Since their emergence in the early 1990s and the early 2000s, syndication sites have disrupted the real estate world and divided Realtors. Viewed at once by agents as competition and as yet another source for leads, the “Big Three” portals – Trulia, Zillow and realtor.com – are here to stay. Increasingly, Realtors are taking advantage of what the sites have to offer, even if they don’t agree with the business model or practices that have made them such a success with consumers.
These days, the sites are offering a wider array of tools to attract agents and help them market their listings. Granted, those perks are for Realtors who choose to pay the syndicators’ fees.
“I equate the third-party portals to what the Sunday papers used to be — full of print ads,” says Andrea Geller of Coldwell Banker. “You can control that. You can control distribution, content and the text in your listings. You can control whether your listings are in the paper or out of the paper. With portals, it’s a lead. If it’s online, it’s a lead.”
More and more consumers are making the Internet their first stop in their quest to buy a home. Curiously, using the Internet has lengthened the search process to an average of 10 weeks, with those consumers visiting an average of 10 homes, according to the NAR 2015 Profile of Buyers and Sellers. For people who did not use online sources, the search process took about five weeks and included seeing five homes.
Quite a bit has changed in the homebuying process, for both consumers and agents. And the rise of real estate search portals played a significant role in ushering in that change.
The Power of Portals
Realtor.com, the oldest of the three main portal sites, was established in 1995 as an offshoot of the National Association of Realtors. It was the dominant force in online listings for several years. Realtor.com provided listings through an agreement between parent company Move, Inc,. and the NAR subsidiary Realtors Information Network, limiting the information on the site to that which was provided by Realtors proper.
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