The Wall Street Journal and other publishers are not the only content producers to put up a wall between their content and aggregators pulling information from their Web sites.
San Diego, Calif.-based Abbott Realty Group (ARG) recently took steps to prevent aggregators like Realtor.com, Trulia, and Zillow, as well as Yahoo Real Estate, from pulling in and posting real estate listings, according to the group's President and Managing Broker Jim Abbott. Google discontinued the real estate market feature on Google Maps February 2011, but still offers the tool.
In the video, Abbott calls the sites "slick advertising platforms" that often use "fear and peer pressure" to get agents to sign long-term contracts for lead-generation services. Numbers are not verified, which presents problems for an industry that is regulated by the government.
Abbott said these sites act as middlemen, posting valuable listing data alongside the contact information of other agents and brokers renting ad space on their Web site without permission to drive paid-search and display ad sales.
In San Diego, these companies often post between 30,000 and 40,000 more homes than the number that are actually for sale. They are mispriced or no longer on the market, and make it difficult to find the listing agent on a specific property. Abbott also claims that aggregators steal intellectual property and personal client data, such as addresses and property status, which often ends up on Craigslist.
"We are certain that the hundreds of thousands of hits on our own listing during the sample period did not cause buyers to view the homes, nor produce quicker sales or better outcomes for our clients," he said. "These sites represent a failed approach to property marketing, and one that frustrates home buyers, hurts home sellers, and brings little value to the brokers and agents who own the listings."
Abbott believes aggregators have slowed the "recovery of the housing market" by inflating the number of available homes on the market. He wants to make it clear that ARG does not shun new ways to sell properties, but demands that marketing plans produce tangible results, not meaningless hits in cyberspace.