MLS Should Be the Only Source of Syndication or Risk Bait and Switch

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Franklin Homes Realty LLC

MLS Should Be Only Source of Syndication or Risk Bait and SwitchYesterday, 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.

Posted by
Tammie White, Managing Broker/Owner
Franklin Homes Realty LLC
Franklin, TN
(615) 495-0752 
This posting with the content written here and photographs displayed are the intellectual property and opinions of Tammie White of Franklin Homes Realty LLC. Any party who uses this material without the written permission of Tammie White is subject to copyright infringement and possible lawsuit.

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Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

Here we go again, another way to bust our chops as real estate agents!  Geez.  And those "Coming Soon" listings . . . talk about a double-whammy punch in the face!  Not only is it a "bait and switch" but a violation of the NAR COE, in particular: Standard of Practice 12-10.  


Jul 01, 2014 06:08 AM #1
Tammie White, Broker
Franklin Homes Realty LLC - Franklin, TN
Franklin TN Homes for Sale

Carla - Thank you for providing the NAR Standard of Practice. I knew it was a COE violation but didn't have the time to actually look it up. This is so upsetting to me. The only syndication that should be taking place is from the MLS to other sites. Listings being syndicated from multiple sources is a real problem.

Jul 01, 2014 06:43 AM #2
TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc.
Complete Home Inspections, Inc. - Brentwood, TN
Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029

Good evening Tammie. Unless the real estate industry does something, look for Zillow, Tulia and the other online sources to start taking over the real estate market. Soon you will see agents working for the online shops. Trust me! You will see it. Just follow the money.

Jul 01, 2014 10:10 AM #3
Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
The People You Know, Like and Trust!

Sad to say Tammie, but I think there is more of this going on than we know.  This one just happened to be found out.  The agent who hi-jacked it should at least have a grievance issue started.  At the very least.

Jul 01, 2014 01:00 PM #4
Debbie Reynolds
Platinum Properties - Clarksville, TN
Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent

Tammie, That is just wrong and there should be consequences for doing that. It borders on criminal.

Jul 01, 2014 01:05 PM #5
Tammie White, Broker
Franklin Homes Realty LLC - Franklin, TN
Franklin TN Homes for Sale

Michael - I have thought the same thing for years. The first time I saw a Zillow commercial that didn't have a real estate agent in it and made it look like they found the house, showed it and got it sold was the tip-off to me.

Evelyn - You won't get an argument from me. If I were the listing agent, I'd definitely file a grievance.

Debbie - My thoughts exactly. I actually think the listing agent should report this guy to our MLS and association.

Jul 01, 2014 01:17 PM #6
Suzanne Otto
Six Twenty Designs - Lansdale, PA
Your Montgomery County PA home stager

I'm glad you found this bait and switch guy and happy to see Zillow finally took it down. There will always be someone trying to get one over on someone. Keep fighting the good fight Tammie! 

Jul 01, 2014 10:28 PM #7
Doug Rogers
Bayou Properties - Alexandria, LA
Your Alexandria Louisiana Agent

What a sleazy thing for the agent to do. That would be a board fine in my MLS.

Jul 01, 2014 10:55 PM #8
Theo Shaw
Baird & Warner Residential Real Estate - Evanston, IL
Serving Evanston, IL & Beyond

The agent who perpetrated this scheme should be brought before the local board of realtors and the local MLS.  He's violated  more than the Code of Ethics, I'm sure.  If we don't police our own, the sky is the limit for agents who have no scruples.  And Zillow/Trulia is the perfect vehicle to do this sort of thing, as they don't care what you put up on their service, as long as you put up something.

Jul 02, 2014 01:14 PM #9
Sussie Sutton
UTR Texas Realtors - Pearland, TX
UTR TEXAS Realtors - Rep for buyers and sellers.

These people are just a bunch of carpet baggers. Scammers and etc. I hope this person gets a fine along with a hard slap on the hands.

Jul 02, 2014 02:09 PM #10
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services

Syndicated listings from different sources can be a problem for buyers. One solution to avoid being scammed is to work with an experienced real estate agent who can help you look for your dream home. Great post, Tammie!

Jul 18, 2014 05:35 PM #11
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