Why Doesn't Century 21 Canada Want More People Viewing Its Real Estate Listings?

from the someone-please-explain dept

A whole bunch of folks have sent in this rather odd legal dispute up in Canada, with real estate firm Century 21 Canada suing telco Rogers and its subsidiary Zoocasa for creating what appears to be a real estate info portal/search engine. At issue: Zoocasa apparently scrapes various real estate listings, including those from Century 21 Canada, to provide them in its own search results, along with some additional info -- but still links back to the original Century 21 listing. In other words, it acts like a basic search engine. It's difficult to see how or why that should be against the law.

Of course, the real estate business has always been focused on bogus exclusions on data though the MLS system -- and apparently they don't like the idea of that data being more widely available. But, still, it's difficult to see what right Century 21 has to complain about, since the site links to Century 21 postings and should only provide them with more traffic. Unless, of course, its fear is that it can't compete by offering enough useful info on its own site.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 7:50am

    Realtors are the next travel agents

    There won't be many around much longer. All it's going to take is someone like craigs-list or Google to finally create a widely-used open-source competitor to MLS.

    Yahoo tried it, but they failed as expected...

     

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  2.  
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    Casey (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 7:57am

    Could it be...

    That Century 21 would rather have people go directly to their website to see the listings? This is as opposed to viewing the listings on a 3rd party site with the user possibly (probably) bypassing the link to the Century 21 website thus possibly not clicking on ads.

    Not to mention that if the 'portal' site happens to link to some questionable content, the feeling might be that Century 21 is tacitly condoning the website and the linked content.

     

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  3.  
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    kilroy, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:01am

    There will always be realtors ...

    There are too many ways that a Realtor can be useful for them to all dry up and get swept away by the winds of change. Most regular people do not have a clue of the intricacies of real estate laws & requirements, and a Realtor acts as an agent for a buyer or seller and ensures that all the little things are taken care of, in the best interests of their clients.

    Some of the ways that these companies restrict what their rep can & cannot do may be ridiculous but the reps can always choose to change to a different company (or indeed start a new one, if they have the financial means).

     

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  4.  
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    Haywood, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:17am

    It seems to be industry wide

    I was looking for a ranch property a while back, and was baffled to find most of the listings behind a registration wall. I gave them all some B.S. info, & browsed the ads, but I did use my junk no link back to me E-mail. The blood hounds swarmed and filled my in box. which is I guess the reason for the registration wall. However, if I wanted to talk to an agent I would let them know. Desperation is never a turn on.

     

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  5.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:21am

    I see where the problem is

    From reading the first part of that article and the statement of claim of Century 21 Canada, I see where the problem is. Century 21 Canada thinks that Zoocasa is a real estate company. They think that Zoocasa is selling homes as well as showing what everyone else has (I still don't see a problem with this, Progressive douse it with car insurance). They don't see that Zoocasa is simply a combination of Google and Wikipedia for property. There are hundreds of websites out there that do the same thing but Zoocasa is the first (that I've seen) to put it all in one place.

     

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  6.  
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    AB, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:22am

    Idiots

    Look at it this way: a normal consumer will not be going from one realtor site to another as its fairly easy to use a real estate search engine to find all the listings. If Century 21 is not interested in selling, fine, let them sit it out and wait for it. In the mean time consumers will find what they want elsewhere. Cheerio.

     

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  7.  
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    trollificus (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:35am

    @Casey:

    Ummm...maybe they should look at revenues generated by, say, SELLING HOUSES as opposed to the ad revenue generated by the site.

    They might find the latter benefit the people who administer their website, while the former benefits the people ON WHOSE BEHALF THE WEBSITE WAS SET UP.

    Not a conflict of interest exactly...more of a failure of communication and prioritization.

     

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  8.  
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    TheStupidOne, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:42am

    Great Site

    www.redfin.com

    If they serve your area it is a great site. They allow you to easily search for what you want and can afford and display the listings on a map. They also include a link to street view and other aerial mapping services. I think they just take all the info from MLS and attach it to a map.

    Of course they are another realty company so there is always a link to contact them for more info (there are things in MLS realtors are legally prohibited from giving to clients) or for a showing, but you don't need to. I just used them to search for listings and used an agent that was recommended to me.

     

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  9.  
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    Wine of Month Club, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:22am

    Real Estate

    Having worked for a company that has to market to real estate agents on a regular basis I can definitely say they are paranoid about sharing information. It doesn't make much sense, but a licensed agent in San Diego does not have access to listings in LA even though their license works there. Given that background should we be surprised when we see pocket listings and the general unwillingness to share information?

