Democrats and Republicans, dogs and cats, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, take note: for the first time in our 14-year history of vying with one another to build the best listing search site, Redfin and Zillow have come to terms, with Redfin sending our listings to Zillow.com in markets where the Multiple Listing Service doesn’t syndicate that data for us: Seattle, Charlotte, Des Moines and Nashville. The listings should appear on Zillow’s site in May.

Who Won?

Both sides will claim victory, and both should. Zillow has our listing data for display on its sites. Redfin has online attribution for that data, so that everyone on the Internet knows where to find the original data at its source, Redfin.com.

The Real Winner: People Selling Houses

The deal is great news for Redfin’s listing customers. Our customers want homebuyers to see Redfin listings on Zillow.com and on every other portal site. But these customers also want homebuyers to find their way to that listing on Redfin.com, so we can offer new visualizations of the listing, self-guided tours, online offers and lower commissions. Our thesis has always been that broker innovations in how a home is sold only really matter if consumers can find their way to the listing broker’s site.

Last Fall: A Breakthrough on the Debate Over Links

So why didn’t Redfin and Zillow strike a deal before? Until last fall, there was an open question about whether a small delay in loading the link on each Zillow.com page made it difficult for some search engines to recognize Redfin.com as the source of data about Redfin listings. When Zillow re-designed their site, the delay was eliminated, and it became easier for Redfin to negotiate a syndication deal.

It Takes a Village to Do a Deal

The deal still would have been unimaginable without the support of our MLS partners and the National Association of Realtors. Those institutions have worked hard to build a consensus among brokers and portals that a broker’s listing should be widely shared but with clear attribution on every real estate site to that broker, so consumers can find their way to the broker’s site.

We Would Still Prefer that the MLS Negotiates These Deals

Negotiating the deal has been time-consuming for Zillow and Redfin. Redfin would much prefer that MLSs, not individual brokers, make these deals, because the MLS can act on behalf of all the brokers in a market, not just one. Redfin worked with Zillow directly only after waiting years for an MLS deal in these markets, and only after getting enough Redfin listings to have the standing to negotiate.

What Does This Mean for the Industry?

The MLSs that already have a deal with the portals now have important work to do, to make sure links are included in the data syndicated to real estate portals. Portals that want to credit brokers for our listings still need to know where to send consumers who are looking for the source listing. Of the 138 MLSs we belong to, only a handful like the Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED) MLS in Chicago now send a link with each listing to Zillow.

Future Conflicts May Arise

This all comes at a delicate moment in the industry. Just as Zillow has made its listing attribution better than ever for brokers, it’s now more likely than ever to compete with Redfin as Zillow expands into instant offers, mortgages and other businesses more closely related to a real estate sale.

And though Redfin and Zillow will compete in these areas, we’ll also cooperate to show consumers all the homes for sale. The push and pull of these impulses means this deal could get torn up and re-written a half dozen times in the next ten years. But I’m glad we worked something out for now, and that we showed one another we can work out other differences over time.



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