data licensing

Broker Public Portal License Agreement

by Victor Lund on August 11, 2015

WAV Group is providing consulting services to the Broker Public Portal project. This project seeks the collaboration of MLSs and Brokerages in developing a national MLS consumer-facing website that adheres to the Fair Display rules for property search. Since starting the project in January, the company has developed and filed its LLC governance, elected the board of managers, and is running three parallel projects. The first two projects include Brand development (work contracted out to 1000watt Consulting), and Request for Proposal (being done by a workgroup of the Board). The third project is the development of the data license agreement between the portal and the MLSs participating in the site. WE NEED YOUR HELP! The goal of the development of a data license agreement is to create one license agreement. We have engaged the services of Larson Skinner to manage this process. A first draft of the agreement has been circulated to MLSs participating in the project. In this second phase of review, we would like to extend license agreement for open comment until August 24th. There are two documents linked to this post: the first is a letter explaining how to submit your feedback (click here to download), and the second is the revised draft license agreement (click here to download). Please carefully review both documents and submit your feedback to bppcomments@larsonskinner.com BY THE END OF THE DAY ON August 24, 2015.

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Broker Public Portal Retains Larson Skinner PLLC

by Kevin Hawkins on July 14, 2015

Arroyo Grande, CA – July 14th, 2015 – The Broker Public Portal (BPP) today announced that it has retained the Minneapolis law firm of Larson Skinner PLLC to assist in developing a broker-friendly and MLS-friendly content license agreement for BPP’s projects. BPP continues its progress to bring a national MLS consumer-facing website to market.  As with any other portal, multiple listing services that will be participating in the Broker Public Portal will need to enter into data license agreements that allow MLS-participant listing information to be displayed on the site. One of the founding covenants of the Broker Public Portal is to display data in compliance with the Fair Display Guidelines (http://fairdisplay.org) to create an online consumer site that is very different from other sites in the marketplace today. Larson Skinner is a firm that has long supported MLSs and other companies with advice on data licensing. “They are a natural fit for the needs of the Broker Public Portal,” said Merle Whitehead, BPP Chairman. “They have been in the trenches of data licensing agreements with third party sites like Zillow Group, MOVE, and REALTOR® Property Resource. They know how to structure agreements that protect MLSs and their participants’ data very well,” continued Whitehead. According to Victor Lund, WAV Group consultant to the Broker Public Portal, “It will be a pleasure to work with Larson Skinner again.” WAV Group has worked with Larson Skinner in the past on data licensing projects for mutual clients of both firms. “Their leadership in developing constructive agreements across our industry is well known.” BPP released the first draft of the licensing agreement to the MLSs who have contributed financially to the development of the project. “The agreement is open for comments and feedback from MLSs that are already involved in the project, and we expect to have revisions to the draft incorporated immediately following the two-week commenting period,” said Mitchell Skinner. Both Brian Larson and Mitch Skinner are collaborating on the development of the data license agreement between the BPP and participating MLSs. They are being assisted by Larson Skinner attorney Camille Beshara. About the Broker Public Portal The Broker Public Portal is a nationwide group of leading Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) and real estate brokerage firms supporting the creation of a national property search portal. The portal aims to deliver the most comprehensive, timely, and complete property information to consumers while adhering to […]

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MOVE acquires Point2 Syndication Contracts