     

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  10.  
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    GJ (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:27am

    the real reasons

    Zoocasa can include searches that don't use real estate agents (or restrict commissions), like grapevine.ca

    So it's not so much that Century21 doesn't want their real estate listings to be seen by more people, it's that they want to make sure that their real estate listings don't show up next to a listing where no real estate agent can make money.

    Furthermore... real estate agents have access to MLS listings that are not available to the general public (yet). There's typically a small delay before a listing is available to everyone. This delay allows real estate agents to be on the lookout and hunt for prospective buyers without having to compete with the general public.

    These methods are used so that customers who use real estate agents have an advantage over people who don't.

    THAT is why Century 21 Canada doesn't like Zoocasa.

    --GJ--

     

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  11.  
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    Shuryno, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:52am

    Re: Idiots

    Agreed,

    take them out and let them drown in their own inertia.

     

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  12.  
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    anonymous, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:55am

    Opt-Out Options

    Mike, I think you missed on this one. I think this snippet nails it: "...brokers have asked that their data be removed and Zoocasa has not complied."

    If they see a benefit to being on the site, there wouldn't be a problem. But some brokers appear to not want to participate. Unlike Google (and other real estate specific search sites like Trulia), ZooCasa refuses to remove listings upon request.

    It's similar to statements you've made about newspaper websites and robots.txt. You can argue about whether it's smart for newspapers or real estate sites to participate in search engines. However, in the end, Google makes it easy for the original content owners to control whether (and what) content is indexed.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:37am

    Maybe it's because redfin doesn't have a lot of coverage yet, but I thought it would have had a larger impact on breaking the realtor monopoly than it has had in the markets it does cover.

    They have done a wonderful job on their search engine but don't seem to have any traction on the back end with the actual buying of the properties. It seems the majority of the people still want their hand held through the entire process. Sites like redfin need to learn how to capitalize on that. Until then we are stuck with the antiquated realtor system.

     

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  14.  
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    Matt (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:25am

    Re:

    Realtors generally need a license. Unless a website is licensed in your jurisdiction, it probably cannot hold your hand through the buy/sell process.

     

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  15.  
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    ChrisB (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:49am

    Re: Opt-Out Options

    > He was clear in his opinion that it would be illegal for
    > anybody to scrape information off the realtor.ca site.
    > Zoocasa and Rogers are not accused of doing that.

    My understanding is Zoocasa is getting listings off the web, not a site like realtor.ca. It is like a search engine for home listings.

    In any case, what can you "own" about a listing? It is a fact the house is for sale. It is a fact the house has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. The only thing you could own is the copyright of the description of the house (fixer-upper! OCEAN-VIEW!)

     

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  16.  
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    Alain, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 12:56pm

    value add

    I recently spent waaaay to long searching for a home, and one of the most useful tools I came across was a local site (www.suburbview.co.nz/realestate/canterbury/christchurch) that collects and adds value to at least 5 local real estate companies listings, including the NZ version of Craigslist...

    Although in the end, I'd always wind up clicking through to the individual realtors site to further check out the listings and make contact with the vendor if necessary, having all the info in one place ultimately drove me to visit many more listings than I would have otherwise.

    The 3rd party site just added so much value through better comparisons and filtering of data. Although the interface still needs some work in my opinion...

     

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  17.  
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    Jeff Gingerich, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Realtors are the next travel agents

    Don't hold your breath...real estate is local and a widely-used open-source competitor would need to be national, international or global. Granted, there are innovations the industry needs to make. What you fail to comprehend is real estate is a people/relationship business and you can't commoditize it.

     

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  18.  
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    alternatives(), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:41pm

    Century 21 will bend to public pressure.

    Back when Ron Paul had as much a shot as the next clown to be El Jefe of US, the Republicans had a 6 (or was it 8 way) debate in some town in (want to say) Ohio. The local party let in everyone BUT Ron - and the Paultards got all angry with the result being Centry 21 and one other sponsor pulled out a few days before Ron was given his 15 mins.

    Threaten their fat commission checks and they'll fold.

     

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  19.  
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    Ott.Man, Sep 10th, 2009 @ 11:28am

    Realtors are losing

    Hi There,

    I am a Real Estate Investor...so obviously I can't afford to lose money by paying Realtors 5% commission. I would rather reduce the price by 5% and sell it faster.

    I sold 2 houses this summer through private sites. I paid 0% commission.

    There are so many SMART buyers looking for bargain, and you can only get that from a private sellers.


    Centry 21 is scared of Zoocasa because if Zoocasa dominate the market, it can decide to do anything. Ex: index a private listing site.

    That's the real issue.

    Go FSBO Go!

     

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