I was banned from the Lab Coat Agents’ (LCA) Facebook Group this morning so get the popcorn and sidle up for a story! The Lab Coat Agents Facebook Group is a private group for real estate agents and it’s membership has recently topped 20,000 members. Being banned is no big loss to me. The Lab Coat Agents’ Facebook Group is populated by lots of inexperienced real estate agents who asked some of the dumbest questions which should’ve most likely been directed to their own brokers.
Why was I banned?
Let me start by typing that the Lab Coat Agents’ Facebook Group is supposed to be, in theory, a private group wherein real estate agents are able to discuss the science of real estate without the worry of outside eyes. Why would it be a private group otherwise? Some college students might call this type of space a “safe space”. Here’s the problem. The administrators of the Lab Coat Agents Facebook Group allowed a person by the name of Jay Thompson into the group. Jay Thompson is a former practicing real estate broker out of Arizona who wrote a very popular blog called Phoenix Real Estate Guy. He was one of the loud voices in real estate on the internet over the past ten years or so and he mostly advocated for real estate agents and brokers. Jay Thompson is no longer a practicing real estate broker and he no longer advocates for real estate agents and brokers because he now works for Zillow.
I get it. Zillow offered Jay a bunch of money and job security. The problem is that Zillow is a company that is taking the listings of hard working real estate agents and brokers and selling those listings, indirectly, back to them. Huh?! You may have no idea what I mean if you’re not a real estate agent or broker or you may be one and still have no idea what I mean. Here’s an example.
Let’s say you’re a real estate agent. Let’s say you sign a listing agreement with the owner of, for instance, 1 Ikea Way, Stoughton. Let’s say you then decide to list 1 Ikea Way on the local MLS. In my case, the local MLS is MLS Property Information Network, Inc. (MLS PIN). The owners and managers of real estate brokerages using MLS PIN can choose to syndicate, or not to syndicate, their listings to third party sites like Zillow. Let’s say your real estate brokerage does choose to syndicate its listings to Zillow. Now you have a decision to make. Do you want to pay Zillow to be a “Premier Agent”? If you pay Zillow to be a “Premier Agent” then you get a fancy profile and you get to be placed on the listings of agents that haven’t paid to be a “Premier Agent” and your listings, like 1 Ikea Way, won’t have any other agents placed on them. If you don’t pay Zillow to be a “Premier Agent” then three other agents will also be placed on your listings like 1 Ikea Way. It’s like paying Don Fabrizio Fanucci some graft for protection if you decide to pay Zillow. You won’t have to worry about these scenarios if your brokerage chooses not to post its listings to Zillow.
My brokerage doesn’t syndicate its listings to Zillow. You may now be inferring that my brokerage’s listings aren’t shared with any real estate listing sites. That’s simply not true. In fact, you can find all of my MLS listings on the sites of every large and small real estate brokerage site that is also a member of MLS PIN.
Here is the list of some recognizable brokerages wherein you will find Hub Edge Realty, LLC’s listings:
- Century 21
- Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
- Gibson – Sotheby’s International Realty
- Hammond Residential
- Jack Conway & Co., Inc.
- Keller Williams Realty
- LAER Realty Partners
- Weichert, Realtors
- William Raveis Real Estate & Home Services
The list goes on and on…
Why doesn’t my brokerage syndicate my listings to Zillow any longer?
The fact that Zillow charges agents back for their own listings pisses me off but that wasn’t enough for me to stop syndicating my listings to Zillow. I still syndicated my listings to Zillow because I felt that it was in my clients’ best interests to do so. I no longer feel that way.
Then I lost a listing at 114 Turtle Pond Parkway, Hyde Park back in 2010 because some fraudster decided to take the information and the photographs from my listing at Turtle Pond Parkway and post that data to Zillow as a separate rental listing in order to scam unsuspecting people out of rental deposits. Did the fraudsters take the information directly from Zillow and post it back to Zillow? I think so but I can’t prove it. One of the two sellers of 114 Turtle Pond Parkway was upset upon learning of this scam, which was no fault of my own, so they decided to list with another broker and all my hard work was lost. I still didn’t remove my brokerage’s listings from Zillow after that episode because I wanted to do what I still thought was best for my clients and I thought that getting my clients the maximum exposure for their listings, at any cost, was best but lightning struck twice.
