Is Trulia totally clueless?

In a post I’ve been meaning to blog about, Trulia asks Is the MLS Totally Clueless? Why is “the MLS” totally clueless (they mean all 1,000+ MLS systems)? According to Trulia, because they don’t allow For Sale By Owner properties to be shown alongside MLS listings. (Is Trulia right, is this dumb? Probably, but I’ll leave that for another discussion.) What is Trulia’s solution? They don’t allow For Sale By Owner properties to be shown alongside their broker listings (see answer number 1). Sounds like someone shouldn’t be throwing stones.

Will Trulia ever allow FSBO listings? My guess is the moment that Trulia gets enough traffic for consumers to care if their house is listed on Trulia, the tables will turn on the brokers they are so eagerly courting right now. FSBO: check. Smaller links to broker sites: check. Data added by users: check. I don’t think they’ll do this out of greed, rather they’ll do it because they have to: if they keep the site the way it is, with limited information about properties and links to agent sites, the rest of the industry is going to pass them by.

Note: Trulia is not a member of “the MLS” and does not need to follow any MLS rules. There was some reader confusion about this.

44 thoughts on “Is Trulia totally clueless?

  1. It is more than a little ironic that they (like many of the brokers/agents they “serve”), are depending on MLS data to bootstrap or augment a FSBO service (assuming Trulia would ever offer one).

    Also, I think they have nothing to fear from most agent sites in most part of the country, but I think multi-state mega-brokers from the Pacific Northwest (John L, Windermere, CB Bain) with multi-million dollar web sites will make Trulia of limited utility in these parts.

  2. Galen,

    I have a little trouble following you at times, but maybe an online chat between us will at some transparency and clarity to this topic.

    You do understand that every single company that services the Real Estate Industry as its primary income base must, at the same time, boycott FSBO activity? Or do you?

    This is not something new. Brokers will pull out if FSBO’s enter is as old as real estate. Is there something you don’t “get” about that?

    Try to think like an agent who lists property for sellers rather than one whose business model caters to buyers. Listings bring buyers, the business and all of the mls rules focus on the seller.

    By giving an even playing field to sellers, whether they list their home with an agent or not, is like asking Costco to promote Target…to return to a familiar analogy.

    Why would not allowing FSBO sellers equal treament to “listed sellers” be stupid from an industry standpoint? More sellers would be FSBO if they can get the same benefits whether they list with an agent or not…wouldn’t they? So if an mls system is broker owned or Board of Realtors owned, then of course, No FSBOs allowed.

    Help me see it from your standpoint, though I warn it will be an uphill battle 🙂

  3. My standpoint: Trulia shouldn’t complain about the MLS systems preventing the display of FSBOs when Trulia prevents the display of FSBOs. I’m not trying to think like either an agent or a consumer, I’m trying to think like any rational human being. If Trulia claims that MLS systems should allow the display of FSBOs, Trulia should allow them too.

  4. So yes, somehow you missed my point:

    Is it correct for Trulia to call MLS systems “fascist dictatorships” for being down on FSBOs when they themselves promise not to index them? I think not.

  5. Galen,

    Let’s see if I can make some sense of all this.

    1) “If Trulia claims that MLS systems should allow the display of FSBOs, Trulia should allow them too”.

    I would read that as Trulia can’t because MLS won’t, and Trulia could if MLS did, so yes it would be absolutely appropriate for Trulia to urge them to do so.

    Seems Trulia is somehow affect by their fascist ways, so yes, they need to untie their own hands by urging the mls system to cease and desist their fascist ways. They want to pull the mls feed and have that feed include FSBOs…maybe?

  6. As I recall, Trulia opened in Manhattan, which has more “fascist ways” with regard to real estate practices, than any other place in the Country, at present. So if you don’t want to be governed by a fascist dictator, maybe you shouldn’t move to a place that is governed by a fascist dictator, I’d say.

  7. That’s very generous of you to give Trulia the benefit of the doubt, but they take no MLS listings whatsoever. They index broker pages (with the implicit permission of the broker). Because they are affiliated with no MLS, they can do whatever they want with the listings they get, including showing them next to FSBO listings. They have decided not to do that, because if they did, brokers wouldn’t share their listings with them, but they are deriding MLS systems for following the same logic.

  8. They are not following the same logic, they are being held over a barrel. There’s a difference. So I’m back to comment #2. Yes it is absolutely appropriate for them to not do what will pull the plug on their broker generated data, AND at the same time chastise the brokers. Why? Because they want to have their cake and eat it too.

    Only question is, will the brokers pull the plug for the chastisement of their policies the same as they would if Trulia introduced FSBOs on the site. I would think so, in due course. Like when they can find a way to pretend that wasn’t why they did it.

  9. Hi ARDELL,

    Interesting comments, as always. I was hoping you could clarify something for me. Are you saying that, as a real estate agent, you would never advertise your listing on a website that also allows FSBOs to advertise their listings? Or are you just saying that, from the standpoint of the MLS, it makes perfect sense that it should not allow FSBO listings?

  10. Tyler,

    The MLS does “allow” FSBO Listings, when sponsored by a member. $500 – $1,000 for a Do It Yourself listing kit, a lockbox sent in the mail on a bicycle lock thingamajiggie and access to forms, IS a FSBO in the mls…isn’t it?

