(Ed Note: Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to read some controversial comments without edits)

Denver Realtors have a love/hate relationship with the large, real estate portals on the internet. Some Realtors love the business they buy from them. More despise what they see as unfair competition to snag potential buyers and sellers. So, the Realtors  were ready when representatives of Zillow and Trulia entered the ring at the Metro Denver Association of Realtors last Monday.


Denver Realtors hate Zillow partially because they cannot compete in search engine rankings. Ironically, Realtors help internet portals in the search engines.

Ostensibly, Jay Thompson from Zillow and Todd Carpenter from Trulia came to show Denver Realtors the “Here, There and Everywhere of Listing Syndication”. It sounded like a “how-to” for real estate agents to post their listings throughout the internet. But, immediately the pair was thrown into combat with the opening of of what turned out to be Round 1.

Meeting Moderator Kristal Kraft became emotional even during the introductions. “I, for one, find Zillow’s data to be horribly inaccurate.”she began. “I don’t know why Realtors help them compete against us”.

Before the Portal Pair could respond, others in the audience began a litany of criticisms.

“We acknowledge that data integrity is a problem and we are working hard on cleaning up the problem”, Thompson finally was able to respond. “But, it’s hard to correct algorithmically. 1-2-3 Main Street is also picked up as 1-2-3 Main St in the various data mines we have”.

“That’s Bullshit”, an angry Realtor interrupted. “I’m sorry but you have to come up with something more believable than that. You can’t tell us there is not a software solution for something that simple.” The implication was that these internet Goliaths purposely allow old listings to remain in the system so the content of the sites seem larger to the search engines.

“Our lives would be a lot easier if Metrolist (Denver’s public MLS) would just provide us a feed of your listings”, Thompson proposed. ” We then use that data to trump data we get from other sources like virtual tours and county records. You would be helping to make the data more accurate”.

Metrolist currently will not provide listings to real estate portals. Many of the Realtors in the room thought they should have to pay a premium to get the feed of listings.

“What do you want from us?” Thompson asked.

“Pay enough to reduce our Board of Realtor dues”, was the answer from audience member. Other comments suggested that Metrolist should never provide the data because that would damage the ability of individual Realtors to compete with the big boys on the internet.

One of the many contentious disagreements between Realtors and the Portals nationally was never mentioned. Many Realtors are upset that these portals are duping usnsuspecting Realtors into providing free, original content with more than just listing data. Realtor profiles and Realtor forums on those sites add to the content and credibility of those sites with the search engines. And, Badges and Widgets, like free mortgage calculators, provide links to the Portals from individual Realtor sites . All of that contributes to higher search engine rankings for the Portals and pushes individual Realtor websites.

“We are cutting off our noses to spite our faces”, was a comment by a Denver Realtor following the hour and a half slugfest. The Chairman of the Metrolist Committee was present along with the Vice-Chairman for most of the meeting. They asked if these portals intend to become full-fledged real estate companies and open offices to compete against Realtors at the local level.

“No, that is much easier said than done in reality” was Thomspon’s response. Carpenter said he did not know of any such plans at Trulia.

The battle will continue. If other Board’s of Realtors and their MLS systems threaten to withhold listing data, this road show might likely be repeated in venues across the country. If so, Thompson and Carpenter might consider applying for combat pay with their employers.


  1. Eric Bouler

Posted December 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm | 

You just have to follow the money on these type of things….The multi-list charges realtors to give them content and then sells it… Now who is the real customer here?


  1. Jay Thompson

Posted December 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm | 

Hi Larry – I think open discussions are a good thing, with or without combat pay. I’m happy to go to agents, brokers, MLS’s and Associations and hear what people have to say. All we ask in return is a little listening and an open mind. I think the majority in attendance did just that, and I appreciate Kristal and DMAR inviting and hosting the event.