by Victor Lund on September 4, 2014

It looks like MOVE, operators of Realtor.com have taken a stride that is not altogether different from the success that Zillow is garnering with their acquisition strategy. MOVE is doing their best to control the pipelines that deliver advertising to portals in the United States. MOVE already owns Listhub, the largest syndicator of listing content. Now they pick up their nearest competitor – Point2 – much in the same way that Zillow picked up Trulia. The biggest difference, beyond taking out a competitor, is that they will removing a layer of duplication of listing syndication. Spencer Rascoff of Zillow describes today’s listing syndication feeds as spaghetti. MOVE will now have a pretty good chance of cleaning up the problems. Point2 is providing a single data point for CREA that amasses the country’s listings from every market. MOVE did not buy that. Point2 will also continue to manage all of the syndication for CREA. Point2 will also retain all of their syndication technology, Listhub is just getting the contracts in the US with MLSs, Associations, and publishers. This acquisition is for US Listing Syndication Services Only. Point2 will continue to provide MLS Consumer facing websites, Point2 Agent Websites, Team Websites, Point2 Mobile, etc. I tried to reach out to Saul Klein to chat with him about this, but he was not available. I imagine that his phone is on fire. Saul has been at the forefront of a project he called Contract Alignment – a process of using the listing syndication agreements between content providers and publishers to cure many of the ills of syndication. Knowing Saul, I doubt that he will drop the ball on this topic as a vocal supporter. He has a pretty untamable passion of this stuff. The saddest part is that he will no longer have a mechanism for getting in the middle to impact change. In other stunning news, Saul Klein and his partner John are no longer working with Point2 or Yardi effective September 1.  This may provide a boost to Nationstar’s Real Estate Digital division, or RED. RED has been making many inroads with their REDataVault product. MLSs and Brokers like to have choices when choosing products, and with another choice off the table, RED may find themselves getting more requests for their syndication services. Immobel, who offers both domestic and global listing syndication may also find that they get a boost from this acquisition. Change […]

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The Right and Wrong of Broker Data

by Victor Lund on May 7, 2014

There is a lot of confusion about real estate listing data today. I believe that the confusion is the cause of agitation that pits technology companies, consumers, real estate agents, pundits, MLSs, Franchises, and Associations of REALTORS against one another. For many, there is a belief that the listing data is free and access should be provided to all. The reality is that the listing data is legally bound to the real estate listing broker who is the custodian and responsible party for that data. Being a custodian, or the responsible party has nearly boundless latitude and altitude. Today’s real estate broker can do pretty much whatever they want with their data, subject to state and federal laws. The actions or permissions for data use are measured by the individual broker’s choices of privacy and values. The data is their asset, and how they treat that asset is their choice. What is really great about America is that in any given market, there is wide stratification of broker data management values. If anything, I would suggest that the pendulum is leaning toward uncontrolled and highly permissive use rather than tightly managed restricted use. An emerging trend in real estate is an growing attitude among the nation’s leading MLSs that the data belongs to the broker. There are two well-structured categories of data. The first category is MLS services that allow participants and subscribers the right to share listing data for certain purposes. Those purposes fall into three categories – MLS purposes accessed in the MLS system; IDX services for consumer display of another firms listing; and VOW services for virtual office client servicing. The second well-structured category is supporting the broker with the management of the data they own and control. Effectively, in this second category the MLS provides the firm with their data in a clean and updated format via a data feed or API to use as they wish. For the good of the people Sometimes, a Realtor Association, MLS, Franchise, technology company or other entity will endeavor to make an argument that broker data should be allowed to be used for a purpose leveraging the age old American notion that it is for the Greater Good of all. In today’s news I read an article about Turkey blocking YouTube and Twitter for the good of the public. Although there is a part of me that agrees with […]

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How Data Killed The REALTOR

by Victor Lund on March 13, 2014

If you look at the demise of Encyclopedia Britannica, you see a clear roadmap of how history will repeat itself to cause the demise of the REALTOR®. Up until 1994, the Britannica sales associates sold about 120,000 hard copies. Sales people consumed the most amounts of profits from the transaction. The sales people at Encyclopedia Britannica protected their data. The three or four thousand pages of the books were protected by copyright. Then came the Internet, and more importantly, Wikipedia. The Britannica sales person was disrupted by a price point of free.  The cost of data was disrupted by user-generated content. Adapt the pattern to real estate. Like Britannica, sales people or REALTORS® consume the most amount of profits from the transaction. REALTOR® sales people are protected by data copyright and forms copyrights today. The MLS protects REALTORS®. The National Association of REALTORS® protects REALTORS®. Disruption is coming. Today, 1 in 4 buyers find the home they ultimately purchase using the Internet. Like Wikipedia, the cost of consumers to access listings on the Internet is free. Even posting a listing on FSBO (user generated content) is free. Heck, in less than an hour I can publish more information about my home than any REALTOR® would ever be able to produce. I can do it for free. This is exactly like Britannica – free and user generated content. REALTORS® have one advantage remaining today. Processing the transaction. State and local transaction and disclosure forms are only available to REALTORS® or Licensed Sales Associates who subscribe. This is the final leg of protection. Will the last REALTOR® turn off the lights. If you are a REALTOR®, or a real estate brokerage, or a real estate brand, or an Association of REALTORS®, or an MLS – and you do not think that you are on a path to self-destruction, you are delusional. Your reckless behavior with data management not only exposes the privacy of the consumer you have vowed to protect, it undermines your future existence as a service provider. Your actions are planting the seeds for the evolution of FSBO transactions. To preserve your future, you need to do one simple thing. Copyright your data and only share it with others through a restrictive data license – or, do not share your data. Only a small handful of practitioners have chosen not to share their data. I revere their courage, but I […]

