yes, but…”

You get the picture.

I totally get where Edina Realty is coming from in terms of not wanting to pay for leads from sites that drives traffic from their own listings (as well as listings from other brokers). No one WANTS to do that. But this is business. Driving traffic and leads is hard work, and takes a lot of time and/or money. The Trulia’s of the world have spent millions of dollars building great websites that draw consumers to them. Brokers are not in the consumer web technology business. They are in the business of selling homes (MOST brokers are in the business of recruiting agents, but that’s another discussion for another day).

All that business strategy is meaningless in the minds of a seller. They want their house sold. Listing syndication increases the chances of that happening. PERIOD. End of story.

In short, I’m with Jay on this one.

Do you think more brokerages will follow Edina? Or do you think Edina will end up eating their own words and putting syndication back in place later in 2012?

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • Edina’s agents will probably end up submitting their own individual listings to Trulia, circumventing the issue of the broker feed.  I understand the brokers’ frustration (I think it has just as much to do with accuracy as it does with advertising dollars).  In the end, though, you have nailed it.  Sellers don’t care.  Buyer traffic is there today, so post my home for sale there today.  A listing agent has no logical response except to post the listing everywhere possible.

  • Edina management probably decided somebody crossed a line.  

    For example, Zillow proposes to charge me as listing agent $39 per month to have my photo appear next to my listings.  (Yes, I know that the Edina agent did not mention Zillow by name, they talked about Trulia and, which bracket it in traffic rankings.)

    Keep in mind that either the listing agent or the broker probably paid the same photographer for the head shot that was hired to shoot the seller’s front lawn and living room.  That photo was offered along with the rest of the feed for free, so its easy to see how sensibilities are being offended.

    Maybe other major firms will follow Edina’s lead.   It could be only a few at first, then possibly later, a lot.  And when that happens it will be time to renegotiate.

    Unfortunately, whether this is good for the consumer or not is sometimes secondary.  Is it good for the buyer if only sometimes they can see the photo of the owner’s representative on a home of interest when they look on Zillow.  Nope.  Did it matter?  No.

    That said, I agree with Jay Thompson that a lot of this is about the unspoken desire to double-end the listing, which brings up a key difference: the broker has a fiduciary duty to its sellers, a high standard that third-party listing sites do not share.

    So maybe few will follow Edina’s lead after all.

    • Ray – Sara from Zillow.  Just wanted to add a small detail to your comment that it is free for an agent’s photo to appear on their listing. Yes, participating the advertising model results in more and bigger exposure and better merchandising of the home online.  But any listing agent who creates a free account on Zillow will be sourced at the bottom of their listing (similar to an IDX treatment) and will appear three more times on their listing in the first position on the Buyer’s Agent List. 

      We found that if the agent has not at least activated their free account they are more likely to NOT respond to a consumer’s request for information, this is a fact based on looking at the open rate of the lead emails we send.  Having these other contact options, such as our Buyer’s Agent list, helps increase the likelihood that the consumer’s request for information is acknowledged.

      There is actually just as much an agent can do on Zillow, from a marketing standpoint, for free as there are ad products to pay for.

  • Susan Isaacs

    We have also spent a great deal of money developing our businesses. Why don’t we charge for listing syndication, which would help balance things when we have to buy business back from these sites? Cost of doing business on both sides.

  • Two comments on this…

    1. I am pretty sure this is just positioning as a lot of the larger brokerages feel they should be receiving discounts or free advertising for their brokerages in exchange for providing the listing information.  They are flexing their muscles and seeing what it nets them.

    2. It is probably different in other markets but so few transactions are double ended these days that it doesn’t make sense that losing direct leads is a hot button.  I would like to see numbers on how many people “find their agent” as opposed to “find their home” on the 3rd party sites.  Agents are usually interested in volume and quick sales as opposed to taking both sides of the commission.

  • “They want their house sold. Listing syndication increases the chances of that happening.”

    Where is the evidence that syndication increases the likelihood of sale?

