I recently learned that Zillow is not publishing my new home listings if the builder builds more than 150 homes a year. Its motivation is to have builders sign up for its Promoted Communities service, which Zillow covertly launched in early 2016. It made no industry announcement and never told brokers, MLSs, or consumers. A google search produced a single article, published on October 27, 2016 by inman.com, that partially alludes to this. It did not disclose MLS listings would be impacted – only Zillow’s targets, the builders, were told that.

Zillow used free MLS data to attract visitors and build its business. We real estate brokers willingly sent Zillow our listings because Zillow promised brokers their listings would be published on its website for consumers to view. Zillow used our listings to monetize its consumer traffic by selling special designations and lead plans back to real estate agents and brokers. Now that Zillow has built its business using MLS listings, it has decided to deny publication of certain MLS listings to increase its income. Zillow has a right to increase its income, but there is a proper way to do so. The proper way is not to punish brokers, the very people who enable Zillow to exist, by not publishing their MLS listings.

Zillow’s VP of Industry Development, Curt Beardsley, confirmed to me personally in a phone call that Zillow no longer ensures publication of builders’ MLS listings if the builder builds 150 or more homes annually. Checking MLS listings against the same addresses on Zillow reveals its policy is being enforced haphazardly, possibly because its editing algorithm is not perfected.

When I learned of Zillow’s new program, I also learned not a single Realtor®, or executives and MLSs or Realtor® Association I spoke to knew of this new Zillow policy. Because I also did not know, I have been unknowingly misrepresenting my services to my builder clients regarding syndication of their listings on Zillow.

In my conversation with Mr. Beardsley, he also told me their new program was developed to meet consumer preferences discovered from its consumer research that found consumers wanted more information than is contained in MLS listings. Specifically, he says consumers want to know more about plans, building sites and upgrades. When asked if I could see this research he said, “no problem” and referred me to their sales department. When I asked the sales department about the research they could not produce any. If these Zillow programs were so beneficial, why were only targeted builders told about it, and not the listing brokers and MLSs that send their data to Zillow?

It is understandable that consumers would want more information, but Zillow’s action reduces information for consumers because fewer homes from fewer builders will appear on Zillow. If Zillow was truly concerned about consumers, it could have accommodated consumer’s wants without refusing to publish MLS listings from targeted builders. How does not publishing all MLS listings help consumers?

What can real estate brokers and agents do?

If you have an interest in pursuing this further, let us know — Contact Ben Caballero today!