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Top 5 Broker Website Trends for 2014

by Victor Lund on December 11, 2013

There is a significant gap in the depth of information found on listing portals vs. broker websites today. Aside from marketing acumen and marketing investment, the quality of the experience is simply better on many portal sites. A few years ago, portals dominated brokerages with map search. As brokers got a handle on that, portals evolved with the single, Googlesque search bar. Most good broker sites have gotten a handle on that now too. But the bar continues to move in new directions. The biggest gap seems to be the information contained on the listing detail page. I had a chance to review and discuss this gap with some leading brokers this week and take their temperature on how they plan to address the information gap in 2014.  The responses were fascinating. To begin with, there is a legacy rule that is lingering on many MLS IDX rules regarding commingling MLS data with other data sources. Most of the progressive MLSs have stricken that rule. To all extents and purposes the rule only limited brokers from being competitive. With that rule out of the way, brokers are free to augment listing data with the data that consumers yearn for. Here is the top 5 countdown of features brokers plan to integrate into search or the listing detail pages in 2014. #5 – Drive Time – 21% of Brokers Plan to Integrate Drive Time Search – A new company called INRIX peeked into real estate this fall offering Drive Time data via API. This company collects commute times from cell phone data at a rate of a trillion bits per second or some crazy number like that. You have experienced this when you map something in your car’s GPS or on your phone and it estimates drive time and updates for traffic. Using the INRIX API, consumers or their agents can provide property search results on areas according to drive time. In most metropolitan areas, commute time to school and/or work play a significant role in selecting a neighborhood. #4 – School Zone Attendance Search – 29% of Brokers Plan to integrate this feature in 2014. School Zones have been a hot debate because of the legal implications. Brokers have legitimate concerns about liability if the data is not accurate. The good news is that the data is pretty darn accurate today and disclaimers help overcome the liability. Delta Media, Real Estate Digital, […]

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The War That Few Are Watching

by Victor Lund on June 19, 2013

There is a War being waged between the leading portals today. They are fighting with all of their might to be leaders in consumer website traffic. Today, Zillow is in the lead with Realtor.com on their heals and Trulia not far behind. Homes.com is pacing with the pack too, and perhaps showed just how strong they are by climbing the rankings at a remarkable pace in 2012. In an announcement released yesterday, Move proclaimed victory at retaining their relationship with MSN.com, the portal operated by Microsoft. I tried to get information about the battle, but limited facts were made available. We do not know the details of the agreement, its price, or the length of the term. We just know that Realtor.com won. I can only suppose that Zillow and perhaps Trulia were in the bidding. There was a lot at stake in this battle. Had Zillow won, they would have distanced themselves far afield of Realtor.com. Had Trulia won, they may have been lifted beyond Realtor.com into second place for overall traffic. By no means am I an historian for our industry, but I do remember that Prudential Real Estate had a similar relationship with Yahoo.com. If my memory serves me correctly, the eRealty strategy cost Prudential about $35 million. I tried to find press releases about this to confirm or cite the facts, but failed – so take the $35 Million with a grain of salt. I do know that the Prudential paid handsomely to buy the position on Yahoo Real Estate, and that Zillow now maintains that important foothold. The REALTORS® of National Association of REALTORS® should be joyous, and join MOVE in celebration. Had the battle gone another way, a key member benefit would have been reduced, and the REALTOR® brand marketing may have been diminished. It is hard to say how these things work out. But there is an important appreciation of strategy here. Like our Nation, our industry rests on the foundation of the Freedom of Choice. The one thing that we know about portals is that none of them make very much money. What money they do make comes from agents and brokers. For sure, consumers flock to these sites at a pace of 100 million per month. It is a great hunting ground for buyers and sellers. You have a choice about where your listings go. You have a choice about where your advertising dollars go. As […]

