answer to their participants on the question of data integrity.
Indeed, one criticism leveled by practitioners has been that
MLSs’ syndication agreements themselves are responsible for
the far-flung presence of their listing data.
In general, though, individual brokers are the ones with ultimate control. Syndicators such as ListHub—owned by Move—
rely on a prescribed set of data standards to access listing
data. Designated brokers can log on to ListHub and manage
how their office’s listings are syndicated across a variety of online aggregators. But, as Cooper in Hunstville discovered, just
because brokers have control doesn’t mean they are actively
managing the feeds.
Cooper isn’t the only executive whose MLS is moving to
a different distribution model. After receiving unanimous
consent from board members, the Austin (Texas) Board
of REALTORS® announced last September it would end its
ListHub agreement on April 30. The association’s task force
in charge of studying the issue found that, in the five years
since the agreement had been forged, many brokers had their
feeds on autopilot.
“Most did not remember setting up ListHub, nor did they
have any idea which websites their agents’ listings were being
sent to,” says task force member Jonathan Boatwright, co-owner of Realty Austin. He says brokerages set their syndication levels to maximize online marketing impact years ago.
That was before ListHub’s reach had grown to 58 different
third-party websites, where, in some cases, data wasn’t updated frequently or was blended with information from outside
“Members voiced concerns about the way their listings
were being presented and the confusion it caused,” he says.
“[The blanket syndication] causes consumers to question
our credibility as they inquire about outdated
listings and then feel like they are getting the
When the direct ListHub feed to aggregators ends this
spring, the board’s 9,400 brokers and agents will have to de-
cide where and how they want to post their listings online.
Though he’s an agent with Keller Williams, a company
that provides listing syndication to its agents and brokers via
Market Leader, Jordan Gouger believes ABoR made the wrong
choice. Home buyers are “trained to go to Trulia and Zillow and
maybe realtor.com®,” he says. In addition to having his leads
syndicated out to aggregators via Market Leader, Gouger ad-
vertises on Trulia. He acknowledges that the data quality isn’t
perfect on outside aggregators’ sites but says that’s where the
The Austin association says the decision wasn’t about
punishing the aggregators or syndicators for inaccurate data.
“We are simply getting the Board of REALTORS® out of the
business of syndicating member listings to nonmember web-
sites,” Boatwright says. “Third-party websites will continue
to provide advertising services for members who find value in
their services, but members will be able to negotiate directly
with each company they choose to advertise with, rather than
blindly sending their listings to 58 different publishers.”
Cooper’s North Alabama Multiple Listing Service Inc. also
made a move away from ListHub, but it decided to become
more involved in syndication rather than less. In October
2013, the MLS—which represents more than 2,000 real
estate professionals in seven markets—set up separate,
confidential agreements with sites such as Trulia, Homes.
com, Zillow, realtor.com®, and others. Each agreement forges
a direct feed of members’ listings to each site and delivers
web analytics data from the sites back to brokers. Listings are
syndicated by Atlanta-based Bridge Interactive Group. Cooper
says the agreements ensure that listing data from brokers
trumps all other data that third-party sites might normally add
to a listing without such protections. “This puts all of the power
back in the hands of our REALTORS®. It puts them back in the
center of the transaction,” says Cooper. The new system also
helps the MLS see where the data goes after that first syndica-
tion push. “We know the minute our feed goes someplace that
it does not belong.”