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Zillow on the brink of deal for 50,000 MLS listings

By January 27, 2015 One Comment

Zillow is on the brink of a deal with one of the nation’s largest multiple listing services that would help the top real estate portal weather the end of a contract with listing syndicator ListHub.

The board of Rockville, Maryland-based Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. (MRIS) has voted to finalize negotiations with Zillow to send the portal a direct feed of its more than 50,000 for-sale home listings and 8,800 rental listings from its more than 45,000 subscribers.

David Charron

David Charron

“We have essentially agreed to terms and it is now simply a question of memorializing our discussions in a formal agreement,” said MRIS President and CEO David Charron. “Neither party is anticipating a major obstacle.”

Charron declined to disclose any terms of the proposed agreement. But in general, brokers whose MLSs participate in the portal’s direct feed program, the Zillow Partnership Platform, receive broker and listing agent attribution, branding, a link back to their website, and access to daily analytics reports.

Zillow has been pursuing a direct feed from MRIS for well over a year, Charron said. The news that the agreement between Zillow and ListHub would expire on April 7 was the catalyst for finally striking a deal, he said. Zillow said it expects to have a deal with MRIS complete by April.

MRIS covers Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia.

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff

“This partnership means MRIS’s huge inventory of for-sale listings will appear accurately and quickly to the millions of home shoppers using Zillow, and that the brokers and agents who are part of MRIS will have total control over the content of their listings,” said Spencer Rascoff, Zillow CEO, in a statement.

Zillow currently receives the vast majority of MRIS listings — 88 percent — through ListHub, Charron said.

Brokers who have opted-in to send their listings to Zillow via ListHub will be automatically opted-in to the direct feed, said Andrew Strauch, MRIS’s vice president of product innovation. Otherwise, brokers will have to opt-in, he said.

Charron said brokers will be able to revisit their preferences before the anticipated April cutover.

“Brokers retain complete choice. They always have. We simply now serve as a conduit, a pipeline should they choose to avail themselves of it,” he said.

Zillow has invested heavily in its industry development team to entice MLSs to send the portal direct listing feeds and the effort seems to have paid off, at least in this instance. The addition of former CoreLogic exec Brian de Schepper to Zillow’s team had resulted in “more frequent and more substantive” dialogue, Charron said.

Andrew Strauch

Andrew Strauch

MRIS expects to continue its relationship with ListHub. Zillow is set to acquire Trulia, the second most-popular online real estate portal, sometime soon. But as long as Trulia maintains its agreement with ListHub, MRIS does not anticipate sending Trulia a direct feed, Strauch said.

“It is important to note ListHub has been a good partner. The breakup of their relationship with Zillow is unfortunate,” Charron said.

“Nonetheless I expect those of us who choose to work with both of these entities will see major strides over the ensuing months in terms of improved reporting, broker engagement and far greater transparency.”

“With ListHub we expect to receive far more insightful reporting on traffic in addition to increased transparency into the terms and conditions found in their publisher agreements,” he added.

ListHub has published the terms it had been seeking for a new agreement with Zillow, before negotiations between the two companies ended.

The terms would have allowed Zillow to publish listings on additional sites it owns in the future (Trulia, for example) and would have permitted Zillow to keep its right to refuse delayed or truncated feeds.

The proposed terms would have allowed Zillow to continue receiving direct listing feeds from brokerage and big franchise brands, while barring the site from accepting other feeds from third-party providers, which have been the a source of accuracy concerns.

Zillow was also to be barred from offering any advantage in terms of cost or display to any party for that decided to send their listings directly to Zillow instead of through ListHub.  That condition would negate incentives offered to brokers and MLSs to participate in the portal’s direct feed programs, Zillow Pro for Brokers and Zillow Partnership Platform.

Zillow could also not have operated a competing syndication platform — a condition that could include its newly launched Zillow Data Dashboard.

Pricing was not included in the proposed terms, according to ListHub. “Above terms determined value exchange and level of partnership. Zillow never responded to term sheet; therefore, pricing never determined,” the syndicator said on its website.

Zillow spokeswoman Katie Curnutte said the company takes its obligations for confidentiality seriously and would not respond to ListHub’s disclosure.

“In general, we believe direct data agreements with MLSs and brokers are in the best interests of everyone involved, and that is our focus moving forward,” she said.

“Not only does a direct partnership result in more timely and accurate listings for the millions of home shoppers who visit Zillow, but it ensures an MLS’ or brokers’ listings and brand are associated only with well-respected, well-trafficked sites.”

Neither ListHub operator Move Inc. or ListHub general manager Celeste Starchild would comment for this story.

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