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More MLSs launch FIND search from MOVE

by Victor Lund on June 17, 2013

Move spread the news this morning that MRED (Chicago) MLS PIN (Boston and most of Mass) and SFAR (San Francisco) have all entered into agreements to offer the FIND product. If you are not familiar with FIND, it is a product that was the early candidate for the National Association of REALTOR’s Property Library. It ties all of the active listing data on Realtor.com to a suite of extensive property attributes ranging from demographic data to flood maps to airplane fly over zones and noise. The Find products sits at the top of the page when the agent is logged into the MLS, extending data access nationwide. The two cornerstones that agents love about Find include a Google-like natural language search bar and blazing speed. If you are interested in learning more about FIND for your MLS – reach out to your Realtor.com representative or Curt Beardsley. My understanding is that Move provides the product for free in exchange for a data license that allows them to display listings on Realtor.com (including sold data), and display to other MLS subscribers in the Find Network. The last word from Move regarding expansion of this product into new MLSs came from Trend (New Jersey) in January. Not sure if they have been intentionally quiet or not. It is a great product for any MLS that allows brokers to display solds in their IDX rules and regulations. There are three significant Data Licensing considerations for MLSs today. Realtors Property Resource from NAR; Data Co-Op from CoreLogic; and Find from MOVE. WAV Group drafted a paper describing these three Data Licensing initiatives for the Council of MLS. You can access the report called New Ways to Leverage MLS Data in the Reports tab on WAVGroup.com or try this link to the Google Doc. Published on 2013-06-17 06:15:38 Move’s FIND Application Goes Live For MRED And Signs New Agreements… — SAN JOSE, Calif., June 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — <- stripped tags -> SAN JOSE, Calif., June 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Move, Inc., (NASDAQ: MOVE) today announced that its FINDSM Application has gone live with Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED) in Chicago. Additionally, it has signed FIND agreements with two industry leading MLSs: MLS Property Information Network, Inc. (MLS PIN) in Boston, and San Francisco Association of REALTORS® (SFAR) in San Francisco.  These three agreements will provide an additional 71,220 MLS members with the FIND Application’s natural language search functionality through comprehensive neighborhood, […]

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The Future of Anything

by Victor Lund on May 30, 2013

I would attribute the series of postures on The Future of the MLS to Saul Klein. He may not have been the first to coin the phrase, but he has embraced it and made it his own. It is with due respect that we leave that posturing behind and set forth on a new journey. Our industry is at an inflection point, and my fear is that we are too blinded by current affairs to look beyond the steps in front of us. This morning, I encountered a quote from Antoine de Saint Exupery, a French writer, poet, and aviator who lived from 1900 to 1944. I did not take the time to research the setting for the quote, but it really does not matter because I want to use it to frame a new strategy for our industry leaders. “Your task is not to foresee the future, but to enable it.” I pecked out an industry overview of the governance of MLSs earlier this week. You can view it here if you like. I did not expect the flow of phone calls and emails. Apparently there are only a few people that are keenly aware of how different or fractured the governance of MLSs can be in America. Most brokers did not even know the governance of their MLS. It is a strange fog. Lets turn now to the key insights gathered in the rethink program. rethink is an organized effort to modify strategic planning at NAR. Here are the key insights presented at NAR Mid-year. I will provide commentary through the lens of enabling the future. Restructure Data and MLS Systems National MLS Take back REALTOR.com Be the Source for Big Data It would be a far reach for a trade association to morph itself into a data services company. This is the providence of brokers, not associations. Brokers are the group that need to enable the future of the MLS, online advertising, and big data. I would love to write the action plan for this. By the way – the action plan would likely retain local MLSs and REALTOR.com – but change them. Most MLSs and REALTOR.com have extraordinary talents at providing their services. It would be a mistake to restructure data and MLS systems without retaining the experience and talents of those service providers today. The real restructuring that needs to occur is broker involvement in […]

