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Effective Ways to Generate Leads WITHOUT Listing Syndication

After months of deliberation, WRAR has decided to stop syndicating to third party sites because they are not bound by the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. This will be effective on May 9, 2014. To attend a webinar on March 4 and learn more about this decision, please Click Here.

Some agents may get a little concerned about the best ways to promote their listings if syndication is discontinued.  The reality is that all 50 sites combined that are available to WRAR listings through ListHub currently produced less than one click-through or inquiry per listing per month, on average. Bottom line, syndication is not a key method for generating new business for many agents today.

So what are the paths that agents can consider to increase the number of leads they can attract to their listings? How can you show up your marketing programs to increase listing exposure and leads for your listings?

Begin by having an open and respectful conversation with your broker. Remember that your broker is legally responsible for that listing information forever, and many of the sites that advertise listings have terms of use that transfers the ownership of the data to the publisher, but the broker maintains the legal responsibility forever.

Do You Have A Website

One of the clear advantages to listing syndication is to drive traffic back to your personal website. If you do not have a website to link publishers to your website, discuss that with your broker. If you do have a website, is it great? Does your website offer a user-friendly search option? Do you have tons of engaging information surrounding each of your listings to answer all of the questions a potential buyer may have?  Do you make it easy for a consumer to register on your site so they can continue to educate themselves about the neighborhoods they are interested in?  There are tons of great website providers out there that can provide you with full service solutions to make your site as compelling as possible.

Market Statistics

Do you provide potential buyers with localized market statistics?  Easy to understand market stats can create a great reason for clients to check into your website.  They are also a great way to position your firm as an expert in the industry.

The best stats are available at the neighborhood level. Pacific Union in San Francisco, for example, makes it really easy for a customer to choose the area of the city and the specific neighborhood they are looking for.

Some companies go so far as to publish their own monthly video describing market statistics and then encourage their agents to send it out to all of their clients.   Here's an example from Park City, Utah. There are many great market statistics products that you can use on your site.

Mobile Search Solutions

Industry estimates now show that more than half of all property searches are being done via smartphones and iPads/tablets today.  To tap into this ever-growing phenomenon, it is critical that you have a mobile option for consumers to find you.  Ideally, your website is built to be adaptive to a mobile environment. It also makes sense to offer a mobile application that consumers can download if they prefer that path.

WRAR offers a mobile app to consumers that you can promote in addition to your own solution called SouthEast NC Real Estate for iPad.  There are lots of great companies that provide mobile search solutions built for brokers.

Promote the Third Party Site you OWN and CONTROL!

It's important to remember that many homebuyers and sellers like to shop on third party sites because they believe they can be anonymous there and can do their research before they engage with an agent.

The good news is that every broker in the Wilmington area owns and controls their own third party site - it's called TheWilmingtonMLS.com!  This site can be used in listing presentations to demonstrate that you and all area brokers have collaborated to create a powerful site for consumers to look for homes. This site creates FREE leads for you and your agents every day.  You just need to take credit for it with clients.

If you want to see exactly how much listing exposure the site is providing for your listings, Click Here and see. In total, the site provided over 13,000 property inquiries within the 18-month period between June 2012 and November 2013 for Wilmington area brokers.

Pros and Cons of Publishing Listings on Third Party Sites

There are pros and cons for displaying listings on these sites.  Many believe the downsides of syndication now outweigh the upsides of fueling sites that take consumers away from broker and MLS websites. Others believe that it is the best method for online marketing. The choice is yours. This article summarizes the perceived pros and cons of publishing your hard-earned listings on third party sites.

Let’s start with the reasons why some believe it makes sense to advertise on these sites.

PROS
  • Listing Exposure 
  • It's "FREE"
  • Sellers Want Their Listing Online
CONS
  • Inaccurate Data; Additional Risk to Brokers
  • Overstatement of Listing Inventories
  • Misrepresentation of who the listing agent/firm is
  • Agents getting leads with little to no knowledge of the property
  • Agents getting leads possibly selling against the requested property, and towards something the agent did know about or even their own listings
  • Listing Exposure is Really Minimal
  • Ever-increasing costs 

PROS

Listing Exposure
The primary reason why most REALTORS® display their listings on third party sites is to provide marketing exposure to their listings.  They believe that if their property is displayed on 50 or more sites with nationwide coverage, their chances of selling the home more quickly by attracting additional buyers is increased. There is no doubt that there are millions of consumers using publisher websites.

