web scraping raises concern with agents, buy why? has sparked debate among the industry by admiting to “scraping” and “re-publishing” listings from other portals.

Some real estate agents claim that All Homes has lifted every one of their listings and uploaded them on to its own site without permission.

But my question is, why do agents care?

If you list a property and pay money to have it appear on a certain portal, why would you care if that same listing is then advertised on other portals around the web at no cost to you?

You get increased exposure for yourself and your listing which generates greater enquiry and ultimately a better result for the vendor.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that some estate agents are making their own inquiries with lawyers in a bid to protect their listings from allhomes.

Who are they PROTECTING their listings from? Prospective buyers?

Robert Larocca, REIV’s communications manager, said he was unsure what recourse agents have. “It is not immediately apparent how we can stop this. We’re just not yet sure how agents can protect their online intellectual property.”

There is the question of intellectual property in relation to the titles and descriptions of listings, however I tend to fall on the side of openness and say that “More eyes on a listing leading to happier vendors and better results trumps wounded agent’s pride”.

7 thoughts on “ web scraping raises concern with agents, buy why?

  1. I’m with you Nathan. We pay to be on REA and domain so having my listings appear on AllHomes for free would be fine with me! As long as I’m still the contact person on the listing, there is no need to kick up a stink!

  2. If they want they can copy all my listings in New Zealand as we have had a lot of enquiries from OZ lately and even more cannot do us any harm.

    Does this count as foreign trade?

  3. Thanks guys, I’m glad its not just me.

    The only people who may not like this are the portals themselves. Kind of silly to think that agents would care.

    With announcing they are importing private seller listings aswell, only the open and brave portals will survive.

  4. Hi Nathan

    I’m on the other side on this one.

    It may be that an agent would like his/her listings to get to as many places as possible. But it is the agent’s decision. I couldn’t support anyone that decides they have the right to make that decision for the agent and simply scrape data.

    Ownership of information has meaning – isn’t what allhomes is doing just theft by another name?

    If a vendor doesn’t like the way the agent handles this issue, then the vendor can decide not to use the agent. This happened in the early 2000s when some of the major franchise groups tried to ban REA. Eventually, they had to change their position because vendors demanded that the listing appear on REA.

    What might be a foreseeable example of where a problem might arise? What if someone took listings to create a site that was designed to lower the value of the property, either explicitly or as a natural consequence of a business model? I could see a facebook app where you get to rate the worst properties, perhaps former tenants could talk about the issues with the property in question. Of course, there would be no control to make sure the information is accurate.

    In summary, I’d do whatever I could to prevent a site being scraped. I wouldn’t trust anyone that would steal my information without permission, and I wouldn’t trust what they are going to do with the information once they have it. They lose any right to the benefit of doubt.

    Anyway, that’s my rant for the evening.

  5. Thanks Ben. I see what you mean. I guess the question really is about how the data used and what elements of it.

    How much information about a listing is “owned” by the agent? Photos, title and description; sure. But can it be argued that they own the fact that its a 2 bed apartment on brook st? Thats factual information and I think that this should be available openly.

    Scraping can be just indexing of factual information or it can be stealing.

    Now with google collecting data from real estate portals and allowing access to it via the google base code, there are going to be mashups that won’t be popular with agents. or something like that. It also opens up the possibility of more constructive projects.

    Can agents protect against this sort of thing?

    I’m by no means an expert on these matters, but it is an interesting discussion to have now that have bought it to the fore.

    Thanks for your input.

  6. The difference between ‘public’ data and proprietary data is an interesting one.

    I understand the Google Base terms of use makes that distinction – things like street address and basic attributes like number of bedrooms are considered to be public, photos and descriptions are considered to be private. They define the first as “property information” and the second as “listings data”, or something like that.

    I think we’ll move to a scenario where we’ll limit the Google crawler to only that information we’re happy to pass through to the general database, and not sending listings to portals that do not follow the same protocol. After all, there is a lowest common denominator problem. For example, Domain sending our listings to Google without our consent is entirely inappropriate, and their failure to engage on it will be, I think, to their detriment.

    How will it play out? My 2 cents – I’d love a common understanding of public vs. proprietary information, and only send proprietary information to portals etc if they agree to in turn respect the distinction.

  7. I agree with Ben.

    My only other concern that is not mention yet is: without a relationship (commercial or otherwise) with allhomes and lets say a price change or other important correction doesn’t update immediately (or timely) on allhomes and my vendor see it… i have a problem… how would i get allhomes to correct tihis quickly!

    I also read on another thread where Ian was sick of the likes of RPData and PDS selling back our own information… well guys this is where it all starts.

    If you treat your information as it has no value. It will have no value. eg. MLS in the USA. You then create an opportunity for others to take that information collate it, clean it, value add it, and then sell it back to us… or control it (REA).

    for what its worth..

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