Sunsetting services is never any fun, especially services that do not cost the membership any money. That is exactly what the Austin Board of REALTORS® is on a path to do this spring. The ABoR directors released a formal statement this week announcing the plan to sunset the Listhub agreement by April 30th, 2014. The process for researching this difficult decision is nicely outlined http://www.abor.com/syndication.
In June 2012, the ACTRIS committee, which is the MLS of the Austin area, created a Syndication Task Force with diverse representation of members and brokers. They cited some interesting findings.
- The decision to syndicate to third party websites should be an independent broker decision.
- They found there to be questionable consumer benefit in providing data to non-REALTOR® websites.
- They opined that Non-REALTOR® websites damage the reputation of REALTORs®
- They are of the belief that Non-REALTOR® websites misinform and mislead the consumer
- They believe that they can support REALTOR® members market listings without facilitating syndication to Non-REALTOR® websites.
Note: There was no indication whatsoever that ListHub did not do an excellent job with the services offered to ABoR. The issues are occurring downstream of Listhub.
The sunset process
The committee put forth a roadmap for the process of sunsetting the Listhub service.
- Announcement to members and brokers
- Creation of a MLS Learning Community for online discussion
- Broker Forum
It is interesting that ABoR moved in the exactly opposite direction of fellow Texas MLS operated by the Houston Board of REALTORS® this week. HAR announced that they are adopting the Listhub service. HAR was one of the final major markets in America to offer Listhub as a member benefit.
Brokers in Austin will not be left in the lurch. Franchise brokers all have Listhub services offered though their franchise. Moreover, just about every broker website developer can provide a direct feed to publisher sites. Listhub will also offer any broker their services directly. Moreover, any agent or broker can manually enter listings on any publisher site. Point2 and Real Estate Digital also offer solutions.
If you are considering similar initiatives in your MLS, you may want to carefully study and monitor the sunset process at ABoR. Research the issue. Communicate with your members and brokers. Move through the process slowly to insure a smooth transition.
Within hours of the notice going out to brokers, Julie Holden of Realty Austin published an insightful post about her brokerage support for the decision. It is a great article that highlights some unique effects of syndication in non-disclosure states. Realty Austin co-owner and broker Jonathan Boatwright said, “Buyers often get excited when they come across a ‘new’ listing on one of these websites only to find out from their agent that the listing sold months earlier. Most are unaware that they are missing out on as many as 1 in 5 homes that hit the market. They become frustrated with the inaccuracy of the inventory they find on these sites, and often channel their frustration toward the REALTOR® community.” The key frustration for Boatwright is that portals “display of listing data does not have to comply with the same rules, regulations, and Code of Ethics that REALTORS® and their websites are required to follow. “