How Listhub’s Real Estate Network Works

by Victor Lund on January 17, 2012

Listhub LogoIt is not uncommon for detailed questions to arise whenever there is major change afoot in the real estate industry regarding data. Listhub’s announcement of the launch of the Real Estate Network precipitated many questions regarding a broker’s ability to manage and control websites that display their data. The Listhub Real Estate Network includes the opportunity for any broker to publish listings on Century 21, Coldwell Banker, RE/MAX, and the Realty Executives websites.

WAV Group has researched this topic of the Real Estate Network with executives from Listhub and we have great news to report. They did it right the first time! Brokers who would like to publish their listings on Franchise or Network websites may do so on a site-by-site basis.

The Confusion

Listhub uses a term called “Channels” to describe places where they will transport data on behalf of a real estate broker.

In most cases, a Channel represents a single entity. For example, brokers sending listings to HUD are assured that their listings will only be used on USHUD.com. Brokers are interested in knowing if each of the Real Estate Network sites will be treated as one channel, or if each Real Estate Network member site may be selectively chosen. The press release last week was not clear on this point.

Oodle NetworkThere are numerous examples whereby a channel represents multiple websites. As you can see from the screenshot, the Oodle channel represents a variety of websites including Lycos, Local.com, Comcast, Walmart, and others.

The Real Estate Network, which currently includes Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Realty Executives, and RE/MAX was misconstrued by many (including me). It was believed that by sending a broker listing to any individual site in the Real Estate Network, you would be sending them to all of the sites (like Oodle).[i]

WAV Group tried to get a mockup of the design for the Real Estate Network as it will appear inside of Listhub but it was not made available. There are a couple of designs to consider. Either each Franchise or Membership Organization will be listed as a unique channel like HUDUSA.com; or The Real Estate Network will be listed as one channel with the ability to selectively choose individual sites in the Network.

The Real Estate Network will allow a broker to choose each website individually when using the MLS Listhub Console. For example, Brokers may choose ColdwellBanker.com and not choose Century21.com. This construct is exactly the level of choice that brokers requested.

The Real Estate Network is not a “Data Share.” The Real Estate Network is not an MLS. It is simply a way for brokers to advertise their listings on more websites.

Franchises or Membership Organizations publishing information from the Real Estate Network may not comingle listing data with other data sources (like Real Estate Network listings with FSBO or IDX or Bank Foreclosure Listings).

Traffic Numbers

According to Google Trends and Experian Hitwise – REMAX.com is the leading website in terms of traffic among the charter participants with around 80,000 unique visitors a day or 3.6 million visits a month. Century21.com gets around 2.6 Million visits followed closely by ColdwellBanker.com. WAV Group was unable to ascertain a third party data source to measure RealtyExecutives.com traffic. I am sure that we will see more accurate numbers published in the future, but I would feel confident that somewhere around 9 Million to 11 Million people are visiting these websites. As a group, they represent a little less than 50% of the traffic of the Zillow Network (Zillow/Yahoo!), the MOVE Network (Realtor.com, MOVE.com, Listhub.com, AOL.com, MSN.com, etc) and the Trulia Network. The Real Estate Network is about equal in size to Homes.com.

Confidential discussions with other leading franchises indicate that the future is bright for the Real Estate Network. Additional Franchise Organizations and Member Organizations currently have agreements under review representing another 300,000 agents. It was a bit surprising and somewhat unnatural that not all REALOGY Franchise Organizations are part of the initial launch. This outcome champions the notion that each REALOGY Franchise Management team truly does operate independently.

The problem of Trumping and Duplicate Data

Listhub may be the leading provider of listing syndication services to the real estate industry. Point2 is another provider of listing syndication services. These companies provide their services to Franchises, Associations, Brokers, and MLSs. Frequently, a publisher like Zillow may receive the same listing from different sources and they each have different processes for choosing which listing source to display over others.

For example, Listhub is the syndication service provider to the REALOGY brands of Coldwell Banker and Century 21. For the REALOGY brands, Listhub transports listings from the REALOGY Crest database to popular online advertising publishers like Zillow and Trulia. Listhub may also transport listings for an MLS to Zillow and Trulia on behalf of the broker. As a result, the same listing may find its way to both websites, creating a duplicate.

This issue of Trumping and Duplicate data has nuances and implications that are important for brokers to understand. Sticking with the REALOGY example, brands like Century 21 have negotiated agreements with publishers regarding listing display (i.e. competing agents will not be displayed on listings from CREST). In some cases, if a publisher receives the same listing from CREST Listhub feed, and from the broker’s MLS Listhub feed. The broker’s MLS Listhub feed may Trump the CREST Listhub feed and remove the negotiated listing display treatment by the Franchise. In our example, this implies that competing agents may be advertised on the broker listing because the publisher displayed the listing from the MLS Listhub feed (no franchise-publisher agreement) rather than from CREST Listhub feed which contains the franchise-publisher agreement terms. It is our understanding that the publisher is supposed to trump all feeds with the CREST feed, but this does not always happen.

