What's Syndication?

Have you ever wondered how your listings get around the Internet? Does it ever seem like your listings have a mind of their own? Have you ever found one of your listings on a site you didn’t expect, or associated with incorrect information?

If so, welcome to the wild world of listing syndication, which is just a fancy term for the way listings are published to hundreds of sites around the Internet — after you’ve put them into the MLS. But here’s the good news:

You’re always in complete control over your listings within the MLS.

You’re in control … if you choose to be.

How Syndication Works

Once a listing is entered into the MLS, brokers can choose to distribute it to hundreds of Internet sites outside of the MLS via this MRED syndication site, ListHub or other syndication vendors. Distribution can also be selected within the MLS at the listing level (office participation is required first).

Choosing where to send listings is not an automatic process outside of a broker’s control. That’s because the MLS believes that brokers should carefully select which channels (web sites) they want to publish their listings.

For example, there are more than 100 publisher sites to choose from within ListHub, and it’s important to understand what those sites do with your listings after they’re published. Not all sites are the same, and they don’t always behave in ways you might expect.

For example, if you choose to publish your listings to Zillow, you may be sending your listings to a network of more than 130 additional websites within Zillow’s publisher network.

It’s important to understand the scope of the publisher’s entire network.

You’ve probably heard of a lot of the sites within Zillow’s network; sites like Trulia, Yahoo and Hotpads. But others — well, they aren’t so well known. So if you choose to publish your listings to Zillow, Homes.com, Househappy.com or any other major portal, it’s important to understand the scope of the publisher’s entire network.

Why Syndicate?

Now, you might ask why anyone in their right mind would choose to syndicate a listing to publishers or sites where they’re not in complete control. The answer is surprisingly simple: Listing syndication enables agents and brokers to generate a huge audience of potential buyers for their properties for sale.

Clearly, syndication can generate enormous exposure for listings. Such exposure can not only quicken a sale but also generate increased brand awareness for brokers and agents through their most important business asset, listings. This can lead to increased market presence and brand popularity, which is important for any thriving brokerage.

Is Syndication Good…Or Bad?

Is all that exposure worth the risk?

The upside of this exposure is literally hundreds of millions of page views for listings in the Chicagoland area that otherwise might not be seen. Yet the downside is simply that the more widely a listing is distributed, or syndicated, the more likely it is that it might pick up incorrect information along the way.

Here’s why -

When a listing lives exclusively within the MLS, it is under the direct control of the broker and the agent. But when the listing is syndicated or published outside of the MLS to multiple sites, there is the possibility that it may fall out of synch with the MLS.

That’s because not all sites update their listings frequently enough with the accurate data coming from MRED. This is particularly true of sites that do not take a direct feed from the MLS, or sites that infrequently update their data via ListHub’s or another third party feed.

Why Syndicated Listings Can Be Incorrect

There’s another reason that data might be incorrect in a listing. Yet it has nothing to do with ListHub or the MLS.

Let’s say that you create a virtual tour for your new listing, outside of the MLS. If you choose a company that promises to publish, or syndicate, its tours to other sites than its own, it’s entirely possible that this listing could find its way to one of the big national portals.

Consider this. If one of the big national portals has an agreement with your virtual tour company, but the information is different between the tour you publish and the information you entered into the MLS, the MLS data is supposed to overwrite (known as “trumping”) the tour company’s data. But unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

What then?

Well, the portal takes the best guess. That’s why something as simple as a typographical error can appear in a listing, and be stubbornly hard to correct. Where do you, as the listing owner, go to correct it? The virtual tour company, the big national portal, or both?

Now let’s consider the worst-case scenario.

Imagine your listing is syndicated to a site that isn’t included as an authorized publisher within ListHub. Because there’s no official relationship between this publisher and the original listing information (the MLS), there’s now no way to synchronize the data in your listing back to the accurate MLS data.

Listings published in this manner can live for years on the Internet, because they’re usually not maintained and updated by the people who created them.
For example, a virtual tour of an active listing will often not be removed after the property is sold. With no relationship back to the MLS, how could it?

It’s easy to see that the best syndication takes place when the data is tightly correlated with regular updates coming out of MRED. In this case, agents and brokers enjoy the advantages of widely-published listings, but maintain a high level of control.

What’s the MLS Role?

We’re here to help brokers and agents succeed, plain and simple. It’s also why we’ve built this site. It’s a one-stop shop for agents and brokers alike to find out how syndication works, so you can make smart choices.