    • I know there is a study out there that says there is a large % of buyers that are on Zillow but NOT on broker/agent sites. I think @sbonert:twitter will have a link to it

      • I believe you are referring to the stats that show there is little overlap between many of the major websites.  Info at the bottom of the right hand column:

        Audience overlap with Zillow’s audience:
        (sourrce:comScore Plan Metrix Cross Visiting, April 2011)
        AOL real estate3%MSN Real Estate5%Yahoo! Real Estate7%Trulia.com26%Realtor.com17%    

  • Trulia,
    Zillow, and have created an entire business on the backs of agents.
    Quite simply put, there is no other industry I know of that can launch a
    publicly traded company based on a product they receive entirely for free.

    I don’t
    blame them. Our own association and agents themselves have done a poor job in
    protecting a valuable product we should have capitalized. This is what happens
    when there are people who were around when the fax machine was the “latest
    and greatest” technology on the market. A dinosaur is no match for tech
    upstart what filled with twenty something’s who “get it.”

    agents we’ve done a poor job educating clients on how syndication, in its
    current form, does them a disservice by allowing interested buyers end up stuck
    in buyers reps with the highest paying bidders. Sure Zillow and Trulia have
    started to place agents on their listings. Why in the world did it take this
    long for us to push back? That should have been demanded by our brokerages,
    especially those at a national level, and our MLS’s.

    is such a thing as poor exposure” is not true and syndication is part of what
    has caused consumers to distrust real estate agents.

    To put
    it in Drew’s perspective from the other side:

    “I’m calling for more information about the listing on 1234 main

    “Sure, just sign my buyers rep and I’ll tell you all about it.”

    “Uh, okay. Now can what can you tell me about the property?”

    “Sure, let me call the listing agent and get the details. Oh, by the way,
    you’re locked into a contract with me for the next 6 months. Even if you don’t
    like me, tough.”

    That may
    have been over the top. Bottom line is that Zillow, Trulia, and
    would not exist without the listings we provide; their revenue streams depend

    Who do
    we blame for this unfair scenario? Look no further than the nearest mirror. I
    commend Edina for taking a stand. I hope they share with all of us how they are
    going about successfully educating their clients to the advantages of their
    strategy. If their site is the only source for the information, they’re going
    to pull first when buyers want to know about their listings.

  • Pingback: Edina Realty Listings May be Harder to Find Online | MLS Maps()

  • Bdmanson

    Correctly price the listing and it will sell period. The agents will see it on the MLS and sell it.

  • John Ash
  • Why is this so hard to understand? First, nationally, about 65% of listings are co-broked with another agent – so THEY will be bringing a buyer and they will learn about the house through MLS, not online aggregation. Second, Edina obviously has leads management data showing where their CLOSED deals came from by source; traffic is meaningless; hits are meaningless; what matters is where the buyers you CLOSE are coming from. Again, that’s probably their agents’ sphere of influence and the company websites, along with LOCAL marketing. Most people moved only 13-15 miles from their last house last year – so who cares about showing a Minnesota listing to Naples Florida on Zillow? Finally, there are MANY ways to compete – not all of which are “marketing”. For example,  Edina might compete for sellers on the basis of “list to sell” ratio; or by beating other companies’ “days on market” averages; or a dozen other metrics. 

    Once you realize that sellers hire you to SELL the home; not advertise it, and you can show them where you’ve been selling homes recently, then you can easily forego an aggregator strategy – IF that’s your strategy. Others might wrap their sales model AROUND an aggregator strategy and that can work, too.

    It’s foolish to think that the “only” way to sell home is to market them all over the place. If that were true, then we should all be putting listings BACK into the newspaper, because I’m sure there are a few people who still read it who haven’t seen our latest listings online! You see the point….

