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Sandicor fires a shot across the third-party syndication bow.

The problem with not having all of the facts is that you can end up feeling pretty stupid. And for the record, Steve is wearing an "I'm With Stupid" t-shirt as we speak. (Also, for the record, he rarely has occassion to change out of it.)

When I first heard that our Sandicor MLS was going to be adding an “advertising remarks” field to our listing input forms, I silently criticized them of being all-over-the-place-inconsistent.

First, here is the idea. Beginning this week, when agents input listings in the MLS, they will now be able to include advertising remarks — remarks like, "Hey! Look over here! I'm the listing agent, and here is my phone number and website address!"  These remarks will in turn be included in the listing feed provided to third-party syndication sites (think Zillow and Trulia), should agents opt-into syndication.

Now, I get that this is a good thing in at least one respect; it means the right guy just might have a fighting chance of being picked out of a line-up on third-party sites as the one who is actually representing the property owner. This is in fact one of the many arguments against syndication — that the agent or brokerage providing the data lost in a sea of competing agent advertisements or worse. Listing agent information is absent altogether.

But the very idea that Sandicor, with this new advertising remarks field, seemed to be at least tacitly supporting syndication by enabling it smacked of hypocrisy in the wake of the recent debut of their own front-facing consumer website. That’s the website, you might recall, they described as designed to capture the consumer traffic from the Zillows and Trulias of the world while protecting agents from third-party evil-doers out only (at least for now) to grab their advertising dollars.

In other words, it sounded like they were saying, “We are helping Zillow and the likes (by making it easy and attractive for our agents to send their listings on over), but we really want them dead.” So, my knee-jerk reaction was, “Dudes. Do we have a plan?”

I think we might.

I admittedly didn’t have all the facts (and probably still don’t), which is an unfortunate side effect of being a working girl. So, what I was not aware of until this morning was this: While I was scanning my client's disclosures and meeting the photographer, Sandicor also had decided that as part of their little data feed remapping effort, they would be limiting the number of photos included in the third-party feeds —  to four. Compare that to the twenty-five photos we can actually upload in the MLS, and consider that photos are king. Now, who's your daddy? Take that, syndication sites!

Seriously, I may feel differently when I have had time to sleep on it, but right now I am standing on my chair and offering a personal round of applause. This was bold and rather creative. Maybe it’s not “No more syndication. Period!” uber-bold, but I can think of about forty reasons why it was a smart middle-ground approach to take. I can start with the simple argument that not all of Sandicor's subscribing agents and brokers are on my side of the syndication argument and, while I might lack polital acumen, they must be political; I could end with the idea that our MLS would probably have a hard time defending a position of telling us where and with whom we can and can't advertise our listings.

But, I hold firm to my belief that third-party syndication is run amok. In it's present form, it benefits neither the consumer nor the agents and brokers. It benefits the third-party site holders and, in one case, their shareholders. And I do not believe, as some have suggested, that we are too far down this road to reverse course. Apparently, neither does Sandicor.

I will indeed sleep on it. In the meantime, I'll give credit where credit is due. For now, this feels like a good move.

Kris Berg Gomez

Kris Gomez is Owner and Designated Broker of San Diego Castles Realty. She has been serving San Diego buyers and sellers since 1997.

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  • Jonathan Cardella

    Let me get this straight Kris, and please correct me if I misconstrued your editorial; it’s a great move for the real estate industry as a whole, including the home owners, the home seller and the home buyers to only be able to view only 4 photos of a given property, where up to 25 may be available, when they search online? And presumably they can only see the rest of the photos on the  MLS’s website and the listing agent and broker’s website(s). Is that the message of your article?

    Which photos, pray tell, would you show? The bathrooms and garage?

    • Anonymous

       Jonathan –

      I linked to my diatribe on the whole syndication issue as well as ARG’s video, which talk about the issues with syndication. I won’t bore you with a repeat, but as to your question of which photos, I assume that it is like syndication has always been; the first four will get the nod.

  • Marc

    You are one of few voices of intelligence and reason in this business and when you offer a strong opinion like this, I take pause and listen. Like you, I need a few days to sleep on this but right now, my gut differs with yours and tells me, this isn’t a move forward. But I’m considering your POV very carefully. 

    • Anonymous

       Thanks, Marc. You know I always appreciate your point of view as well. And thank you for the comment. I think the reality is that we are all going to wait and see how this translates in practice before we will really know the implications and the wisdom or otherwise of Sandicor’s move.

