It 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.
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.
There 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).
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?
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.