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Welcome Back Mr Foley

by Victor Lund on May 29, 2013

What do you do when your $6B company (Fidelity) has an extra $1.5B in cash languishing in your bank accounts? You buy back a company (LPS) that you spun out and you start all over again. If you ever doubted the value of providing software and data services to the financial industry, Mr. Foley just answered it. He is now officially back in the MLS business…. Almost. Deal is not quite done. But wait, there is more. Foley is a self made Billionaire who may perhaps be best known for his personal investing in the wine industry – having purchased more than $200 million in vineyards over the past decade and a half. Here in California, they say that the best way to make a little money in the wine industry is to start out with a lot of money. Regardless, Bill Foley is a legendary and upstanding member of the California and New Zealand wine movements. It just goes to show that you need to drink a lot of wine to appreciate how to offer data and software services to the financial industry that underpins real estate today. There were many hedge funds who suspected that Foley might buy Zillow or Trulia. There was some toe dipping into consumer facing websites with Cyberhomes. Perhaps losing tens of millions on Cyberhomes was enough to teach him that those companies are not attractive to him. Indeed, Zillow, Trulia, and MOVE have all learned that they need to diversify into other services to make money providing software services (becoming more like LPS). The consumer sites, even at scale, do not yield healthy profitability and sustained growth to investors unless they buy them on the way up (which Foley may have done). There was nary a whisper of Fidelity buying CoreLogic. Historically, Fidelity’s chief competitor First American would have poisoned such a trade. But they are out of the picture now and CoreLogic has a comparable valuation to LPS. In many ways, LPS was to Fidelity exactly what CoreLogic was to First American. These companies have been on parallel course for years and years and are vicious competitors. It would be a hoot to see First American buy back CoreLogic or even put in a bid for LPS. There is a “go shop” period of 90 days in the offer that allows LPS to find a better price. Place your bets boys! The […]

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The MLS Battleground

by Victor Lund on May 28, 2013

The National Association of REALTORS® Midyear Legislative meetings may have reached a tipping point on the role of the MLS in real estate. To be sure, it is the battleground of our industry where brokers and associations struggle for power within the oversight of the Department of Justice. Competing MLS entities develop their operating philosophy that draws the boundaries of how everyone coexists without behaving like a monopoly. To be sure, the MLS is a common use term that takes on a lot of different definitions. Here are the top 5 governance models that define the operating philosophy. Association Owned, Broker Governance Association Owned, Agent Governance Association Owned, Association Governance Broker Owned, Agent Governance Broker Owned, Broker Governance At the heart of any MLS is the governance. It is the single most important determinate of what products constitute the MLS service and how those services are divided between Core, Basic, and Optional. Today, there are many self-interested parties within our industry that compete in the battle to control the services of the MLS – Agents, Brokers, and Associations. Agents want everything for nothing. Small brokers are similar to agents and also want a low cost full service MLS. Big brokers just want the data. Associations just want non-dues revenue to maximize their investment in the MLS. There is nothing at all unnatural about this. An endeavor to shape your MLS to optimize your benefit is not only normal, but it would be irresponsible not to. Get involved! MLSs compete too. Neighboring MLSs do as much to recruit, acquire, or merge as anyone. To do this, they frequently endeavor to optimize their offer – the most services for the lowest price. The more MLSs compete with one another, the more services they offer, and usually the more they begin to compete with brokers. Like MLSs, brokers also try to offer the most services with the most attractive splits for agents. As such, brokers are constantly at odds with the mls for leveling the playing field. Again, this is very natural and probably adds a healthy pressure that powers the industry forward. There is really no such thing as a level playing ground. The bigger you are, the more power you have. The more power you have, the more money you make. There is no advantage to being small in this industry, nor is it a benefit to be thrifty. The agent, […]

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In Search Of A Perfect Broker VOW

