Listing Syndication Major Real Estate Portals MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Public Portals

Real Estate Syndication Consortium

Back in July, I circulated the seeds of a “position paper” I had in mind, internally, to the leadership at Yardi, and I also circulated it to a few “industry giants.”

I knew that Yardi (then owner of Point2 and the number 2 syndication capability in the Industry) had decided not to dedicate any more resources to the Point2 syndication product. This was about to create a huge hole, and for the right party or parties, an even bigger opportunity.

There were strategic as well as tactical benefits for specific entities that might be willing to step up to the “data distribution” plate, as Yardi was stepping away. Listhub already controlled the biggest network and stood to gain much if it could acquire Point2. Zillow and Trulia seemed to be at greater risk if Point2 were to fall into the hands of Listhub…which then fell into the hands of NEWSCORP.

The September acquisition of Point2 syndication by Listhub (which is owned by MOVE) puts MOVE in a very strong position to regain the number one position it held for so many years. I think we may begin to see some of the results of MOVE’s recent acquisition  of Point2 Syndication when the Zillow and Trulia data contracts with Listhub expire…sooner rather than later. 

What is needed is an Industry syndication alternative. This is the time for disruption, for “taking back the future” by the industry. Conversations and meetings are already taking place. A Public Portal effort with a new syndication effort is a multi billion dollar proposition, and is a possibility if the right entities “join hands.”

I have been saying for a number of years that the value of the MLS data, properly packaged and distributed, should be able to pay the cost of the MLS infrastructure, and a whole lot more, and in a way that is not adversarial, or in conflict with the best interests of the brokerage community, the MLS and association communities, and consumers.

Back to July…here is what I was advocating to a small group: 

Real Estate Syndication Consortium

Create an organization of interested parties who will benefit from more uniformed and structured data resources from MLSs nationwide. This can be done by placing in motion a process whereby MLSs will begin to control their data once again, through the Intellectual Property (data contracts) and Leadership and influence offered by this organization.

 Discussion

Billion dollar enterprises are wrestling and positioning for their share; expectations are that huge commerce will be made in the real estate online marketplace, and all that entails…from advertising, media, and “upstream lookyloos” to the transaction platform and closing, and all of the commerce that may spring from that major event — the purchase or sale of a home. Multiples for companies in this space are unusually high.

There is much at stake, and yet much rides on a major choke point, data acquisition and data rights.

All of the activity pre and post purchase in a lifetime relationship with the consumer in the area of real estate needs is the goal of many portals today, and all of the data that can be derived therefrom.

What all of these companies (save one) lack is reliable long term access to the consistent flow of accurate, dynamic data.

Access to that data is fragmented and of varying degree of accuracy and freshness. What many entities, looking to make commerce in this space all need, the key element, is access to MLS data, which is policed, and made available with varying depth of information, by the different MLSs (Data Providers).

Background:

We have moved from Syndication Evolution to Syndication Revolution in the past 6 months, and it is just beginning. The Industry at the broker, MLS, and agent levels are ready to take control of their data, with new, data agreements developed in a way to insure there is a fair exchange of value for the information.

Brokers, MLSs, have learned much since syndication was brought front and center in the Industry in 2008, with the prevailing thought being “Distribution trumps destination.” Data, its value, and the value of the data created by the data, was being considered by few inside the Industry.

 Current State of the Industry:

There are 3 ways for third parties to obtain this data, at varying expense, and benefit (this was written in July, and now Point2 and Listhub are ONE):

  • Listub – Owned by one of the “Big Three” real estate portals, REALTOR.com – Growing stronger
    • Point2 – Owned by Yardi – weakening and little resource available to make it better
    • Direct Feeds – The choice of major portals, which would benefit in the long run from a more reliable source of data, not controlled by a major competitor

There is great misunderstanding within the industry around data rights and the licensing of those rights, but that is changing and this creates a disruptive opportunity.

In addition, the value proposition provided by those currently using MLS data (Zillow, Trulia et al, received from Point2 at no cost) is being questioned at all levels of the residential real estate sales industry (the Industry).

There is great dissatisfaction with the portals, and with the MLSs by the brokerage community.

The time is now right to use the strengths of the Industry to anchor its position for the future. Those strengths being the data collected by the army of REALTORS who work for free until a transaction closes, and the organization of MLSs across the US and Canada that makes the real estate marketplace in North America the envy of the world. The Industry can now capitalize on the fruits of this labor, for the benefit of:

  • Practitioners at all levels
  • Associations and MLSs
  • Media
  • Consumer

There is an opportunity for major players currently in this space to achieve a number of their individual goals by working together on the Real Estate Data Syndication Consortium project.*

 Purpose of the Organization:

To achieve mutually beneficial goals and objectives around the accumulation, manipulation and dissemination of real estate listing data provided to the public by MLSs, brokers, and franchises, for the benefit of group members, industry stakeholders, and, ultimately, Consumers.

Examples of Benefits:

  • Alternative to Listhub
  • Rewrite syndication model in the residential real estate industry today

Include data rights in a transparent way, and in a fair exchange of value with portals and those desiring the use of the Industry data.

There should be enough money in the data food chain, behavioral and advertising, that the infrastructure in the industry, currently costing the industry over a billion dollars a year (made up, check real number from Clareity…it is a lot).

What entities have an interest and might participate in this “Movement.”

Financial

Expenses – 3 year proposed time to accomplish goals and objectives. With possibilities new opportunities will arise.

Funding could be through a group of investors yet undetermined; the companies mentioned here, and/or others.

Execution

  • Organize and fund as necessary
  • Create the Data Contract Standard – Stake in the Sand
  • Negotiate with Data Recipients
  • Consult with MLS and Brokerage community
  • Charge for the data, and/or data handling and delivery to destination sites
  • Timetable

Results:

Standard data contracts in place and constructed to allow for the continued evolution of the value of the data created by the real estate Industry with the first major goal to be a new funding mechanism for MLS.

Now is the time to take the next step  to change the monetization model of MLS data from lead generation and sales, to the participation in the value created by the information, and by the information created by the information….

Considering the above, the days of dominance of the current portal superpowers may be numbered.

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