Online listing portals may have their own set of legal complications as far as liability in reporting goes, but that isn’t stopping industry giants Zillow Inc. and Trulia Inc. from teaming up together in a billion dollar merger announced last month. Americans love shopping for a new home from an app on their phone while they lie in bed or flipping through photographs of thousands of properties with only a few clicks of a mouse. Merger attorneys in San Antonio and across the state of Texas as well as industry analysts are cautiously optimistic about the deal, according to this article in Bidness Etc. online. But real estate agents and lawyers are more skeptical about the whole process, with agents “arguing that the merger is just a measure to capture a larger market share.”
They may be right, in part. Real estate agency is by no means a dying tradition, but it has been noticing some pretty rapid changes as online listing portals have taken to the ether-worlds of the Internet en force in the last 10 years or so, and in the opinion of several real estate agents in Texas and across the U.S., Zillow’s and Trulia’s “consolidated entity will still be an advertising agency, with no real improvement in the topline growth.” But it’s not just the issues of being pushed out by advertisers that may affect both agents and real estate lawyers, say merger attorneys in San Antonio familiar with the real estate market.
“The accuracy of the listings on the websites has been a matter of concern for some time now. Home buyers complaining about the inaccurate data listings is not uncommon, as both Zillow and Trulia do not have access to all the large Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data.” The liability for such misrepresentation is limited with online listing portals like Zillow and Trulia, real estate lawyers report, because while licensed real estate agents comply with regulations set by a National Association of Realtors, the billion dollar companies sit back and post pretty photos, however inaccurate, of hundreds of thousands of homes for sale.
Merger attorneys in San Antonio like Douglas Shumway, who also practice real estate law in Texas, have been highlighting the falling shares of both companies (down more than 3 percent) over the last few days, too. “A negative feature in Barron’s over the weekend has added more concerns over the viability of the [merger],” says Bidness Etc. Shumway and other merger attorneys in San Antonio caution that there are two sides to every story, with this billion dollar deal being no exception.
Zillow’s rapid growth (ranked 37th-most popular website in the U.S.) prompted its CEO to claim that “most home buyers will use Internet services to buy their homes in the near future,” while real estate agents contend that such websites “generate more ‘lookers’ than buyers.” Mr. Danny Frank, for example, VP sales of Coldwell Banker United Realtors insists that “the merged giant will not be a real estate company; it will remain an advertising company.”