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Mar 12 / bschwartz

The Broker Backlash Against Third Party Aggregators

The debate over real estate aggregators continues to heat up with new complaints from brokers that third party sites display inaccurate information and do little to help agents sell homes.

The Real Deal, a New York-based industry publication, reports that “brokerages have grown tired of the inaccurate information” purveyed by big aggregator sites such as Zillow and Trulia.

The article cites coverage of the issue by Steve Yoder of the Fiscal Times. Yoder reported that real estate consulting firm Clareity issued a study last year finding that third party sites can actually frustrate consumers’ efforts to get reliable answers. Aggregator sites allow any agents, for a fee, to have this or her name and photo appear prominently beside the homes listed for sale in a given region, even if the person in the photo isn’t the listing agent. In reality, the agent in the photo may know little about the property or the neighborhood where the house is located.

Yoder says this problem was echoed by Massachusetts agent Jack Attridge, who told Inman News that he’s often contacted by agents and customers from outside his market who have seen his listings on national sites, but they typically have incorrect information. None of the calls, he said, has led to a sale.

At VHT, we hear the same criticisms about third party sites. We understand that brokers are concerned about how big aggregators have elbowed them out of the way to get to the top of the customer marketing funnel.

As VHT Chairman Brian Balduf noted in a recent white paper, How the New Home Buyer Lifecycle is Impacting the Broker-Agent Relationship, third-party aggregators have successfully leveraged the Internet to control the flow of buyers and determine whose property listings and which agent contacts get the most web visibility. They use a broker’s listings to attract buyers, but they decide who gets the customer leads that are generated by those listings. Moreover, as they continue to grow their dominant market share and seek new revenue sources, they’re demanding a rising share of agent/broker marketing dollars in exchange.

It’s difficult to think of another industry that has been so willing to let third-party companies monetize its business assets – while also footing the bill. Or one that has become so dependent on third parties for online customer acquisition that it keeps paying more and more money to buy leads generated from its own offerings. But what can brokers do about it?

Is it too late to put Pandora back into the bottle? The answer is NO.

Brokers are beginning to realize that their greatest competitive threat isn’t the brokerage down the street but the burgeoning online third parties. Several top brokerages recently have taken steps to regain control of their valuable listings information and visual assets.

Brokers are the true experts in real estate. With the right strategy and technology on their side, they can master the web in order to market their listings better and more cost-efficiently than any third-party aggregator.

The stakes are huge – and so is the opportunity for growth.