One Path for MLSs and Large Brokers to Work Together More Effectively

by Marilyn Wilson on October 23, 2013

Fair DisplayAs many of you know there is quite a bit of discontent with selected large brokers and their MLS relationships. While there are many components to this discontent, there is one tangible action step that MLSs can take to help improve the relationship.

The Realty Alliance recently published their Fair Display For MLS Public Facing Websites Document. Fortunately, our experience suggests that most MLS websites comply with these rules.

For any MLS that already offers a site or is considering launching one here are the gotta have rules you must follow to be in compliance with The Realty Alliance’s dictate:

1. Brokers may opt-out of displaying their listings on the MLS-operating consumer site

MLSs need to make it a simple toggle switch allowing brokers who would not like to participate in the program to opt-out. Also, this opt-out can NOT be tied to participate in IDX or other syndication policies. It needs to be isolated JUST to the MLSs website.

2. Unbiased display of all listings

To be in compliance, MLSs need to display listings based upon the consumer’s search parameters, not given special preference to agents who pay for featured display of any sort. This would also suggest that no MLS can allow another subscriber to “claim” to be the listing agent on a listing that is not theirs, something that happens regularly on other third party sites.

3. Consistent display of listing data

Each MLS will determine the amount of listing data and photos to be displayed on their website. There will not be charges imposed for displaying any data related to the listing or the agent, such as fees for additional photographs or broker/agent contact information. WAV Group recommends that MLS websites allow agents to display at least 20 or more photos per listing and then use the photos on their MLS site.

4. No ads for other brokerage or agents displayed on or with a Brokerage’s listing

Only the actual listing broker and agent may be displayed on the property details page. No ads from companies that may compete with a broker’s affiliated business such as mortgage, title or escrow companies will be displayed on an individual property-listing page.

This requirement is easily met if you work with third party ad provider like CoreLogic, MLSListings or the Realm from Real Estate Digital. They each allow you to set ad-type exclusions so you steer clear of every type of service that might be offered by one of your brokers.

5. Leads distributed at no charge to the listing brokerage firm

All leads will go directly to the listing brokerage firm or the agent as directed by the firm. No leads will be distributed elsewhere. No fees will be charged back for leads. Every listing will have the brokerage name and logo prominently displayed and contact information as provided by the broker including a link directly back to the brokerage website (or other site as dictated by the brokerage).

Many MLSs have good intentions of doing this, but their website providers do not give them the flexibility to allow each brokerage to decide where their leads are forwarded. Be sure when you write requirements for your website provider that you make sure that they GUARANTEE and demonstrate to you that they can, in fact, deliver this service. I have heard many pay lip service to this and when it comes down to actually providing a dashboard that a broker can use to determine the lead distribution method, and then when the site is delivered this functionality does not exist. Without this functionality, many MLSs have experienced conflicts with their large brokers.

6. Make reports available to the broker, if available

STARreportBrokers will receive or be able to access complete reports on any traceable activities related to their listings. While this rule gives MLSs flexibility about how to provide performance transparency to their brokers, I would HIGHLY recommend that you provide monthly OUTBOUND reports to your brokerages. Without telling them regularly about the listing exposure and leads being generated by the site, it is easy to lose interest or worse, lobby to remove the site. Take a lesson from HAR.com – the role model for MLS sites – offer a monthly report like their STAR Report. Provide lead activity at the brokerage, office, team and agent level. This is the best way to CLEARLY demonstrate the value of third party sites being offered by MLSs.

7. Brokerage maintains control of their data

No syndication of the broker’s listing data without the broker’s knowledge. No MLS should ever take liberties with a broker’s data, EVER. The option to participate in the MLS site should NEVER be tied to syndicate of any other sort. The MLS should never hold the broker hostage, tying participation in the MLS site to participation in the IDX site. This is purely a program to promote listings on behalf of all members on the MLS site, and should never tie participation on this site to any other type of listing distribution program.

8. The MLS and brokerage firms will work together locally to make

Decisions about allowing ads on the MLS public facing website. If there are ads, the MLS and brokers will determine the types of ads allowable and any potential revenue share between MLS and listing brokers for the ad revenue generated.

Ideally, the MLS will involve large brokers in the decisions relating to ad shares since they likely will have a disproportionate share of the listings. Some MLSs have decided to use the ad revenues to offset the costs of site enhancements since it is a very expensive endeavor to create a meaningful site that engages consumers and generates leads for subscribers. Others may decide to share a portion of the revenue or a portion of the profits after the site has been paid for. The point is to involve brokers in this discussion.

To find out if your website qualifies under the Fair Display guidelines, please go to Fairdisplay.org and complete the survey and then your website will be reviewed. If it passes it will be listed on FairDisplay.org communications.

This is one simple and easy way to build a stronger relationship with your brokers.

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Judith Lindenau October 24, 2013 at 11:27 am

In reviewing these ‘rules’ I find them all very logical and understandable, and certainly ‘doable’. MLSs need to have serious dialogue about these concerns and I think when all is said and done, the results of the discussions will be in a stronger, more functional MLS product. It’s time to begin the conversation!

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Bill Rovillo October 28, 2013 at 6:59 am

I agree with Judith. The rues are logical and do-able. It keeps the listings within the grasp of the listing Broker and thwarts syndication, which has shown to lose 50-70% of all leads generated by the Zillowish sites.
The revolution is gaining strength.

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Marilyn Wilson October 28, 2013 at 8:00 am

I agree Judith. I also believe that any technology company that is providing MLS consumer websites should ensure that all of these rules can easily be accomodated with their systems. Some, for example, do not allow for each brokers to choose where/how they would like to distribute their leads. MOST do not include outbound monthly reports showing the level of listing exposure and lead activity that has been generated from the site. Not only is this a huge missing feature, it can really hurt an MLS when brokers do not understand the true value the MLS is providing by generating thousands of free leads every month.

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