    Companies that have solid leads management data – sources of inquires, sorted by CLOSING percentages – can make these kinds of decisions easily. You write that syndication increases the “chances” of selling the home. I’d argue that smart companies don’t sell on “chances” but sell on proven strategies. I’ve worked with companies around the world – where there’s NO MLS, no aggregators and few “market-wide” listing data, yet they sell every day, quite nicely, for their clients. I suggest we stop trying to prove Edina wrong and remember that each company has it’s own “go to market” strategy – and one size does not fit all.

    • hey matthew-
      sorry, this got stuck in pending for a day

      I certainly don’t think that the “only” way to sell a home is via syndication. What I don’t understand is why broker’s wouldn’t want to syndicate their listings for free though. What’s the harm? Brokers/agents don’t have to buy advertising.

      The reason not too seems entirely about not helping Z/T/ etc beat the brokers in the SEO rankings. And unless every single broker AND agent pulled their listings, then it’s really a non issue as Z/T/ are going to do just fine with or without broker X’s listings. And if every single broker/agent somehow did decide to pull all their listings in unison? They’d still have to build an amazing consumer (&SEO) friendly site to even have a chance to compete with Z/T/…which is unfortunately a rarity in this industry from my experience.

      Good discussion though…and it’s not one that’s going to go away anytime soon.

      • Drew:
        Thanks for your email. I’m not in agreement however, with a few of your points.
        First, listing distribution is not “free”. There are always costs involved, even if Z/T/R.COM aren’t charging you to pull in your listing data. And those costs can be very high – as Edina is asking the industry to confront. What are those costs? Dilution of your brand. Shifted consumer loyalty away from a broker to a third-party advertiser. Ancillary service revenue you might have earned from the traffic coming to your website and using your mortgage company/title/etc. Agent loyalty to your company as opposed to an advertiser. And even control over the user “experience” when they encounter your listings (which I’d argue is VERY important to the seller clients the broker represents).
        So, listing aggregation is far from free. It involves trade-offs. When the trade off costs exceed the opportunity – namely, the lead – then you have to weight the advertising option just like any other.
        Even if we compared it to other advertisers, the damage of aggregation could easily be calculated as higher. Here’s an example: Zillow is now using the term “our agents” in its communication strategy. Really? When did they become a broker? They are offering “education” to “their agents” – flying directly in the face of a broker’s educational efforts. The aggregators even want you to put THEIR logos on your signs/sign riders. More brand dilution.
        As for building a great website with great SEO, in Edina’s case, that already exists. They already dominate the search results for their local area. Again, I’m sure Edina isn’t overly concerned about someone in Tampa searching for homes in Minneapolis as much as they are with the local buyers moving within the 15 mile radius that most people in the nation have traditionally moved each year. Local SEO counts much more than national presence, especially in this specific case.
        To answer the question, what would happen if every broker pulled their listings? That’s easy. These sites would simply disappear. They don’t add anything to the consumer conversation that the brokers cannot themselves. And things like Zestimates and other erroneous add-in features often confuse consumers far more than help them. Ask ANY broker if they haven’t had to spend hours explaining to a seller why their Zillow estimate isn’t remotely accurate to the actual market conditions during a listing presentation, and you’ll see that these things aren’t really helping consumers in the “real world.”
        Would it be a crisis if the aggregators disappeared? The experience of NY City, as well as other countries, seems to demonstrate that it wouldn’t even be noticed. Consumers would search for real estate and end up on any of the other well-known brand website or local broker sites. They’d see the inventory. And they’d still buy houses. Remember, we sold homes for centuries before aggregators, before MLS and before the web. Losing a few websites would be a momentary blip in the ether, and consumers would move on instantly.
        I’m enjoying the discussion; thanks for entertaining my comments.

        Matthew Ferrara

        • Though obviously I’m biased, but it’s worth noting that zillow had 4 million uniques…without a single listing on their site.

  •  I commend Edina Realty for acting based on their principles. It’s true; third party aggregates are only in business because of brokers. More precisely, they are in business because of the brokers who cannot generate their own online leads.   Still, until there is a consensus among large real estate firms to not syndicate their listings on sites like Trulia and Zillow, limiting market on one of the most popular websites is a disservice to their clients. 

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