Yesterday, I was contacted by a buyer I am currently working with who is looking to buy a home in Brentwood TN. He is feverishly hunting for his new home on Zillow. Yes, I have warned him of the dangers doing so. However, yesterday's email to me revealed a new problem that Zillow may not have anticipated.
Zillow has made it easy for sellers and agents to enter listings onto their site directly and syndication from other sources, rather than just syndicating them from the MLS. I'm sure this was another attempt on their part to gain marketshare by having the most listings on their website.
The email I received included the following Zillow link:
Of course, my first action was to go to my local MLS to see if the home was still available. Below is the MLS listing for that address as it appears on my website:
If you look at the photographs, you will see they aren't the same. Not only aren't the photos the same, the price isn't the same either. When I clicked back to the Zillow listing, I discovered there wasn't an MLS number. Hmm, that was curious. What agent wouldn't include an MLS number?
The Zillow listing provided a link to a virtual tour so I clicked that. Only to find that the virtual tour actually took me to a real estate agent's website. However, it wasn't the listing agent's website who actually has 8107 Hilldale listed.
Apparently, another agent has hi-jacked this listing address and posted it on Postlets with different listing details, photos and description. That listing was then picked up by Zillow through syndication. I suspect if you contact the agent who co-opted this address, he will tell you that home isn't available but he can help you build a different home in another location.
I alerted the listing agent to this. He has contacted the agent who hi-jacked his listing and demanded that agent take down the listing from Zillow and any other location. I have also reported this to Zillow myself. As of yet, the bogus listing hasn't been taken down. If you Google this address, other sites have already syndicated the hi-jacked listing.
Now, some of you may be thinking how is this different from syndicating your listings to other agent's websites. There is a difference. When my website picks up a new listing, it does it from the MLS feed, not any other source. Therefore, the photographs and descriptions found on my website are the same exact photos and descriptions entered into the MLS by the listing agent. The Listing Broker's name is even displayed at the bottom of the listing page.
What this agent has done is use the address of an active listing and then changed the photos and description of a home he hopes to build for a buyer. However, he doesn't own the land used or hold the listing he is advertising as his. He directs buyers from that listing to his website hoping to pick up business. He's using an active listing address to attract buyers to his site. It's basically a bait and switch scam.
Since Zillow doen't appear to monitor the listings that are syndicated to their website from other sources, anyone could do this same thing. This is similar to the Craig's List rental scams we've seen. What's really shocking is this particular bait and switch was perpetrated by another agent, an agent who is with ReMax Elite.
The MLS should be the only source of syndication or risk bait and switch scams. Just another reason why buyers should be leery of any listings found on Zillow's website or any other aggregate sites for that matter. It is best to work directly with a local real estate agent who can send you real listings as they come on the market.
NOTE: In response to the complaint made, Zillow has removed the bogus listing.