Zillow has agreed to pay $130 million to Dow Jones and the National Association of Realtors to settle a trade secrets case. That’s kind of ironic since Zillow has pretty much eliminated the secrecy that used to be the defining feature of the real estate industry.
It all has to do with the cozy arrangement that exists between Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, Move.com and the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Dow Jones owns Move.com, which also provides real estate listings to Realtor.com, the NAR’s official site.
Not very long ago, if you wanted to sell your house, you didn’t have much choice but to list it with a real estate agent, since that was how most listings found their way into the industry-controlled Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Then, along comes Zillow and suddenly there is scads of data on 110 million homes in the U.S. available free for anyone who wants it, making it easier for consumers to do their own home searches and sell their home themselves, should they choose to do so.
Despite much fuming and fulminating, the NAR couldn’t come up with much to stop Zillow but it did manage to file a trade secrets case alleging that Zillow hired key executives away from Dow Jones/NAR. The case dragged on for awhile and settled earlier this month for $110 million, which will be divided between Move.com and the NAR.
Zillow denied wrongdoing and said it settle the case to avoid further distractions.
The NAR issued a statement saying it was “pleased” with the outcome.
“Move will receive the bulk of these funds; it is NAR’s hope that they will invest this money in initiatives that enhance the consumer experience on realtor.com® and benefit our members in support of the Realtor® brand,” NAR said.