As I mentioned in the meeting, anyone is welcome to contact me, anytime about anything. I ran out of cards at the meeting, but I’m not too hard to track down. JayT@zillow.com 480-235-4447

Hope you have a terrific 2013!


  • Bob Wilson

Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:21 pm | 

Props for the quick damage control there, but the “open mind” part is funny Jay. Zillow could disappear from the face of the earth tomorrow and not a single real estate transaction would be impacted, except those where the principles are Zillow employees. Sellers would still get their homes sold in the same market time and buyers would still find homes to buy.

All Zillow wants is our data feeds so Z can profit by charging agents for leads generated from our own listings. Zillow brings NOTHING of value to the agent or broker that isnt on their payroll.


Posted December 29, 2012 at 2:21 am | 

You may find it funny Bob, and that’s cool, but I really do wish people could keep an open mind. You’re right, Zillow and others could disappear tomorrow and homes would sell. We could rip everything off the Internet and stuff it all back in three-ring binders and homes would still sell too.

“Zillow brings NOTHING of value to the agent or broker that isnt on their payroll.”

Just to be clear, I’m virtually certain (but not 100% positive) that I am the only person on Zillow’s payroll with an active real estate license. And while my license is active, I don’t do anything with it. As for us bringing nothing of value to agents and brokers, I wish you could have heard the agent a few weeks ago that cornered me at an event, started crying, and proceeded to tell me how without Zillow her business wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is. I hear agent/broker success stories every day. Some agents do find value in what Zillow offers. Some don’t. I get that. Zillow gets that.


  • Rudolf

Posted December 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm |

The only agents that like these platforms like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com are the ones that can’t generate the traffic themselves, don’t have enough listings and are to desperate so they PAY to to use other Realtor’s listings to advertise and get leads!!
Zillow, trulia & Realtor.com are ONLY interested in making MONEY for THEMSELVES by selling the leads back on OUR listings and SELLING ADVERTISING TO COMPANIES AND AGENTS


  1. Jeff

Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:53 pm | 

It is pretty sick that ZTR dupe agents into linking to them from widgets and badges. Most agents are not tech savvy and they know it. Many of these so called Zillow and Trulia apostles are trying to say that if they don’t want to link back they shouldn’t use them. The problem is that most agents are not aware of what they are doing. If they were aware, they would not link back to a competitor and help them out rank them or drive potential clints from their own site to one that is loaded with other agents.

I don’t see the Phoenix Real estate Guy linking from his site back to them.. He knows better.. He may be ok with them kicking his ass in the rankings since he is on their payroll now.. Goes to show you anyone will sell out for a price 

Same goes for coaches that are suppose to be looking out for their clients best interest instead of their own. If they were they would not be pushing Zillows $10 crappy sites that are stuffed with back links  There are plenty other solutions that convert much better. They want their clients to pay them thousands for their coaching, but push sites that are worthless. It is Just amazing and disgusting at the same time!!!


Posted December 29, 2012 at 2:28 am | Permalink

Jeff – I’m not going to participate in a conversation where someone chooses to personally attack me. You don’t know me from Adam, so to call me a “sell out” when you have zero idea what my motivation was in taking this position is a personal attack. If you want to leave that stuff out of the conversation, I’ll be happy to have a discussion.

Incidentally, I have linked to Zillow over the years in some of the articles I wrote about them long before I started working there. They also aren’t kicking my ass in the rankings. Yes, TPREG’s SERPs have fallen slightly this year, but given that the content production there is down significantly, that’s not all that surprising. The site still does just fine though.


  1. Karen Rice

Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:10 pm | 

Jay, I have long been an admirer of your blog and your internet presence. Sadly I can not say the same for your employer or for Trulia. They steal ranking from our own websites, and not only that, use our listings to sell leads to competitors. I say the same thing about Realtor.com. They are PARASITES leeching and sucking the life out of us, using our info and data for FREE and then charging us for “leads.” How can anyone see that as FAIR? I wish search engines would rank LOCAL WEBSITES rather than NATIONAL portals first……but alas, they don’t. I say bravo to companies that refuse to list with Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com.


