Large New York brokerage stops syndicating to Zillow and Trulia

Inman News

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that Nothnagle Realtors says it has decided not to syndicate its listings to some third-party sites including Zillow and Trulia. The brokerage was not providing a direct listing feed to those sites -- one method third-party sites use to improve accuracy.

A big New York-based brokerage is the latest to stop syndicating listings to Zillow and Trulia, claiming the sites do a disservice to homebuyers and sellers by serving up stale data, and that their platforms are not worthwhile advertising outlets for the company.

Rochester, N.Y.-based Nothnagle Realtors closed 8,070 transaction sides last year and, by that measure, was the 37th-largest U.S. brokerage, according to rankings compiled by Real Trends Inc.

Nothnagle Realtors President and CEO Armand D'Alfonso said complaints from buyers and sellers about listing inaccuracies on sites like Zillow and Trulia were one of the main reasons the brokerage decided to withhold listings it represents from the portals.

D'Alfonso also said the brokerage doesn't want "to pay to direct traffic away from our site." Some third-party sites, including Zillow and Trulia, sell ad space to agents with competing brokerages that appear next to listings that aren't "claimed" by agents or "enhanced" by the agent or brokerage representing the listing.

A recent study sponsored by technology-focused brokerage Redfin found more than one-third of agent-represented listings on Trulia and Zillow were no longer for sale. The study, published last month, found the sites also lacked data for about one-fifth of properties that were listed for sale in an MLS (Realtor.com, thanks to its ties to the National Association of Realtors, gets listings directly from MLSs, and has not been a target of complaints about listing accuracy).

"We have found that on many third-party sites 30 percent or more of their listing inventory is inaccurate and out of date," D'Alfonso wrote in a letter explaining the company's decision to stop "automatically sending listings to third-party sites that we feel put our clients at risk" effective Nov. 7.

A blog post accompanying the letter further specified that "Nothnagle Realtors will no longer be syndicating their listings to Zillow or Trulia."

When the Redfin-sponsored study was published, Zillow spokesperson Cynthia Nowak pointed out that MLSs aren't a complete source of listing information, and that Zillow has "hundreds of thousands of rental, for-sale-by-owner, new construction and foreclosure listings, which often aren't listed on an MLS."

Zillow and Trulia both said consumers come to their sites for access to data like property records, tax history and crime reports that they often won't find on brokerage sites.

Nowak noted today that Nothnagle Realtors had not been providing a direct listing feed to the site -- one technique third-party portals use to improve listing accuracy -- and that some agents with the brokerage continue to manually upload their listings to Zillow.com.

The decision by Nothnagle Realtors to stop providing listings to Zillow and Trulia is the latest flare-up in a long-running debate over real estate listings syndication.

While some brokerages have decided to withhold listings from third-party sites, others have decided to "enhance" them through negotiated advertising agreements, or by providing direct listings feeds in exchange for featured placement and attribution.

In January, a small San Diego-based brokerage, ARG Abbott Realty Group, pulled its listings from Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com, the three most-viewed national real estate-related websites in the U.S., citing ethical concerns about the sites' business models of using broker listings as a foundation for charging brokers and agents for ads.

After pulling listings from Trulia last year, HomeServices of America subsidiary Edina Realty -- the largest brokerage in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market -- stopped syndicating its listings to Realtor.com in May.

Edina Realty's stated reasons for stopping syndication were similar to Nothnagle Realtors' -- a desire to capture more market share for its website, and an unwillingness to pay other sites for leads.

Other brokers view it differently.

"I'm glad these folks are pulling their listings from these large portals, because it gives us a competitive edge," said Amy Keillor, chief cultural officer of Goldwasser Real Estate in Austin, Texas. Goldwasser Real Estate, which has more than 100 listings in the Austin area, advertises its listings everywhere, she said.

"If we were to pull our sellers' homes from the large portals, I feel it would be doing them a grave disservice," Keillor said.

In some cases, brokerages take advantage when others in their market pull their listings from a portal.

Earlier this month, Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Re/Max Results, an Edina Realty competitor, partnered with Trulia to enhance the brokerage's listings on the portal, filling in the hole Edina Realty made when it pulled its listings from the site last year.

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