    • Jeff Beck

      I’d like to suggest one simple thing for all agents/brokers/MLSs who are concerned about the inequities of syndication to remember: IF we, who feel that we and are sellers are getting nothing of value from ZTR, pull our data, AND WE ARE WRONG, we can always go back to giving it away fro free. But the only way to find out is to pull your data.

  • AgentSteph

    My MLS already does this with … Only sends four photos….
    The result has been to trash talk other agents who don’t pay to enhance on when at a listing presentation. Something tells me that this will be the effect you will now have to deal with in regards to Zillow. Here is my idea on how to fix the problem:

  • Mogul

    Well that seems like a good idea. It gives the people who actually work to obtain  a listing a better shot of actually getting more work and money back they spent on obtaining the listing.

    It would kind of irk me if someone was advertising a listing as their own when they did not work to get it.I would feel better if there was some kind of disclosure that in fact they are not the lisiting agent. the more advertising of the property is best for the seller for sure. But lets get real about people simply taking other peoples listing and marketing it as their own, that is BS.
    Real estate is all about getting clients. People spend a lot of money to do that.

  • Great post!

    I’m in the Sandicor fence. Part of me likes their move, part doesn’t. I’ve got no problem with more prominent listing agent/brokerage info (IF the TruZilTors will even display it, my guess is they won’t). Not sure I see how limiting the number of photos sticks it to the syndicators, but is good for the consumer. I need to cogitate on it more too…

  • Kris, how do you feel about it now that you had a nice night of sleep?  3rd party syndication has been twisted to 3rd party sites to sell marketing, no doubt.  Eliminating syndication will just return us to the days of broker/agent load.  I know that the hope is the consumer will return from 3rd party sites to MLS run sites and agent/broker IDX sites, but this move is actually making the problem worse, not better.

    From my perspective part of the issue is listing agents don’t want to pay to upgrade listings on, Zillow, and Trulia which would eliminate the problem of them not being presented as the listing agent.  Since print advertisment is almost dead and no ones does much in daily papers, is it not logical that when you charge a seller 5 to 6% to sell their home, you have the marketing budget to do this?

    Certainly you don’t need to be everywhere, but strategic marketing on sites with buyers will just expose your listing to that many more buyers.  

    All that Sandicor has done in limiting the syndication of pictures will be that everyone will not have to load these pictures themselves or hire a syndicator.

    I love the conversation about buyer’s agents vs. listing agents.  The idea behind IDX and listing syndication is cooperation between member real estate agents and the ability to get paid.  If you’re company was not interested in buyer’s, you would not have an IDX feed.  Seems that many listing agents want their cake and eat it too!

    At the end of the day it is about exposure, not control.

    • Anonymous

       I’ll start with this:

      “From my perspective part of the issue is listing agents don’t want to pay to upgrade listings on,
      Zillow, and Trulia which would eliminate the problem of them not being
      presented as the listing agent.” 

      Eliminate the problem? No, really the “problem,” as you put it, is eliminated by not sending the listings in the first place. There are hundreds of sites that my clients’ homes will appear on absent these third party sites. I appreciate TruZillia’s right to do what they do and make an insane amount of money doing it; good for them. But please drop the argument that hits on those sites represent buyers, and that sales will be fewer or for a lower price if a broker/agent opts not to display their listings there. That’s simply not true.

      Fun fact. In the case of every one of the listings that we have sold over the years — ever — the buyer SAW the home in person before writing the offer. Crazy, huh? And here is the crazier part — they all had agents representing them! Agents, I should point out, with access to the entire inventory. You have been arguing pretty emphatically that I would be throwing my selling clients under the bus if I ceased syndication, and you have been arguing equally emphatically that I would be doing irreparable harm to the buyer community. The fact is that my selling client’s presence on these sites does zip to sell his home for the same reason it won’t respresent the end of search world for buyers as they know it. The info will still be available on every IDX site and our own MLS’s front-facing site.

      “Since print advertisment is almost dead
      and no ones does much in daily papers, is it not logical that when you
      charge a seller 5 to 6% to sell their home, you have the marketing
      budget to do this?”

      Do you have any idea how much it would take for me to reclaim any reasonable presence next to my listings across all of these sites? I’m sure you do, because you see enormous value in marketing on these channels, so you undoubtedly own many side bar ads and pro accounts. Seriously, do a little research. It’s not insignificant, and I am not being stingy/greedy as you suggest by not being willing or able to ante up. (And, by the way, while we can’t talk commissions here, you know very well that the numbers you are throwing around are split with the cooperating (buyer’s) broker and that other, off-line marketing costs are enormous when marketing is done right, which we do.)

