The NAR's settlement with the DOJ, effectively brought the NAR, kicking and screaming, into the Twenty-First Century. Since then, there have been a number of articles and comments about what the NAR won in the settlement. Won?
One aspect of the decision was that the NAR and its MLSs could prohibit a company, not actively engaged in the sale of real estate, from accessing MLS data, and re-publishing it.
But there is the Law of Unintended Consequences. And you must, as always, be careful what you wish for.
When Zillow started in 2/06, there was much Realtor paranoia (Zillo-noia) that Zillow would start to sell homes and become a Real Estate Broker. Despite Zillow's statements that they were a media company, selling ads not homes, there was much concern when Zillow became a California Broker to get access to California listing data.
There's still fear that Zillow, with their 5-10 second Zestimates, or CMA-Lites, and their $87 MM in VC cash, will become a Real Estate Broker. Will a media company, selling ads like your local newspaper's classifieds, become a broker, selling homes? Will a company wanting to become the Google of Real Estate suddenly want to become the next RE/MAX, Redfin or Zip Realty? RE/MAX or Google? Choice?
Do we make the big Search Engines in Real Estate: Google, Yahoo and MSN and the Real Estate Verticals like Zillow and Trulia become Real Estate Brokers to get our information? That scares me much more than cooperating with the search engines, using their free advertising to sell our listings, and benefiting our clients, by getting their homes listed on as many search engines as possible.
I still haven't heard a good argument for prohibiting search engines from posting our listings. It's part of our fiduciary responsibility and our obligations under our "Exclusive Right To Sell" contract, that we get our owner's home listed on as many search engines as we can. To block a free potential-search-engine listing should be a violation of our fiduciary duties.
The NAR has fought for years to keep the banks from selling Real Estate. Now we could force Google, Yahoo, MSN, Zillow and Trulia to be our competitors, join the NAR and sell Real Estate? What if these search engines used their great computer knowledge, dominant Internet power, and vast VC millions, to become MLS-only Brokers or Mega-Discount Brokers? They'd become Redfin and/or Zip Realty on steroids.
Our dreams of data control will become our nightmares of sales competition.
There has been some comment that Realtors own their listing data. Under Copyright law, you don't own the data, just the presentation of that data. You could argue that you do own your home photos. But do you really want to make that argument? What's in the best interest of our clients?
If we do our best, sell houses, and let the search engines do their best, sell ads, we can all get along. And do very nicely at that.
Posted by: Cliff Jacobson
Adapt Or Die!
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