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Agents to charge Royalty fees to Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com?

Agents to charge Royalty fees to Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com?

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**Response to a well written Article by Donna Robinson**

It’s a rather interesting take on a situation which lost control years ago.  LX3 is very “Pro” Agent in our views and in what LX3 is creating. However, the very notion that agents should charge royalties seems to omit one vital element; that the “Homeowner” actually owns the intellectual property rights, including the evasive pictures taken of their property, the use of the address and the details of their property.  I like Donna’s analogy of the music industry but lets put it into perspective:  The homeowner is the recording artist, the real estate agent is the agent / manager promoting the artist and the record labels are exposing the content (technology).

Data is and was, for that matter, a partial key to a successful real estate agent.  Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com found a way to give ‘some’ benefit to the world by allowing the consumer to view some of what is available, but in all cases, they have not disrupted the industry.  The Zillows of today have only seized on a tiny fraction of the industry in exchange for some advertising dollars from agents and third parties companies wanting to advertise in this space.  It’s VERY short lived, once a group develops what MLS was about in the first place.  The only difference is that agents need tools and control over the detail information and the consumer needs to know what is available and that its property is given the very best chance for a sale. It must be an affordable expense to the agent and not something they should pay for 10x over to each the aggregator website.  Agents are paid by selling a property, correct?  If agents are now saying they deserve more than the 4%-7% commissions, such as a slice of running an internet company, then they may as well stop all their listings and build an internet company.  It is not easy building a sustainable internet company.  It is harder than most agents would imagine.  This is not some group of young kids who dream up something and spit it out over night.  Trulia has blown through $38 million of investor capital over a period of 6 years and is in 4th place and only gets 4% of the web market share.   Zillow is 8+ years of hard work, well over $70 million of investment capital prior to going public and barely makes a profit. Realtor.com is 10+ years, owned by Move, Inc, has the full backing of NAR with a market cap of $350M+ and does not make that much profit despite owning Listhub, the majority of the rental markets and of course the #1 or #2 web hits per month.  Let us not forget, almost every agent is a NAR member and NAR only backs Realtor.com.  The issue is not about loosing money to these “aggregator sites”, as clearly they are not making that much money.  It’s about how to improve the real estate industry, preserve the reputation of the real estate agent and provide transparent/outstanding service to the “homeowners” around the world.  I think people see the fact of Zillow and Move, Inc being public companies worth $300m- $900m as a market cap, but fail to look at the profit of these companies.  Ask yourself this, “Do you really want to be a tech company or a Real Estate Agent”?  Lets not forget who agents serve at the end of the day; homeowners, sellers, and buyers.  Without their money and their property listings there is no $$$ to be made.  I am not for “FSBO”, as I believe a professional should always be used for things people are not qualified for, such as a doctor, lawyer, real estate agent, a pilot or a tech guru.   The industry is a simple fix, yet no one has done it as the “Real Estate Industry Veterans” want to remain in an old system and complain, yet even with NAR nothing is really getting done.  Greed seems to be taking over but I would argue that we all do one thing great and we are less than stellar at everything else, which is why we hire experts.  The industry needs another product, a product for the agent and something which gives the homeowners value.  I believe LX3 is on that track and it’s a very “crowded tech space” to say the least.  Real Estate is a global business, yet this has been overlooked for too long given how technology has connected the world.  Aggregation will be a dying business, it’s not the answer the Real Estate Industry needed; but then again, just look at “who” the aggregators hired to advise them.  There are many agents sitting on the advisory boards of these companies when in fact these agents do one thing incredibly well, they know how to sell real estate and protect their clients.  Their impute needs to be taken into consideration, but they are not the expert in technology, are they? How many agents know how to code for Android or IOS? How many agents understand the concept of SEO? How many agents have hired an expert to create a website? So far, not one real estate aggregator has solved the problem.  They took the listing information, displayed it for the world to see and wrapped an advertising model around it.  Fantastic, but not the answer! So LX3 agrees with Donna on one thing, aggregators provide a service and a platform and if you want to be at the top of their list, you must pay for it. Fair?  Value for money? Profitable?  What are the other alternatives today to the agent? Is it not time to solve the problem?  It’s very expensive to be a good agent these days, but there is a better way coming soon.

Should Brokers and Agents Charge Royalties For Property Listings?

by Donna Robinson – 22 February 2012

In the wake of Abbott Realty Group’s announcement that they will no longer allow third party websites such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com to use their listings, I think it’s time that brokers and agents begin to think differently about how the internet is affecting their control of property listings, which are the “bread and butter” of the real estate brokerage business. Like a songwriter with their songs, or an author with his manuscript, property listings are intellectual property created by agents and brokers.