      “If you’re company was not interested in buyer’s, you would not have an
      IDX feed.”

      While we of course serve both buyers and sellers, that statement is a bunch of hogwash. Of course we would have an IDX feed. You see, IDX on our site is as much about serving our existing clients as it is about generating new business. Our clients use our search as a tool while they are our clients, not just before. Search is but one feature on our site; it is not all we are about. Consider it a part of a well-balanced breakfast.

      “Seems that many listing agents want their cake and eat it

      And what in the h-e-double hockey sticks does that mean? We are all listing and buyers’ agents. If you are in this business for more than 12 minutes, you have to be both. This is not an us against them argument. This is about giving something away to have it sold back. This is about bad data. And it is about advertising practices that portray a misleading picture to the consumer about the roles of those advertisers. It’s also in my opinion, and not insignificantly, about the future of your profession and mine.

      We’re friends, Jeffrey, so I sincerely mean no disrespect. We share opinions on a lot of things; this just isn’t one of them. I am very well aware of your position on this. But my position is different, and I am starting to feel like you are painting that position as one motivated by self-interest and greed which is both inaccurate and borderline mean.

      Oh, and by the way, exposure for the sake of exposure is meaningless. There has to be a return on investment. When one person can tell me how, without Zillow or Trulia, their listing wouldn’t have sold, I want to hear it. There are all sorts of success stories being thrown around about how valuable the advertising on these sites has been in generating and capturing “leads,” but that’s not the kind of “exposure” my selling clients care about.

      • Kris Berg, I have nothing but respect for you and your opinion.  In no way am I trying to paint a picture that you or your company is self-interested or greedy.  

        Quite the opposite as I believe you do an fantastic job for your sellers (and buyers), and you hold the highest in ethics.  This discussion has so many levels to it and such large ramifications for real estate as we know it, it is a very important conversation.  Heck, I have changed my mind several times as I’ve read your posts, Rob’s posts, Jay, and others joining in the conversation.Please except my sincere apologies if you felt I was attacking you or all listing agents.  I don’t want to paint with such a broad brush as nothing is every black and white – and while the answers seem simple enough, I don’t believe the real estate industry and the general public are on the same page.  I would love to have a Google Hang out and invite us to have this conversation live anytime you would like.  PS- I have actually seen a number of escrows were property was purchased without boots on the ground.

        • Anonymous

           Thanks, Jeffrey. The one thing I’m sure we both agree on is that agents and brokers feel pretty strongly about this, one way or the other.

          • It is a matter of perspective, which we have very different ones.  For the record I don’t pay any of the 3rd party sites a dime, nor have i done so for sometime.  It is expensive and each brokerage would have to make a judgement where they want to be.

            I don’t like 3rd party sites, and I don’t like having our information sold back to us, while making other people wealthy.  My concern for the industry is trying to put the genie back into the bottle and insisting the clients go to one source for information – clearly where Sandicor would like to be them to be.  Syndiction by MLS’s seems to be a failed attempt with the abuse and misuse of the data, so rather than enforce we are going to return to a broker choice syndication.  I have no argument for that other than I feel it will just cause the data to be that much less accurate.  

            Lots of emotion wrapped around the issue tied to some pretty big shifts in our industry. History has shown that those trying to control the internet and information usually don’t fair well.  Anyway, back to work, I’m tired of the whole discussion for now.

            Keep on rocking in the free world.

  • John Wake

    “We are helping Zillow and the likes (by making it easy and attractive for our agents to send their listings on over), but we really want them dead.”

    That’s accurate (and hilarious).

  • Vicki Lloyd

    I like Sandicor’s idea.  Send 4 good photos to the aggregators, and include the marketing info that says “to see more photos of this beautiful property or to make an appointment to see it, go to”  Nice!

  • Interesting. Although I had read about their new ‘advertising remarks’, I didn’t know about the picture situation. It will be interesting to see how much traffic trickles out of the Zillows of the world as consumers search for more information (the web being such a visual medium, photos are key).

    Have you had any change of heart now that you had time to sleep on it?

Office Location

  • San Diego Castles Realty
  • 12265 Scripps Poway Parkway, Suite 115
  • Poway, CA 92064
  • P: 858.530.2374
  • F: 858.876.1701
  • E: info (at)
  • CA BRE# 01853496

Broker Information

  • Kris Berg, Broker
  • CA BRE #01241572