Where Things Are Now
There is no doubt that several agents throughout the country have and still are finding some semblance of success using one or more of the nationally and locally available listing services, but whether those numbers will grow or shrink will depend largely on how sites like Trulia, Zillow and realtor.com respond to continuing criticism.
In our recent cover story, where we weighed the various features available through each of the three major services to determine the greatest value, if any, several agents commented on their own personal experiences using the services.
Mike Zapart, for instance, a RE/MAX City agent and dedicated Zillow and Trulia user, has had nothing but success since adding his listings to the national syndication services. In two years, Zapart says he’s had a combined 21 closings come from leads he secured through Zillow and Trulia. However, Zapart did admit a certain hesitancy he specifically had about Trulia when he arrived for an appointment with a potential client and found that the person had brought another agent, also from Trulia. Zapart’s mix up comes as a result of Trulia’s continued practice of advertising competing agents alongside listings.
Sheila Doyle, a broker at Baird & Warner also recently featured in our cover story, keeps a much different outlook than Zapart, recanting an experience far more similar to that of Edina Realty, Shorewest Realtors, ARG Abbott Realty Group and Crye-Lieke Real Estate Services. Doyle claims never once did she close on a sale originating from one of the big three listing sites, and while her listings on Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com did receive additional traffic, the majority of potential clients viewing her properties were doing independent research, and most already had their own agent.
Additionally, Doyle mentioned several issues originally raised by Edina nearly three years earlier, including Trulia advertising competing agents and Zillow providing inaccurate and misleading data.
Is an Industry-Wide Boycott Coming?
As Crye-Lieke wasn’t the first brokerage to pull its listings from syndication, it also won’t be the last. Every day, more and more brokerages are considering the cost effectiveness of listing on the big three. Forget advertising and accuracy for a moment and considering the sheer dollars and cents of the matter. Already, agents are paying thousands of dollars a year to list on these websites. Carole Klien, an agent with City Point Realty, said in our cover story that after cutting back, she still spends $900 a month on Zillow alone.
Whether it wants or not, the industry has opened up the debate about working to the whims of syndicated listing services. Brokerages like Crye-Lieke and Edina, again whether they want to or not, are acting as the flagships and standards for the movement, standing as living proof that its possible to have success in real estate without listing on Trulia, Zillow or realtor.com.
As alluded to earlier, the future of the services, and those like them, depend largely on how they respond to the criticisms levied against them and work with the criticizers themselves. Right now the services are doing well. Inman News reported a 70 percent jump in Zillow’s revenue since 2013. However, agent costs are also up by nine percent.
When asked if Tulia was anticipating any widespread boycotts against its services, Wilcox told Houston Agent that very few brokerages have made the decision to leave the site, and that the company is continuing to “work with nearly every major franchise” and thousands of brokers daily.
Wilcox says Trulia continues to grow in both consumer and agent adoption.
It is a very real possibility that swelling costs could eventually outpace perceived effectiveness on a majority level, turning what is now a relatively small boycott into a serious problem for syndicated listing services everywhere. But for the immediate time being it seems brokerages and syndication sites are going to continue working together, especially so long as they continue offering free, albeit limited, services.