The shifting sands in the online real estate industry continue to morph. The latest development involves Zillow which recently notified Redfin and other real estate sites that it will no longer distribute for-sale-by-owner listings to their Web sites.

Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman explains in a blog post:

Zillow primarily gets listings directly from individual brokers, not from the Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) that all brokers use to share listings with one another, so Zillow is governed by different restrictions than we are. This means that we will continue to display for-sale-by-owner listings from other sources, wherever it’s allowed by the local MLS to which we belong.

We aren’t crazy about the decision, but presumably neither is Zillow: Zillow’s listings got 35,000 views on our site alone in January, and many of the people who viewed them ended up on Zillow’s website too. We’ll continue to show Zillow’s Zestimates, mortgage data and any other information from Zillow we can get that would be useful to our customers. The Zestimates drive lots more traffic from Redfin to Zillow than the for-sale-by-owner listings.

Zillow Chief Marketing Officer Amy Bohutinsky tells GeekWire that they are discontinuing the feed because it was the company’s least used API. She did not immediately respond to questions about how many real estate sites were impacted by the move.

UPDATE: Bohutinsky declined to offer specifics on how many sites were using the API. But she did add: “We have lots of API’s, and we invest in maintaining the ones that are used frequently. This one was our least-used.” Here’s a list of all of the company’s APIs.

The decision comes after San Diego real estate agent Jim Abbott lashed out at Zillow, Trulia and other online real estate sites, posting a video on YouTube in which he said he planned to remove listings from the “listing syndicators.” The video sparked a lively discussion on GeekWire, with many readers suggesting that Abbott’s comments were misguided.

We also talked about the issue on the GeekWire podcast this past weekend with Findwell CEO Kevin Lisota.

I am still trying to make sense out of this and the wider implications, so if you have thoughts, feel free to share them.

UPDATE: Here’s the press release from August 2008 in which Zillow announced the new API, noting that Redfin was one of the early adopters.

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  • Marlow Harris

    This could be a move from Zillow to try to make their site more accurate,
    hence more useful. 


    This change only impacts the manually input listings from the random
    homeowner or landlord.  These were notorious for being inaccurate and
    out-of-date, as these folks tend to input, then forget, and don’t update their
    listings when sold, rented or taken off the market.  This causes frustration for
    buyers and renters, and makes the entire database suspect and useless.

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