by Victor Lund on April 29, 2013

WAV Group is conducting research to discover if there is any broker in the United States who has pulled out of IDX and only offers a Virtual Office Website to consumers. Presumably, it would be a large enough broker who would display their listings publicly without the need to register to the site. If consumers wanted to see other broker listings, they would need to register. No other broker would be able to display that brokers listings to the public. If you know of such a site here in America, please direct me to it and you will be handsomely rewarded. My loving relationship with Virtual Office Websites (VOW) dates back to about 2005 when MRED was called MLSNI. You see, the Chicago area had a local custom whereby brokers could elect to exclude some other brokers from obtaining and displaying their listings via Broker Reciprocity or IDX. To obtain access to all of the data, consumers would need to register to the brokers VOW.  Consumers gladly registered to access all of the listings, get more property information like sold listings, and lead generation rates for that area were far higher than other regions of the county. Around 2005, Listingbook launched their VOW solution in partnership with MLSs. One of the most popular posts ever published on the WAV Group website was titled “Listingbook is a must have for every MLS.” Even today, agents may have access to a VOW solution combined with email marketing, contact management, flyer program and  a host of other agent productivity tools for free. Listingbook was one of the early pioneers of Freemium Pricing for MLSs whereby some functionality of the solution is offered free with permission to publish advertising. Premium subscription has more features and removes advertising. VOWs have one thing in common, they allow all non-confidential MLS data to be displayed to the consumer online if they are registered to that agent’s website. In a way, I think that Listingbook stalled many technology companies from developing new, innovative VOW solutions for agents. Its hard to compete with a free product offered in partnership with the MLS. The ability to access all MLS data, including sold listings, days on market, and price changes over time make VOW solutions very appealing. It did not take long for some inspired brokerages like Zip Realty, Redfin and others to leverage VOW data in ways that enabled them to gain an online […]

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It is all about schools

by Victor Lund on April 23, 2013

New Realtor.com brand

The most active group of home buyers in sellers in America have one thing in common – school age children.  Traditionally, real estate has ducked the consumer by avoiding the laborious and somewhat liability producing task of informing consumers about schools. Our industry has largely taken the stance that if a consumer wants to know about schools, they will provide the phone number to the school district. Good luck with that. This is not true of all brokers or MLSs. Some have invested heavily in procuring the most accurate school data available. You will often find the information somewhere down below the fold on a listing detail page. Move Inc, the operators of Realtor.com just made a bold move (pun intended) to give consumers what they want – search by school. I just updated by Realtor.com mobile app and look forward to testing it out in my town to determine its accuracy. Accuracy has always been the issue. In some way, third party listing websites like Realtor.com, Trulia, and Zillow have an advantage at offering up some data types that licensed agents and brokers may not. They have no liability concerns with consumer transactions. Nevertheless, the data is getting better, making geo-fencing of school area boundaries possible. If you want to see a list of mapping solutions that support agents, brokers, or MLSs with this data, they are all sorted on RETechnology.com. Here are the details of the Realtor.com release. Realtor.com® First to Add School Search in Significant Update to Mobile App School is in session for realtor.com® as the online real estate leader rolls out a significant mobile update, pioneering search-by-school functionality in its successful iOS and Android apps SAN JOSE, Calif., April 23, 2013 – Realtor.com®, the leader in online real estate operated by Move, Inc. (NASDAQ: MOVE), today announced a substantial update to its realtor.com® mobile app for iOS and Android. In addition to being the first to allow home buyers to target listings based on schools and districts through its new school search functionality, the app now boasts an array of updated capabilities, including new, intuitive navigation elements and an enhanced map experience. With realtor.com’s search-by-schools, users can hone their home search based on school or district boundaries and discover valuable information on schools and districts of interest. Users can filter listings by public schools, districts and private schools in just one tap. “We understand that when searching for the perfect home […]

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Are my listings going everywhere – Zillow Front Door

by Victor Lund on February 13, 2013

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Whenever an announcement like the Zillow-Front Door announcement is made, brokers have questions about their data and where it is going. We call this the issue of re-syndication, and whenever an announcement is made made about one party sending data to another party – brokers should know. Zillow is not re-syndicating to HGTV’s Frontdoor.com website. The first thing that I would suggest to any broker providing data to any publisher is to have a contract with the publisher that defines what they can or cannot do with your data. Most of the franchisors like REALOGY, Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and others have such agreements in place. If you are a franchisee, ask your franchise rep for a briefing on how they are protecting your data. Be aware, you must syndicate through your franchisor for this agreement to cover you. If you send listings from the MLS to the publisher, from your website to the publisher, from your virtual tours to the publisher, or allow agnets to send them to the publisher using postlets or any other means – that data is not covered under those protective agreements. If you syndicate through MOVE, Inc, Listhub or through Yardi’s  Point2 product, there is great information in the broker dashboard about re-syndication. In the case of Zillow, they power hundreds of websites beyond Zillow.com – most prominently they power realestate.yahoo.com and have a partnership with CNHI (Community Newpaper Holdings, Inc).  They are “part of this publishers extended network. These sites are either subsites owned and operated by the publisher, or sites powered by the publisher. In all cases, listings remain resident in the primary publisher’s database at all times.” Interestingly enough, there is no mention of HGTV or FrontDoor in the Zillow page on Listhub, yet. I am sure they are working on it. FrontDoor.com is still listed as a publisher on Listhub, and they have a 6 out of 10 rating. FrontDoor, like Zillow also powers subsites operated by the HGTV along with sites powered by the publisher where listings remain resident in the FrontDoor data bases. OpenHouse.com is one of the key sites in their network – about 75 or 80 sites in all.  So, to answer the question about where your data is going – it is not going anywhere beyond the walls of Zillow according to the public proclamations.  You should take a careful look at your local newspaper or television website to see if Zillow, […]

