Do real estate brokers know where their listings are going? A mobile home search application from banking giant Chase that's powered by broker-provided listings has renewed the debate.
The ListHub network has about 127 publishers in its network, some regional, with most brokers able to choose between about 55 or 60, ListHub said.
Using ListHub's "dashboard," brokers from about 450 participating multiple listing services nationwide can choose whether to send their listings to specific websites of their choosing; to websites filtered by certain criteria, such as those that contain no for-sale-by-owner listings or remove inactive listings quickly; or to all available publishers with the choice to opt-out when notified of a new publisher added to the network.
A blog post about the app by Brain Boero of real estate consulting firm 1000watt asking about the source of the listings on the app drew varied reactions from industry participants about who should monitor where listings appear, who gets the leads from those listings, and the pros and cons of listing syndication.
Matt Cohen, chief technologist at Clareity Consulting, commented that the app's listings come from ListHub and said no broker he had spoken with "had any clue."
"That's why MLSs need to advocate with their syndication partners like ListHub to do away with 'opt in to all' type features and require actual opt-in by brokers. Also, to do away with automatic allowance for sites to decide to power other sites. Those features are complete BS," he wrote.
Russ Bergeron, CEO of Lisle, Ill.-based MLS Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), objected to MLSs being asked to "police" where listings go.
"Is it the MLS's job to protect brokers from themselves? If a broker signs up for ListHub and says 'Send my listings to one or every publisher,' that is the broker's decision and not the MLS's," he commented.
"Should we start making rules that determine to which sites listings should go, regardless of the broker, agent or seller's preferences?"
Bergeron noted that ListHub notifies brokers every time a new publisher is added to its network and at that time the broker has the opportunity to opt in or out.
"If they have previously selected 'ALL' chances are they will ignore the notice. That is what is known as a business decision. Good or bad is not up to me to decide," he wrote.
Luke Glass, vice president and general manager of ListHub, said just over 47,000 brokers have a ListHub account, but the company doesn't track how many choose to send listings to a given publisher.
He said 58 percent of all the listings on the ListHub network are being sent to the Chase app with rentals and commercial properties excluded from the feed.
Glass declined to comment about how brokers are choosing to send listings to the Chase app, whether by choosing to do so specifically, via filters, or through the opt-in-to-all option.
Nonetheless, fewer brokers in general are choosing the "opt-in-to-all" option, the most popular choice when ListHub first launched, he said.
"We have seen that number come down in the sense that more brokers are taking control," Glass said.
He attributes the decrease in part to filters the company added in April 2012, but "in general, I think the industry is paying a lot more attention," he said.
Glass said ListHub doesn't have a preference for how brokers opt in.
"We try to set up as much flexibility as we can. The more engaged with our system the better, so if they are logging in more often, that's probably better for us. If they just set it and forget, they might have forgotten they're using us. Just so they're engaged is really our goal," he said.
He added that brokers should pay attention to what they're doing "and make sure you know what your current settings are so you're informed."
Glass said that whether website leads go to listing brokers depends on the ListHub network publisher. In Chase's case, the app includes buttons to call or email both the listing agent and broker and also links to the listing website. At the bottom of listing pages, there's a button to "Find a Chase Mortgage Banker."
Chase spokeswoman Amy Bonitatibus said Chase does not get any consumer contact information resulting from communication with the listing agent from the app.
"We only receive customer contact information when they specifically request a consultation from a Chase mortgage banker," she said.
She declined to comment on the total number of listings available on the app.
Leads to Chase mortgage bankers may be an issue with brokerages that have their own mortgage operations.
"Brokers with in-house lending are the ones that will be most irritated by this," commented Greg Fischer, a Fort Worth, Texas-based broker, noting that another 1000watt post about national database Realtors Property Resource (RPR) had evoked similar concerns.
Glass said he knows of brokerages with mortgage operations that have sent their data to the Chase app. He said he did not know how they had opted in to send that data, but at least one he could think of "made a proactive decision" to do so.
Chase is not the first major bank to offer home search to consumers. Bank of America's Real Estate Center website has offered listing search since 2004. Listings on the site -- a mix of existing homes, new homes, and bank-owned properties -- are provided by a network of preferred brokers.
Saul Klein, senior vice president of ListHub competitor Point2, told Inman News Chase is seeking to obtain a feed from Point2, though no contract is in place yet.
"They are currently reviewing our standard distribution agreement, but have not yet signed it," Klein said.
Bonitatibus did not respond to a question about whether Chase was also planning to obtain listings from Point2, saying "We consider all opportunities to improve the user experience of the app."
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