Microsoft’s mysterious real estate portal sparks data safety concerns


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Microsoft’s mystery portal Bing Real Estate is in the spotlight, thanks to a social media thread highlighting the potential theft of listing data from Zillow, Realtor.com and Redfin.

Real Estate Standards Organization CEO Sam DeBord sounded the alarm last Tuesday on X, formerly known as Twitter, with a thread raising issues around listing data on Bing Real Estate. Listings on the site, he said, seem to be stealing listing data — descriptions, photos, sales history, etc. — from Zillow.

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Screenshot of DeBord’s May 28 X thread.

“I’m getting a lot of questions from the real estate technology space about http://bing.com/homes,” he wrote. “Can any of our friends at @bing @MSBing_Dev @Microsoft tell me the source of licensing for the data and media associated with these real estate listings? #bing #microsoft.”

His post drew the attention of agents, brokers and real estate tech leaders who’ve gotten increasing questions about the site, which seems to have existed in one form or another for three years.

The biggest splash Bing Real Estate made was a 2021 partnership with the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), which gave the site permission to display active real estate listing summaries in Canada. In 2022, the site sparked commotion with an overseas hiring spree focused on building a long-term rentals team.

Since then, Microsoft has been tight-lipped about Bing Real Estate, despite multiple social media queries and Microsoft forums flooded with questions from agents and consumers about how to add, remove or claim listings through the site’s owner and renter hub.

“I didn’t realize that Microsoft Bing is now showing real estate,” Dallas-based real estate consultant Michelle Combs wrote on LinkedIn several months ago. “Hmm, seems to be lacking all agent and MLS attribution. That’s odd.”

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Sam DeBord

In an interview with Inman, DeBord said he’s been receiving an increasing number of questions like Combs’s from concerned agents, brokers and fellow tech leaders who wonder if Microsoft has permission to repost listing data from Zillow, Realtor.com and Redfin.

“It’s been around in some form for years,” he said. “A significant number of people have reported on a very light version of Bing that had been displaying homes for sale and it appeared that it was using Zillow and Redfin and other listing feeds to make these displays.”

“But the people who reached out to me more recently said this looks like a much more professional marketplace with monetized ads [and] functions very similar to a traditional portal, like the ability to claim your home,” he added. “It appeared to have moved past a test phase into a full-fledged for-profit marketplace.”

DeBord said the shift to a full-fledged real estate marketplace means Bing Real Estate’s actions could be in violation of IDX (internet data exchange) regulations, since they don’t seem to be an MLS participant and cannot get permission from an MLS participant (e.g. Zillow, Realtor.com, Redfin, etc.) to repost listing data.

There’s also a secondary issue, he said, regarding photographer and vendor copyrights for the listing photos and videos on the Bing Real Estate site.

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An example of how listings look on Bing Real Estate.

Inman reached out to Zillow, Realtor.com and Redfin about Bing Real Estate, whether they’re aware of Bing Real Estate’s usage of their listing data, and whether they have any agreement that allows Bing Real Estate to repost their listings.

A Redfin spokesperson said they have no data agreement with Bing Real Estate, and a Realtor.com spokesperson said they’re looking into the situation. Zillow and Microsoft did not respond.

Inman also reached out to NAR about the situation and asked whether they have an agreement with Bing Real Estate’s U.S. site that’s similar to what CREA has with Bing Real Estate’s Canadian site. They have yet to respond.

DeBord acknowledged theories that Bing Real Estate is a SERP (search engine results page) that is simply indexing listings, which is allowed under MLS IDX rules. However, without a full-fledged explanation from Microsoft clarifying exactly what Bing Real Estate is, the SERP theory is a little thin.

“If http://bing.com/homes is just a SERP, we probably need to reclassify every product review site as a SERP,” he said on X Monday morning. “Maybe Wikipedia is just a SERP. Is @Yelp just a SERP? What about @AutoTrader_com? This nonsense continues without consistent scrutiny and big voices joining in.”

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Victor Lund

WAV Group founder and managing partner Victor Lund is part of the cadre calling for answers from Microsoft. However, he believes Bing Real Estate’s endgame isn’t to stand toe-to-toe with Zillow or another portal.

Instead, he thinks it’s all about mortgage leads.

“I mean, they built a search engine for real estate and their intention is to drive mortgage leads,” he said. “When you look at the site, you’ll see they’re sending traffic back to Zillow or Redfin — you can’t inquire about a listing [on Bing Real Estate] but you can inquire about a mortgage. Just think about all the mortgage companies that are advertising on those pages.”

Whether it is about listings or mortgages, DeBord and Lund said it’s important that Microsoft and Bing Real Estate follow industry regulations.

“These [portals] value following the rules with these data feeds,” DeBord said. “They are not taking chances with this and they are not going to be the ones in the wrong at the end of this story.”

“MLSs should send a cease and desist to Zillow [. . .] and Microsoft with some reasonable time frame and a takedown notice,” Lund added, taking a more hardline approach to the situation. “If they fail to honor it, then each MLS has the obligation to turn off the data feed to Zillow and Redfin. That’s the remedy.”

As for what agents and brokers can do now, DeBord said this evolving situation should be a reminder of how valuable the data they create is. As for the next steps, that’s less clear; however, he said this is the perfect time to assess the current IDX rules and policies and make sure industry professionals are aware of their data rights.

“The real key is that I just want to share information and not accusations,” he said while noting the lingering mystery about Microsoft’s intents.  “I think it’s another reminder that brokers and agents and their MLSs create a lot of value with their listings.”

“They’re being reminded again that the most valuable company in the world finds their data valuable and wants to participate in that value creation,” he added. “At the end of the day, yes, it’s about serving clients and customers to help buy, sell, rent real estate, and we create additional business value to make those businesses better.”

“And making sure that we can help enforce those licenses and those rules so that the value creators are the ones capturing back the value of that listing data and media they create is a very important thing, as is being proven again here.”

Email Marian McPherson

Know anything about Microsoft’s search portal? Let us know in the comments.





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