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Zillow expands rental offering with Hotpads acquisition

by Victor Lund on November 26, 2012

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Market leading real estate publisher Zillow expanded their footprint by entering into an agreement to purchase Hot Pads today. The strategy behind the acquisition seems squarely aimed at conquering a larger audience of real estate consumers, namely consumers interested in rental properties. In October, Hotpads had nearly 2.8 Million Unique Visitors. Depending on how you add up traffic to Zillow and their other sites like realestate.yahoo.com, it adds up to less than a 5% increase in traffic. Moreover, Zillow picks up highly skilled staff that understand the real estate portal business, and how to manage data. Although Zillow already has a solid technology team, these 19 extra craftsman from Hot Pads are bound to prove their value by lending their expertise, and hit the ground running. Zillow is also likely to fuel their sales funnel for their rental software product, Rent Juice. It is hard to see the full vision for Zillow’s investment strategy with the money raised from their successful public auction, but one by one, pieces fall into place. They are certainly becoming stronger every day. For those of you who send listings to Zillow and Hot Pads, you may want to watch for any changes in effectiveness. The 2007 Series A investment in Hot Pads raised $2.3M. Zillow purchased the company for $16M giving the Hot Pads founders and investors a nice return. Congratulations to both companies on their success. Here is the Zillow Press Release: SEATTLE and SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Zillow, Inc. (NASDAQ: Z), the leading real estate information marketplace, today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to buy San Francisco-based HotPads, a map-based rental and real estate search site for $16 million in cash. This is Zillow’s first acquisition of a primarily consumer-facing company. The transaction is subject to satisfaction of customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2012. HotPads™ is an established and significant player in rentals for both consumers and professionals, offering a robust website and five mobile apps across iPhone®, iPad® and Android™. Nearly 2.8 million unique users visited HotPads in Octoberi, primarily to shop for rentals. Nearly 70 percentii of all listings viewed during the month were homes or apartments for rent. The addition of HotPads will allow Zillow® to expand the size of its growing rental audience and extend the reach of its marketing tools and productivity solutions for rental professionals. […]

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Point2 encourages publishers to play nice

by Victor Lund on October 31, 2012

yardi logo

Yardi subsidiary, Point2 is changing its data distribution policies to align with what it believes to be the interests of MLSs, Associations, Brokers and agents in the US, similar to what it has introduced in Canada with the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). Since Yardi purchased Point2, they have renewed determination to protect the data rights of agents, brokers, and their partner Associations of REALTORS(r) and MLS. In the past, the default distribution setting for Point2 has been broker-opt out rather than broker opt-in.  WAV Group has never been in favor of Broker Opt-out programs. Broker opt-out means that unless notified by the listing broker, Point2 distributed the listing data to all of its publisher recipients. The big problem with this policy is that the broker was subject to the publisher’s terms of use for the data, which might be contrary to the best interest of the broker. For many brokers the portal’s terms of use are fair – but for others, they are not. Point2 is now in the process of notifying publishers that they must conform to a set of fair use terms if they want the convenience of broker opt-out data. If they do not conform to the new terms, the data to that publisher will be switched to opt-in. As of January 1st, 2013, any publisher not conforming to the new agreement will see somewhere between 200,000 and 1.2M listings taken out of their Point2 feed. Some of the key terms of the agreement are as follows. The license only grants the publisher the ability to display listings on authorized websites – effectively eliminating the problem of resyndication without a license. The relevant owner of the listing content retains all rights title and interest and ownership in the data – effectively resolving the issue of publishers selling data, creating derivative products with the data, etc. Publisher must agree to install a web bug that allows Point2 to track the – number of times displayed in search results; number of views; click through, number of leads. Content may not be used for any purpose when a listing is not active. This is huge as it cures the problem of stale data languishing on publisher websites, and the display of sold data. Publisher may not use the personal contact information of agents or brokers to market to, or contact that agent or broker – nor will it supply that […]