Posted December 29, 2012 at 2:37 am | 

Karen you know (I hope) that I have mad respect for you. You’ve helped me a lot for quite some time, and I think I’ve helped you some. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, as is everyone else.


  1. Jay Thompson

Posted December 29, 2012 at 3:06 am | 

One final comment from me before I hit the sack.

Larry’s post covers parts of 10, maybe 15 minutes of a 90 minutes session. I thought there was some productive discussion in the room. Judging by the one-on-one conversations I had with several attendees after the session (and I’m not counting the ones that approached me apologizing for their colleague’s behavior), I’m not alone in that thought.

I’m a relatively bright guy, before I walked into DMAR I was aware of some of the history with Metrolist and syndication, and I was aware of the feelings of some of the attendees toward “ZTR” and syndication. I knew there would be some hostility in the crowd. And again, that’s fine. Opinions are good. Debate is good.

Despite what some seem to believe, my job at Zillow isn’t to try and mollify those that have issues with us. My job is to help educate — not just agents and brokers about what Zillow is, but to also to educate Zillow on what agents and brokers need, as well as all the… stuff… agents and brokers have to deal with in their day-to-day jobs. Y’all have **hard** jobs. I’m sure I’ll get flamed for saying this, but Zillow wants to help agents be successful. I don’t see why that’s so hard to believe. The more successful our Premier Agents are, the more successful we are. The more successful we are, the more successful they are. I wouldn’t call it a symbiotic relationship, but we’re most certainly not out to be a brokerage, to horde bad data or to dis intermediate real estate agents.

I sincerely do wish everyone reading this and those in this discussion a safe and prosperous new year. If it’s anything like the past several years, it should be an interesting one in this whacky business we’ve all chosen to be in!


  1. Chuck Rifae

Posted December 29, 2012 at 8:56 am | 

This is a must read blog for Realtors. I think you have covered what so many Realtors struggle with. My personal opinion is that we Brokers( myself) need to teach our agents how to own “their” internet through blogging and good SEO. Unfortunately, not many Brokerages can not afford or have the skill to put money into building a web presents for themselves or their agents. Great website Larry! Keep up the great work!


  1. Ric Felder

Posted December 29, 2012 at 10:02 am | 

Realtors should have never released their MLS data to “the Internet.” It has diminished the need for Realtors and our professional image with the public. All this talk about getting along with Zillow or Trulia is a waste of time. Their model and interests are in direct conflict with ours. We are after the same customers. When you hear of the folks that are now consulting the Internet before they contact a Realtor – who do you think they’re consulting? Zillow. Trulia. Wake up!


  1. Ben Fisher

Posted December 29, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

Honestly, I don’t have a huge issue with ZTR at all. They are here, and likely aren’t going anywhere no matter how much complaining takes place. Hell, it’s brilliant what they have done thus far. The only issue I have is the blatant keyword stuffing they’re able to get away with in their products they make available. They may just be too big to be penalized for that sort of thing now, who knows. They’re still outrankable (word?) and aren’t going to go away but it would be nice to see the linking practices cleaned up, or penalized. Creating widgets is a linking tactic used all over the internet so of course they are going to use it and complaining about it is a bit ridiculous.


  1. Tom Cryer

Posted December 29, 2012 at 11:18 am | 

It’s just a matter of time before Goliath (Google) squashes us all. The landscape of change in RE will transend today’s paradigm so fast in the next ten years, the last ten years will seem tranquil in comparison. New participants will leapfrog into the arena changing the entire landscape. Smart phones will carry a buyer’s entire financial “finger print” virtually eliminating the mortgage broker, mobile apps will virtually eliminate all but the most active realtors and the transaction will finally become paperless. Sellers and Buyers will be able to “bump” their smart phones, and the “deal” will be done. Think about it. “What we have here is a failure to communicate”… Or not!