How will Real Estate Network handle Trumping and Duplicate Data?

Like other publishers, RE/MAX, Coldwell Banker, Century 21, and Realty Executives may have similar issues related to Trumping and Duplicate data that they will need to sort out. For example, the REALOGY brands share listings across all REALOGY brand websites. Today, Century 21 listings entered into CREST appear on the websites of Coldwell Banker, ERA, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Sotheby’s Real Estate, etc.  In some cases, these websites also get a RETS feed from the MLS for broker listings. Now, with the Real Estate Network, they will also get the same listing from the Listhub feed. This will cause duplicates, and important differences in the terms of use of the data. My understanding is that the Franchise Organizations may choose to either publish Real Estate Network data or listings from another data source – not both, and no commingling listings (although I did not see that in the rules published by Listhub).

Summary

For a broker with listings, a new opportunity has been unveiled that will allow those listings to be marketed on Franchise and Network websites that were previously exclusive to Franchisees and members. This expands the opportunity for a non-franchise broker to reach a broader consumer audience while maintaining control over where listings are displayed.

WAV Group understands that local market competition may encourage a broker to want to exclude some websites participating in the Real Estate Network. With Listhub, that is now possible.

It will be interesting to see how this impacts Franchise sales. One key component to choosing a franchise was leads from Franchise Websites, adding value to the franchise. Participation in the Real Estate Network effectively levels this value. Now any broker can freely publish their listings on these sites. Interesting stuff.

If you want to read our first notice about the release of the Real Estate Network along with Comments from Alex Perrillo from REALOGY and Errol Samuelson of Move – click here. The reactions were pretty interesting.


[i] Franchise Organizations each have unique policies about “auto-syndication.” For example, Century 21 brokers may not opt-out of any of the syndication choices that Century 21 has chosen for the in the Golden Ruler program. ERA opts them all-in but provides opt-outs. Coldwell Banker and Sotheby’s offer some core syndication channels that may not be opted-out of, but also offers some syndication channels that may be opted-into in addition to the core sites. Better Homes and Gardens does not use Crest. Almost universally, a broker can opt-out on a listing-by-listing basis to protect a consumer who does not want their listing published on the Internet.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Celeste Starchild January 17, 2012 at 7:07 am

There are a couple of important perspectives I want to share to help frame this discussion.

1) Franchise sites are not limited to displaying only listings for their own affiliates – Franchise sites already include search for all IDX listings in markets where they have an affiliate by linking off to the local broker site once the search is made on the franchisor site. That means that for any given broker, their listings are already represented to consumers on these franchise sites if they participate in IDX. With The Real Estate Network, the broker’s participation in IDX is separated from their choice to participate on franchise websites through the REN. They could potentially participate in IDX but not in the Real Estate Network, or vice versa.

2) I disagree that REN would put franchise organizations at a disadvantage for selling new franchises. One major benefit to a franchise is that they will receive listings in such a way that they can be indexed. That means the franchise will be able to serve a better, more consistent, and more SEO-friendly consumer experience. This will allow them to better compete with publisher sites such as Trulia and Zillow.

Franchises drive value to affiliates in the form of leads from the national brand website. This will continue. But since REN participants will have more visibility through search engines, and will be able to deliver a better consumer experience, they will be able to connect even more consumers with their affiliates. Affiliates of the REN participants will definitely see more value.

3) I think there might be confusion in thinking that franchises will keep receiving the MLS IDX feed as well as ListHub’s syndicated feed. Actually, the franchise will choose one or the other in each market. If ListHub provides adequate listing coverage in the market, the REN participant will no longer accept/display MLS IDX listings for that market and they will display listings received from ListHub. In markets where ListHub’s feed does not provide significant enough coverage, the REN participant may elect to utilize the MLS IDX listings like they have in the past – in that case NO ListHub listings will be represented. The franchise will continue to follow the MLS rules in that market where it uses IDX on its local broker sites.

The other opportunity for duplication is where CB chooses to send CREST listings to C21 and a local CB broker also sends listings to C21 via an MLS-connected ListHub account. Generally I think this represents such a fringe occurrence it might be more confusing to readers than it is helpful. That said, it’s true that in this example C21 will decide which version to display – either way, ALL listings sent to REN participating websites are subject to the standardized display rules, unlike what we find with other publisher sites.

One other note on trumping. The Realogy brands’ agreements with publishers address trumping issues, so unless the publisher site is unable to effectively match the 2 versions of the listing, the brand version should always trump (and does in virtually all cases we have seen).

I hope this is helpful.

Reply

Michael Audet January 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Celeste,
Great job! Thanks so much for the clarifications, you answered some of my question on this. I do have a question on “co-mingling” though that you can answer. Victor maintains that listings cannot be co-mingled on franchisor sites with data from other sources. We see this, however, on numerous syndicator sites where syndicated data resides with data from many sources etc. Can you clarify the specific rules on this regarding REN?
Much appreciated.
Mike

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