3 Ways for MLSs to Frustrate and Alienate Brokers

by Marilyn Wilson on April 20, 2016

No!SOLDS, VOWS and the RESO Data Dictionary are NOT Optional for MLSs

Some MLSs are creating unnecessary and even illegal challenges for their brokers as well as for the technology suppliers that support their brokers, by not complying with NAR rules…some of which that have been in place for YEARS!

I hear regularly from brokers and technology vendors that they run into roadblocks all the time when they try to access SOLDs for their IDX feed, a Virtual Office Website (VOW) data feed and most recently, the RESO Data Dictionary dataset.

I’m going to start with a little history lesson to help MLSs understand there are three data programs that are part of the NAR family, that are NOT optional for MLSs.

IDX feed including SOLDS Required

Brokers from the Leading Real Estate Companies of the world fought hard for MLSs to provide the option for brokers to include SOLDs in their IDX data feed. Some brokers really like the idea of including SOLDs on their website. They believe it helps them to be more competitive with third party sites, it provides a better consumer experience as well as encouraging more traffic and engagement.

To address these important broker needs, the NAR MLS Policy Committee approved a rule that requires an MLS to provide SOLDs in the IDX data feed as requested by a broker. The first rule was approved in late 2014, the language was then amended to address non-disclosure states more specifically in late 2015.

Here’s the official language:

“If “sold” information is publicly accessible, display of “sold” listings may not be prohibited.”

Even though this rule was put in place almost two years ago there are still several MLSs and some technology vendors who do not offer this option to their brokers. NAR rules state that any approved IDX policy must be live in every MLS no later than 90 days after the ruling has been ratified. I’m not sure why an MLS thinks that limiting the data and ultimately the value they can deliver to their customers is a good idea, but there are several that still do. If you are one of these MLSs that has refused to comply with this regulation or is simply not aware of this requirement, it’s time to get on with it!

If you are an IDX or website vendor that has not yet complied with this rule and does not offer your broker customers the option to include SOLDs on their website if they desire, you need to get on with it too.

If you are a broker who wants to offer SOLDs on your website to be competitive with third parties and either your MLS or vendor has told you that you can’t, they’re WRONG! Go to your MLS’ Board of Directors or the CEO of your technology vendor and point them to this link.

Virtual Office Websites (VOW)

Broker frustrations are even WORSE for those that request a Virtual Office Website. For those that don’t remember what a Virtual Office Website does for a broker, here’s a quick refresher. It allows a consumer to register on a broker’s website and then receive deeper information about each listing including SOLDs, property history, etc.

This rule was enacted in 2008, nearly 10 years ago! Even though the ruling was a direct result of a lost lawsuit with the Department of Justice, there are still MLSs to THIS DAY that will not allow a broker to have a VOW feed.

Again, for those MLSs that are in this camp, please refer to the following link. Providing a VOW is NOT optional. It is a requirement to be in compliance with a ruling put in place to keep every Association and MLS out of another lawsuit with the federal government! I’m not sure why an MLS would put itself at risk AND alienate some of its largest broker customers at the same time. What am I missing? Aren’t MLSs designed to help their brokers succeed and not hinder their ability to compete the way they so choose using policies that have been built to help them compete effectively?

RESO Data Dictionary

The RESO Data Dictionary is the latest example of some passive- aggressive behavior by some MLSs. To date, well over 500 of the approximately 750 MLSs, serving over 1.1 million agents have become Data Dictionary Certified and there are many that are in the works. While this effort has been amazingly successful relative to the first two I mentioned, there are still MLSs that do not fundamentally buy-in to the approved NAR requirements to offer the RESO Data Dictionary dataset to their brokers. They are arguing with RESO about the validity of the idea and why they need to “play”.

The whole idea of the RESO Data Dictionary is to enable a broker to expand their business from one MLS region to another seamlessly as their business strategies dictate. The Dictionary also helps technology vendors reduce the time and energy they spend on normalizing data and turn it instead toward creating innovative products that will help brokers differentiate themselves and be successful. Isn’t that a good thing?

MLSs get gigged regularly for being behind the times in technology. If MLSs can help brokers be more nimble and help technology companies provide better service to their clients won’t that help the MLS industry be stronger? Again, what am I missing here? It’s time that EVERY MLS get on board with the RESO Data Dictionary and open up opportunities for innovation!

As we head into the RESO Conference where we will be talking to brokers about better ways to simplify business rules and policies to better serve their needs, I hope that every MLS takes this article and goes back to their Boards to discuss these three important topics. If you are in one of those markets that fundamentally doesn’t believe that the broker and their clients need to be at the center of your thinking or that it’s okay to simply ignore NAR rules, I highly suggest that you think long and hard about why you feel that way. Your organization’s life depends on it!

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