It’s “FREE”
Back in the early days of third party sites, many industry professionals were fed up with the prices they were paying to the newspaper to advertise their listings. Online sites came along and said they would promote listings online FREE.  Many jumped at the chance to reduce their marketing costs and moved their listings online and away from newspapers and real estate magazines.

Sellers Want Their Listing Online
There was once a time when sellers would insist on print advertising. Today, some sellers insist that you market their listing online. Most are guided by their real estate professional—you!

CONS

Looking at all the reasons for participating with third parties seems pretty compelling to some agents. Who wouldn’t want free listing exposure?  Doesn’t it make sense to promote a listing everywhere possible to sell the home as quickly as possible?  

Well, like anything that says it’s FREE, listing syndication does have some downsides that can be significant both for the short-term and the longer term. It is important that you weigh these downsides in order to make the best decision to benefit your client and your business.

Inaccurate Data; Confusing Consumers
One of the biggest concerns WRAR is responding to is the lack of accurate data shown on third party sites. According to a study conducted by WAV Group on behalf of Long and Foster, Windermere and Redfin Realty, more than 1/3 of the properties listed on the sites were in fact NOT for sale. Second, more than 20% of the listings on third party sites are not up to date.  Third, the study showed that there is display lag time of up to 9 days from the day a listing goes live to the day it is displayed on third party sites. Contrast 9 days with the fact that Local brokerage sites get home listings from direct feeds provided by the local MLS. In most cases these feeds are updated every 15 to 30 minutes, which allows homes to appear on local brokerage sites as soon as they are listed by an agent.

Inaccurate listings create a false marketplace for listings and confuses potential buyers. In another study conducted by WAV Group, 42% of the real estate consumers that participated in the survey found a listing that was “dead” – meaning it was no longer available because it was expired, sold or redundant with another listing.
This type of data inaccuracy also puts brokers at risk with their sellers and with buyers.

Overstatement of Listing Inventories
Third party sites also overstate the inventory available that is actually available in a local market. According to the Data Accuracy Study conducted by WAV Group on behalf of Windermere, Redfin and Long and Foster, Trulia and Zillow overstate active listings by approximately 20%,

Misrepresentation of who the listing agent/firm is
On some third party sites it is nearly impossible to find out who the actual listing agent is. Some display multiple agents for each listing who have paid to “sit” on other people’s listings. Others bury the listing agent on page 5 of the listing detail page. There are no third party sites that give listing agents as much priority as agent and broker IDX sites are required to do.

Agents getting leads with little to no knowledge of the property
Because so many of the third party sites promote agents that are NOT the listing agent, consumers are dealing with agents that do not know the property nearly as well as they should.  Consumers have a bad experience and then start to believe that all agents are not as professional as they should be.  Sellers are not well-served in this scenario. They award their listing to an agent that does not receive the inquiries from potential buyers unless they agree to pay exorbitant fees to become the featured agent on their listing.  

Agents getting leads possibly selling against the requested property, and towards something the agent did know about or even their own listings
Sometimes when agents that are not listing agents get an inquiry on a listing other than their own, they may ignore the inquiry or worse, they may push the consumer away from the listing they were interested in and toward their own listing.

Listing Exposure is Really Minimal
There’s a perception by many consumers, and many REALTORS® as well, that third party sites produce large volumes of leads for properties that are for sale. The facts tell a different story, however.  According to ListHub, the group that publishes WRAR member listings to third party sites, the results are pretty dismal.  

First, there are approximately 3800 listings per month that are published from WRAR members to third parties every month.  On average, each of those listings receives less than one click-through, email inquiry or phone inquiry in a month’s time. That means that if you publish your listing on 50 sites through ListHub, you are going to receive less than one detailed view of the property and even fewer requests for more information or a showing every month.  The promise of listing exposure does not actually hold water when you look at the real results. Explain this to your customer. They are likely to thank you for the information.

Second, WRAR agents have the opportunity to publish their listings through Listhub to 50 sites currently. Of those 50 sites, 34 of 50 of them do not produce ANY click-throughs, email inquiries or phone calls. Why publish listings to a site that is producing NO marketing results? Your seller may want you to advertise more carefully on sites that work more effectively.

Ever-increasing cost
According to quarterly financial statements from third party sites, on average, they are collecting about $150 per month from their participating agents. That means if you promote your listings on, say, five sites, you could be paying, on average, $750 per month in the hopes of getting one half of one inquiry per month. Those that do spend money advertising will tell you that they are receiving more inquiries than average, which may be true. Nonetheless, spending $750 per month for several months to sell a listing can become quite expensive.

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