If you’ve visited Realtor.com lately, you’ll notice a lot of missing listings. And if you’ve visited local residential brokerage sites, you’ve noticed a lot more listings. Residential brokerages in markets around the country are not only displaying their own listings but those of other local brokerage listings on their websites. What’s going on?
For years residential brokerages have been fighting with the NAR about listing syndication permissions. Sites like Zillow were at the root of the fray. Once licensed in all states, Zillow and other sites like them happily published the entire MLS on their websites, leeching traffic from Realtor.com, not to mention local MLS and brokerage sites.
Residential agents and brokerages weren’t happy. They wanted control of where their listings were displayed – and it wasn’t on Zillow. During the course of this fight, Zillow “unlicensed” themselves, agreeing to rely on the agent to make their listings available. But residential brokerages realized something else. That any centralized listing site was a threat to their business. And that included Realtor.com.
So now residential brokerages can choose where their listings are displayed. And the sites of choice are not national ones. They’re choosing their own website and the sites of cooperating local brokerages.
There are a lot of advantages to doing this. The search traffic comes to their site instead of being referred from somewhere else. No side bar ads for competing brokerages, the calls are guaranteed to go to them. Plus, it’s their brand that’s front and center. Not some real estate organization or national aggregator.
Users might not be too happy. I know I wasn’t until I figured out what was going on. The only downside is that most residential brokerage websites are poorly designed and/or integration with the MLS database is buggy. But that just means the brokerage with the best website wins even more.
How does this relate to commercial real estate? Now that LoopNet no longer offers even a paid plan for users to view nation-wide listings, there’s an opportunity for commercial brokerages to take listing aggregation and search back. Maybe local commercial brokerages could start displaying other local brokerage listings. Or local CRE firms could work with a municipality or economic development firm to create a local listing site. Or maybe, like some brokerages used to do in the California Bay Area market, they could create a new site where each brokerage could add their own listings for the other brokerages and locals to search.
Where to start? Get your listings in a database. Not LoopNet/CoStar’s – your own. Larger brokerages might consider a MLS system. Or create your own cloud database with IDX type fields. WordPress has plugins for IDX data, plus you’ll be in a better position to export or import data to/from other sites.
It won’t be easy but it can be done. Take a look at Pyramid Brokerage Company’s Albany market listings. They’ve partnered with Albany’s commercial MLS (CIREB) to display all of the Albany market’s listings. The listings still can be viewed on CIREB, but two places are better than one. And by the way. If anyone else in upstate New York is interested in cooperatively displaying listings, let me know.