Is it time third party syndicates shared their profits?

There can be no argument that the internet has brought fundamental changes to the professional real estate industry. Today it’s much

easier to expose properties to a national audience of buyers. But at the same time, brokers and agents are witnessing the loss of control

of their listings, and their property information, to third parties like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com, who have been using this information to build their own for-profit businesses, at the expense of agents and brokers.

Those who are not licensees may not realize how expensive it is to operate as an agent or broker. There are school and licensing fees and hundreds of dollars in yearly dues to their local and national associations. They pay fees to their local Multiple Listing Service so that they can list their properties. They also pay additional money during their licensing period to cover required continuing education courses. And there are additional fees and penalties for failing to update the status of their MLS listings. They can even be penalized around $50 if their listing is cancelled due to foreclosure, unless they send their MLS written proof of the foreclosure notice.

There are also key fees for access to those fancy digital lock boxes agents use today, and those lock boxes are also pretty expensive as well. Agents also need “errors and omissions” insurance, to guard against lawsuits that may arise from errors in property listings, or other issues that they become liable for once they are licensed.

Realtors have to pay thousands in licensing fees to the NAR… Courtesy of Danny Fowler

On top of that, agents often pay for all of the advertising services provided for a property listing. You know those real estate books that are given out for free at restaurants and convenience stores? A single page in one of those books was about $1,200 when I became an agent back in 1996. And those nice big signs you see in front of many commercial properties are paid for by the agent, often at a cost of hundreds of dollars for a single sign.

The listing agent often has to split the property commission on the sale with the buyers agent, who may be brought in to represent the buyer, after the buyer spots the property listing on the internet.  After that 50/50 split, both agents usually have to pay their broker a share of their commission. In most cases that is another 20% or more.

So a listing agent spends hours prospecting for leads, then when they get one, they spend hours of their time and their own money to promote the leads trying to get the property sold. When it does sell, they often split their commission with others. They pay all of the expenses and get only part of the commission.

 

 Signs like this don’t come cheap either… Courtesy Diana Parkhouse

Once I was the listing agent on a property, and at closing the attorney informed me that the seller was not current on the property taxes, and that an additional $1,500 in property taxes had to be paid or the closing would be cancelled. The buyers agent and I agreed to pay $750 each for the property taxes, out of our commission, rather than lose the deal altogether.

When a third party listing syndicator like Realtor.com, Zillow or Trulia comes along and publishes the property listing for their own site, they make big bucks selling ads to other real estate agents, mortgage companies, and other industry related advertisers, while those who created this valuable content are expected to be happy with “exposure”.

I think it’s time for brokers and agents to realize that yes, the internet does have value, but so do all of those  property listings. I can’t imagine a songwriter or musical artist allowing a radio station to use their song for airplay, and in so doing, allow the radio station to make big bucks from selling advertising, then accept the excuse that “it’s good exposure” for the songwriter or the artist. And an author who writes an article that is published in a magazine which makes money by using that content to attract readers and sell advertising, would certainly not be willing to allow those magazines to publish his work for free because it’s “good exposure” for the author.

 Should realtors be happy with just ‘exposure’ for their listings (which are often wrong anyway)?

Brokers and agents have lost control of their intellectual content, by allowing the internet and third party publishers to profit from it, without any thought for compensating the creators of that content. In fact, some third party websites have created successful and highly profitable membership websites by using the property listing information created by licensees, without having to pay a dime for the use of that content.

Perhaps it’s time to come up with a new business model in which the creators and owners of property listings are compensated for their “original works” by creating a royalty system in which third party syndicators pay royalties to agents and brokers similar to the way it works in the music industry for songwriters and publishers. Agents are essentially the authors of property listings, and brokers are similar to publishers. This could allow for the use of property listings by third parties and make listings widely available, without taking unfair advantage of the creators of that content.

—————————————————————————————————————

Donna Robinson is a 16 year veteran of the real estate industry and a staff writer for RealtyBizNews.com. She began her career as a real estate agent, and today is an active real estate investor who also provides coaching and consulting services. Contact her at donnaconsults@reihelp.com or call her office at 888-915-9968 to inquire about coaching or consulting. 

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3 Comments

  1. I don’t agree with the analogy about a homeowner being an artist and their REALTOR being akin to a manager or agent.

    The written property descriptions and photos are the Realtor’s intellectual property. This fact is easily provable because they are both subject to copyright protection.

    We can get along fine without the Zillows and Trulias of the world. They’re out of business without our listings to draw eyeballs to them.

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