An Open Letter to Trulia

Trulia logoDear Trulia,

We’ve been partners for years now. We remember when you first started back in 2005, right here in our very own Bay Area, and we joined up with you shortly thereafter.

We loved your value proposition: Put our listings in front of people we wouldn’t otherwise reach, for free. In return, you got content that would allow you to grow — and eventually monetize – that audience.

It was a win-win agreement. But things have changed.

And frankly, we’re not thrilled about it.

With size and success come challenges, and one of the challenges we’ve seen you struggle with is keeping listing data current and correct. While we were happy to lend you our information – even our own intellectual property, such as photographs and custom-written descriptions — we did so with the expectation that the integrity of our data would be preserved and that your standards of quality would be similar to those of Pacific Union’s brand promise.

That hasn’t been the case.

We work hard to build the client relationships that create property marketing opportunities (listings) and we stake our professionalism on every one. And when the information displayed to consumers is wrong, through no fault of our own, that hurts both our brand and reputation. And it sure doesn’t properly serve a consumer looking to buy a home.

We’re glad that you’re making an effort to improve accuracy with your recent pledge. But the fact is, if you had to follow the same rules we do as licensed brokers, you wouldn’t need a pledge. It would be much simpler: If your data was inaccurate, you’d be out of business.

Speaking of how hard we work to build those relationships and property marketing opportunities, it’s disconcerting and frustrating to find someone else’s face plastered all over them.

Yes, we understand these are sponsored placements. And we’ll give you the fact that you identify, in tiny type, who the listing agent is and label display ads as such.  And yes, we know you need to make money.

But so do we.

Our real estate professionals earned those property marketing opportunities. We earned the trust of our clients. Invested years in analyzing market conditions and comparable sales and put in the long hours to clearly understand our clients’ objectives. It’s fair to say that for each property, the client has anointed us the subject matter expert.

We know the homes and the neighborhoods inside and out.

As a result, our clients prefer we answer questions and receive inquiries on their homes – which is why we have an exclusive listing agreement rather than an open listing agreement.

And yet, we see other smiling faces next to many of our listings. We’d guess that the average person browsing this site never notices that tiny disclaimer text. We’ll bet that most people make the assumption that this is in fact the listing agent. And that they believe the person who gets the “lead” is also the subject matter expert.

This shell game also does a disservice to the buyer.

If the agent who paid for placement doesn’t know the property, and in some cases doesn’t even know the neighborhood, how can they provide relevant guidance to the buyer? That’s not win-win for anyone. In fact, it’s a losing proposition for our exclusive clients.

Look, we know this isn’t an easy business in which to succeed. And we see the value in what you offer and want to keep supporting it. But the balance has tipped too far in favor of your interests over ours, and we’d like to ask you make things right.

Here are three things that we think you should do for us, and for any brokerage that gives you their listings.

1.Take down our listings when they’re off the market. Why?

– Because presenting a sold home as an available option when it’s not is misleading to consumers (and disrespectful to the new owner). You don’t sell ball bearings. You display hearth, homes, shelter – the most emotional purchase most people make. Misleading the user with incorrect details about price, location, and status frustrates and disappoints consumers.

– Erroneous information creates undue hardship for your real estate partners. When every “lead” begins with us having to first correct a caller’s assumptions about a property they just fell in love with, we end up spending time we don’t have to defend ourselves as a result of your loose policies. This may help you sell ads, but it hurts our brand – and yours.

2. Make the listing agent’s information clear and prominent. Why?

– Because, as your partner, this is important to our business and our clients.  We should not have to pay you to maintain the basic integrity of our listings. And, fine print or not, you’re leading consumers to assume the large agent photo adjacent to the listing is actually the listing agent. And most often, it isn’t.

3. Put our logo on our listings – and don’t charge us for it . Why?

– Because they are our listings. And because our logo is the official mark of our brand and has very clear standards – it must be displayed everywhere.

– Because by removing our mark you are misrepresenting our brand, which has a value in our marketplace. If you were a shopping site, you wouldn’t carry Nike shoes or apparel with the trademark swoosh airbrushed out. We’d ask for the same respect.

We’re not asking for the world here. We understand the value you can deliver. And we recognize that you’re a profit-making enterprise.

But what we want, at the end of the day, is to feel confident about how our listings are displayed.

When this happens, we’ll feel like the balance has tipped back to neutral. And that’s a win-win proposition I think we can all live with.

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