    I’m saying “Thus it has been”. I’m saying that for as long as I have been in the business, print ad mags have been threatened with boycott and pull out by their regular advertisers, if they print FSBO ads. Not a personal opinion, Tyler. Just a statement of fact, unless something’s changed while I was taking the Sellsius 101 and didn’t notice.

    That’s an industry comment, not a me, personal opinion.

    You said “Are YOU saying that, as a real estate agent, YOU would never advertise YOUR listings on a website that also allows FSBOs to advertise their listings?” Hmmm, personal perspective. If I thought putting the listing there would have any impact whatsoever on the house actually being sold, I wouldn’t care who else was on it. What’s the point of putting it there? Getting buyer calls? Helping the site owner build up his site? Other than getting the house sold, why would I be there (on someone else’s site) at all, with whomever?

  11. Good call Ardell – #10.

    As for comment #8, I would be fine with Trulia’s stance if it was actually broker focused, but it’s not. They say nothing about brokers except how they want to help them. It’s disingenuous to target MLSs when it’s the brokers they are attacking. They should be honest with their readers and users and state that brokers are preventing THEM from listing FSBOs, rather than pretending that they’re not playing the same game.

    Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

  12. Galen,

    Re 11. on 8. Here in the Seattle Area “Broker’s” and “MLS” is one in the same, as your comment indicates by design. But that is not true of most of the Country. We are an anomaly. Most MLS systems are owned by the Board of Realtors and subject to NAR and local and state board policies, not merely local broker involvement, like ours is.

    So Trulia can in fact criticize the Board of Realtors Policy without criticizing the Brokers who advertise. Here in NWMLS-land you would be correct, but not most places.

  13. Ardell, I realize that other MLS systems are not run by brokers, but as you eloquently point out, they would lose brokers if they allowed FSBO mixing on member sites.

    I still think it’s crazy and dishonest to accuse MLS systems of being “fascist dictatorships” for not allowing FSBO listings when Trulia won’t allow FSBO listings on their site. You’re welcome to think that that is a perfectly rational argument if you want.

  14. Thanks Ardell, exactly the kind of response I was hoping for from you 😉

    btw, you mentioned Sellsius – do you know if they’re planning to allow FSBOs to list?

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  16. Great discussion. It’s amazing how many Brokers are being duped into giving up their listings to Trulia. Like, Trulia can not exist without Broker’s listings. And just like, Trulia is charging agents for ads on their own listings. But unlike Trulia is not subject to any rules. Crazy.

  17. Maybe not so crazy, Calculator. Trulia not being subject to rules is more of a two way street. The problem with the original (more than the current) is that along with the rules imposed on, the Realtor organization tied its own hands in many way. Rules usually go like this “I won’t do this IF you won’t do that. So no rules imposed on Trulia, likely gives the brokers more freedom to pull their listings, unlike the original debacle.

  18. Sure, Ardell, brokers have the freedom to pull their listings from Trulia, but why put themselves in the same pickle again in the first place?

    Most smart brokers would not give their listings now if they could somehow get out of the pickle they are currently in – between sellers wanting the exposure on and the MLS contracts. The end result is agents end up pissed off about having to pay for enhanced listings, on their own listings!

    What’s amazing is how many short-sighted brokers are falling for Trulia’s sales job and giving up their listings to the company that want’s to be the next, but with FSBO’s!!!

  19. Calculator,

    I don’t agree that Realtors should complain about paying for enhanced listings. Basic, it is there, is free. Enhanced should be extra dollars for “advertising” vs. simply viewing property.

    The real debacle was about shifting leads from the listing agent to whomever bought into “School Reports” etc. Using A’s listing to give it to B at a referral fee, not the cost of enhanced listings.

    Personally I don’t think agents should harp so much about FSBOs. Personally I feel if someone can sell it without a Realtor, then more power to ’em. Go for it! I don’t want a job that can be done for free. I only want it if the FSBO effort fails, and they really NEED an agent.

    I just sold a listing that was previously an MLS ONLY listing. It was great! Better than if the seller had not tried to FSBO before me.

  20. Ardell, I’m with you on this one. Aside from the double speak, Trulia has a nice site that, when they get the traffic, could expose listings to a lot of people and make finding a home easier for consumers.

    The point of listing houses should be to sell them, not to support your favorite business model or get more business. Customer choice will nto be improved if agents and brokers wield listings as if they were power chips to be given out to agent and broker-friendly interests.

  21. Two points about MLS and FSBO:

    1. MLS is paid for and run by real estate associations. Why the f**** should they allow random home sellers who hate realtors to post their FSBO listings? MLS is not a public entity, it’s a private database.

    2. Data quality is of great importance to MLS. Most local MLSs are getting policed by their own memebers and bad data results in a steep fine. Imagine if random tom, dick and harrys start posting garbage data on MLS?

    Btw, flat fee listings are a disservice to MLS. Those agents are taking MLS memberships they pay for and reselling them at $500-$1000 to their “clients” without adding any value beyond entering the actual data. They’re not even there to take care of things when the buyer agent wants to make an offer. Talk about useless middlemen.

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