You’re Welcome, Realtor.com

NAR has a big ad campaign running right now touting REALTOR.com as the most accurate consumer website for housing information. They make the valid point that the big national listing aggregators (i.e. Zillow and Trulia) are, by comparison, less up-to-date and less accurate than their site. They are spending millions to get that message out. Here:

It’s a message we got, oh, more than a year ago.

Remember the big flap about listing syndication that flared up in January, 2012? There was a very vocal broker ripping his listings out of syndication to Zillow and Trulia because they did not aggressively steer consumers to the source of listing information (the listing agent). A few others followed.

We talked about it long and hard here in the SFB and decided that such a posture was self-destructive. Zillow and Trulia are where the buyers ARE. That’s just reality and it isn’t going to change any time soon. A smarter strategy is to find ways to exploit the power of these portals (by opting into their premium agent program and becoming active in garnering reviews and interacting with their network) and regard them for what they are: lead generating machines.

We also talked about how to take leads generated by the big listing aggregators and get them to drop those websites in favor of our own. In those posts we suggested the following verbiage (or something similar) when talking with consumers about this:

Agent: How long have you been looking?

Buyer: Oh, a few weeks, I guess.

Agent: You found me on Zillow, is that how you’ve doing your searches?

Buyer: Yes.

Agent: It is very easy to use, I know. . . but have you noticed how many homes on there are not really for sale?

Buyer: Well, now that you mention it . . .

Agent: They have a real challenge there; it’s because they’re trying to do a local job on a world-wide platform. They get housing information from so many sources it even confuses them! Listen, how about letting me give you access to the local MLS – without all the data from Boston and St. Louis and Puerto Rico gumming up the works! You’ll have the most accurate and best information on houses for sale today in this market.

Buyer: You can do that?

Agent: Sure. I just need an email address and phone number and I can set you up with a buyer’s account on my website. You can search to your heart’s content, save listings, even set up email alerts when new properties that meet your needs come on the market. Plus, any time you have a question or want to see something, I’m just a click away.

Buyer: Sounds pretty good.

REALTOR.com’s new multi-million dollar ad campaign makes the same point: that the aggregators’ data is flawed and that theirs is better.

I am not so arrogant that I believe our discussion here on the Set Fee Blog over a year ago had anything to do with REALTOR.com’s marketing company coming up with that strategy. Anybody who really looks at the aggregators, how they get their data, how they weigh each data source, and what the end result is, would see the flaw in their platforms, and recognize the superiority of a local broker’s IDX feed. But, just as in December, 2011, when we predicted a housing shortage a year before it arrived, we were also way ahead of the curve when it came to syndication strategies.

So what do we do with the REALTOR.com marketing campaign? Yawn. Nothing. It’s pretty irrelevant. My guess is it won’t impact consumers one iota. It ignores the one great underlying truth about consumers searching for houses online: they really don’t want to connect with a real estate salesperson. That’s why they go to Zillow: they perceive it to be one step removed from REALTOR self-promotion.

If there is something to DO, it is this: continue to remind the consumers who contact you, with whom you develop a personal rapport, that your data is THE MOST accurate and THE MOST local. Home search is, above all, a LOCAL activity. Everyone looking for a home is looking for a home somewhere. Your local MLS feed will always be better than any national aggregator, even REALTOR.com.