I listed a property at 306 West Street, Hyde Park back in 2014. The same type of scammers were back at work on Zillow. Somebody had taken my information and photographs from 306 West Street and had fraudulently posted them on Zillow. I had and still do have a good relationship with the now former developer of West Street and he luckily didn’t have the same reaction to the fraud that was being perpetrated. I only found out about the fraud this time because a would be tenant called the phone number on my real estate sign that was placed in the front yard of 306 West Street. This practice of fraud still happens on Zillow. Zillow will tell you that they’re vigilant in removing this type of fraud from their site.
I stopped syndicating my brokerage’s listings to Zillow after the second episode. Fool me once then shame on you, fool me twice then shame on me. I’m done.
How many people have been scammed out of money, in the form of rental deposits, by the fraud perpetrated on Zillow? How much effort and time has been wasted trying to stamp out the fraud being perpetrated on Zillow? I can tell you from my experience that one of the sellers of 114 Turtle Pond Parkway was very worried about the fraud specifically because the house was vacant. She was worried that anybody could break in and vandalize the house as a form of misguided revenge if they were upset about losing money to fraud.
Finally, I’d prefer that my clients, the clients that decide to list their properties with my brokerage, work directly with buyers that work directly with agents and brokers. Why? Because buyers that work directly with agents and brokers are most likely more informed than the buyers that browse sites like Realtor, Trulia and Zillow. Buyers that browse brokerage’s sites are more likely to be fed listing emails from the agents working with those brokerages and those agents are more likely to have direct contact with those buyers. I like working with buyers that have been working directly with agents and brokers because it means that those buyers are likely more serious in their real estate search. And that translates to fewer headaches for my clients.
Okay. I know that we’ve gone around a big circle but all of that needed to be typed out before we got to this point. And here’s the point. The administrators of Lab Coat Agents Facebook Group should never have allowed Jay Thompson of Zillow or any non-practicing real estate agent into the group because the group is supposed to be a private group for real estate agents to enjoy as a “safe space”. Sure, there’s no such place as a “safe space” on the internet. I get that. But allowing Jay Thompson, a non-practicing real estate agent and an employee of Zillow, into the Lab Coat Agents Facebook Group is like allowing the fox into the henhouse because Jay Thompson is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Many members of the Lab Coat Agents’ Facebook Group disagreed with me. In fact, many were complaining because I merely brought this subject up. One person said it was tacky. Meh… I thought it was a legitimate question and still believe it to be so.
Jay Thompson seems like a hard working guy and he’s likable. Jay’s job is to make Zillow look good on social media by deflecting criticism. His job is to spin Zillow to real estate agents in hopes of increasing Zillow’s bottom line. I have a philosophical problem with Jay Thompson’s employer so I have a problem with Jay Thompson. I feel as though he’s a turncoat.
I would say that almost half of the submissions to Lab Coat Agents’ Facebook Group concern Zillow. Real estate agents, some new to the business, in the Lab Coat Agents Facebook Group would constantly ask:
- “Should I pay Zillow $500 per month in order to buy the XXXXX zip code?“
- “What is your return on investment (ROI) on your Zillow spend?“
- “Is there an alternative way to spend your marketing dollars other than spending it on Zillow?“
It’s time to don your tin foil hats. I feel as though Lab Coat Agents could have some sort of undisclosed agreement with Jay Thompson and Zillow. There’s, without a doubt, an implied agreement between the two entities. Why would Lab Coat Agents allow Jay Thompson in a group that’s supposed to be a “safe space” for real estate agents? “Jay Thompson only helps our members” is probably the reply you’d hear from the administrators of Lab Coat Agents.
This goes beyond Jay Thompson and Zillow. Lab Coat Agents should be a true “safe space” for real estate agents so any type of person not a practicing real estate agent, including mortgage lenders, should be excluded from the group. If not, the scope of the Lab Coat Agents Facebook Group should be changed and its members should be notified. Maybe the name of the group should be changed to “Lab Coat Agents and Other Hangers On”?