Keep your eye on the lead machine

The great Realtor extravaganza has begun, and the mood is swell.

This weekend, canapés will be passed, drinks will be drunk, and gossip will spread like a cold through a Kindergarten.

Fun times.

My inbox has been filled with pitches and meeting requests. The EXPO floor, as usual, will present itself like a terrestrial SkyMall of Realtor curiosities.

But if I were to draw your attention to one thing this week it is a new turf war between the Big Three portals.

For the past five years, the great battles between, Trulia and Zillow have been fought over listings and consumers. All three companies want to control the flow of the former and command the attention of the latter.

The next great battle is over the flow of leads.

The first shots were fired over the past few months and are the source of much talk this week:

First, Trulia announced that Market Leader would integrate leads from Zillow, and others into its dashboard. They added a couple more sources this week.

Then, Move acquired FiveStreet, an app that enables agents and brokers to gather leads from multiple sources in one place and respond to them quickly.

And this week Zillow announced that it is allowing third parties to integrate with its system for the purpose of routing leads. Marketing and lead-gen company BoomTown is an initial partner.

One thing that you will notice here is that there’s one lead source that’s not emphasized: the brokerage website.

In the old days, the broker controlled the leads, delivering them slowly but steadily, like an intravenous drip, to agents who depended on them for survival.

Today, leads flow to agents from many places. This is good, but it’s also messy. Consolidating that flow is the name of the game.

So keep an eye on this. Because whichever company serves up the best leads from the most sources will have agents eating out of the palm of their hand. Agents follow the leads, and agents pay the bills.

See you in San Francisco.

[Disclosure: Move is a 1000WATT client.]