Where Real Estate Gets Its Dirt

Is ListHub playing favorites?

I don’t get it. Maybe I missed the memo.

At the most recent Clareity MLS Executive Workshop it was revealed by Matt Cohen that Zillow is sending a single data file over to Google for “indexing purposes”. I guess having a single file makes it easier for Google to index all of Zillow’s listing inventory.

But hold on, Zillow’s listing inventory is made up, in a large part, of syndicated listings from ListHub. And as Luke Glass of ListHub pointed in a comment to my post,

“ListHub does not permit resyndication and we take this matter very seriously.”

Which in turn Matt responded.

“Luke, you asked me to follow up with Zillow, and I did – I was assured a data file was being provided and specifics were discussed.”

Why does Zillow and Google get a free pass? What got me thinking about this was an email forwarded to me that is being sent by Trulia. If you haven’t seen it, click below.

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So basically Trulia has a free app for agents. Which helps them respond quicker to leads and other benefits. In the past I thought this was a clear case of repurposing data. Now I’m not so sure. ListHub is saying it doesn’t comply with it’s rules and is requiring Trulia to obtain permission from every MLS and broker in the country who syndicates its listings through ListHub. Which isn’t a small task I’m sure. And does anyone think that these brokers (besides Edina, et al.) and MLS providers are going to say no to this letter? Fat chance.

So I ask the question again. Why does Zillow and Google get a free pass but Trulia needs to jump through a bunch of hoops? And what makes it more absurd, Trulia’s free app directly benefits agents.

Makes me wonder. Is Realtor.com/MOVE (ListHub’s parent company) getting any special treatment from Google for allowing Zillow to send them a single data file to index?

Nobody can doubt MOVE made a brilliant strategic “move” by acquiring ListHub. Plus Luke and his team have a lot of smart people, so I’m hoping I’m missing something here. But as I wrote in a previous post they need to be consistent. Otherwise ListHub risks the perception of playing favorites, or worse being a bully.

  1. Luke is out of the office (he and his wife just had a baby girl) so let me provide some background information on his behalf:

    We’re not playing favorites, here. We operate ListHub as a neutral platform so that all publishers play under the same rules. We’re working really hard to uphold the rules that MLSs and Brokers say are important to protect their data. Here’s how that translates:

    1. Zillow / Google Now: ListHub has a strict rule: no resyndication. When we heard about the Zillow / Google Now arrangement, we immediately contacted Zillow to determine whether they were resyndicating ListHub data to Google. Zillow explained they were not.

    2. Trulia’s Agent App: This one is really clear cut. MLSs and Brokers use ListHub to syndicate listings to consumer sites. They do not expect those consumer sites to use the same data for their agent and broker apps. If a company wants to use MLS data for an agent app, they need to get MLS permission. CloudCMA does this. Trulia, in effect, wanted to use the ListHub data, for free and without getting the MLS’s explicit permission. That is not permitted under the ListHub rules. If an MLS gives us the OK to provide the data to Trulia for use in their agent products, that’s fine. But we need the MLS’s permission.

    The ListHub rules are based on the specific requests and feedback of our MLS and broker customers. And we work diligently to ensure that all publishers follow these rules, regardless of whether they are large and influential or small start-up companies.

  2. @Celeste It would really be helpful if someone from Zillow would confirm what you are saying. Right now we have Matt saying he talked to someone at Zillow and they confirmed a data file was being sent to Google.

    But someone at Zillow has said to you guys they are not sending a data file. I respect both you guys and Matt. So one of three things are happening.

    1. Zillow is lying to Matt
    2. Zillow is lying to ListHub
    3. Or there is some sort of HUGE miscommunication.

  3. “resyndicating ListHub data to Google” – first of all LH does not have any data – brokers and MLSs do. So if Zillow says no to LH data, they would semantically be accurate.

    “Zillow explained they were not.” But does that mean that possibly a subset of the “LH” data is being sent to Google, therefore again making the answer somewhat correct?

    Let’s wait for the Zillow account, eh? This is fun and will eventually waste a lot of peoples’ time. 🙂

  4. As to the Trulia App angle, I AM a bit perplexed. If as a broker I agree to send my listings to Trulia, would I not also expect it to show up in any Trulia app as well? Is the distinction being made her that it is an “agent” app versus a “consumer” app? What could the difference be to the seller? Have all brokers who send their listings to realtor.com been required to approve their listings for the realtor.com agent app?

  5. I may have misread Celeste’s statement.

    At first I thought she said:

    “When we heard about the chickens missing from the hen house, we immediately contacted the fox. The fox explained he had not eaten any of the chickens.” Oh, ok. Case closed.

    If ListHub is an agent entrusted with broker/MLS data which they provide to Zillow, and Zillow sends (re-syndicates) a single byte of that data to Google, then it seems that Matt is correct.

    Ask Zillow if *any* of the broker/MLS data provided by ListHub is contained in the files they send to Google.

  6. I don’t think Listhub is playing favorites. I think it’s more of a case that Zillow is doing something that’s not explicitly regulated in the operating agreement. Not because it’s right or wrong. Only that it wasn’t anticipated.

  7. There certainly is some clarification needed. I had a 20 minute conversation with one of the head techies at Zillow to confirm every aspect of the arrangement, right down to the fields being sent, the day before I went on stage. And Zillow reps were in the room and didn’t offer a correction to the group.

  8. @Matt Is there anything in the file or added to the file that favors Zillow over the listing agent in search?

  9. @matt Google Now is deeply rooted in Google’s search engine. Now uses past search behavior to predict and anticipate results for the user.

    If you don’t know the answer about Zillow adding content to the payload, that’s fine.

  10. It isn't search Robert

    Robert, Google Now’s real estate results are not traditional search – they’re exclusively taking results from Zillow. No one else gets a shot.

    If results pulled exclusively from a single site qualifies as search, Neighborcity gets a free pass for life as a “search engine” crawling Realtor.com or other real estate sites.

  11. @’It isn’t search Robert’ and @Matt

    You’re both missing my point. Matt incorrectly inferred I meant “web search” and “It isn’t search Robert” paradoxically calls it *search* in their first sentence.

    So your theory is that the data sent to Google from Zillow magically stays in some walled, GoogleNow ecosystem and has zero impact on Zillow’s PageRank?

    Ok, fine. Let’s close this chapter and get back to the main issue.

    One thing missing from these comments is the usual, instant appearance of: “Hi, (insert name) from Zillow here” to quash the rumor and fear mongering.

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