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How MLSs and MLS vendors are failing brokers

by Victor Lund on October 31, 2012

Business Intelligence

Let me begin by saying that the remarks that follow do not apply to all MLSs. There are many that do an excellent job at servicing the data needs of brokers. The focus of this article is to talk about some of the common failures seen by WAV Group consultants trying to help brokers fix complex data problems. There is a fundamental understanding of the MLS which has been lost. Although MLS systems provide excellent services through the MLS software, many are failing at providing data services to the brokers and agents to power the many applications that live outside the MLS system. This failure needs to be addressed across the industry. At the heart of the failure is the resistance to adopt the most current version of RETS. The systems that power a brokerage probably will work fine with whatever RETS standard or FTP standard you offer if that brokerage is only in 1 MLS. If the brokerage belongs to more than 1 MLS, chaos ensues. Enterprise brokerages will be defined by brokerages that participate in more than one MLS. Most enterprise brokerages have a laundry list of technology applications that rely on MLS data from a variety of technology vendors. The brokerage goal is to apply a layer of consumer, agent, and business services that rides on top of multiple MLS. The current broker technology ecosystem was outlined perfectly by WAV Group partner Michael Audet in a paper he authored called “The Shift in Real Estate Technology.” You can review the webinar on this topic here, and download slides from the webinar. You can download the whitepaper here. This image shows the architecure of an enterprise brokerage. At the heart of making all of this work is a persistant data, delivered using the RETS standard. Technology consultant Matt Cohen of Clareity Consulting outlined the core problem facing MLSs with RETS adoption. It is not in the contract with the vendor! He writes “…new versions of RETS are always becoming available and each new version has capabilities that the MLS and its members can leverage. For example, RETS now has fairly robust capabilities allowing listings to be input via other front ends – for example broker systems, or forms software, and ensuring that these front ends follow the MLSs business rules. But most MLSs don’t offer their brokers this capability. Why? Because it’s not in the contract. When a […]

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Black Sand Labs Launches MLS License Compliance Tool

by Victor Lund on October 25, 2012

Like all MLSes, Hawaii Information Service takes data licenses seriously. Aside from the natural investigation of reported violations, they wanted to find a way to crawl the Internet to find additional abuses of their data license agreements. After an unproductive effort to find a commercial solution to meet their needs, Hawaii Information Systems partnered with Falcon Technologies to build one. Now, the two cooperating companies formed a new startup called Black Sand Labs to deliver the service to other MLSs fighting the compliance battle. The new product is called APHIS – which may sound like a crawling insect, but was born of an acronym: Automatic Photo Identification System. Clever name. WAV Group partner Victor Lund was provided with an overview of APHIS, and here is what we learned. APHIS has a few main components: Agreements, Signatures, Crawlers, and Domains. Agreements — The Agreements section is precisely what you would expect. You load all of your data license agreements along with their inception and expiration date. This allows MLSs to rely on online document management rather than a filing cabinet for agreements. Here you would also stipulate the type of agreement, like IDX, VOW, or other types. This section also tracks the URL that is specified in the Data License agreement for display of license data. These URLs form a whitelist that allows the sites with a data license agreement to be ignored by the compliance staff. Signatures – I would have preferred that they called this section of the product Fingerprints. One of the primary parts of the APHIS service is generating a signature (or taking a fingerprint of sorts) of every photo on every listing. This component of the tool allows the MLS to monitor the process of generating these signatures for MLS photos, creating daily reports that provide the assurance that photos are successfully processed each day. Crawlers – This is the other primary part of APHIS. They send software programs called crawlers out into the web to look for matching photos. They ignore the whitelisted sites that have a data license agreement in most cases. The Crawlers can search in two ways. 1. Keyword – The MLS compliance staff can put in keywords like ‘Hawaii Luxury homes’. The crawlers will then search the top 20 sites that appear on Google for those terms and search for license violations (ignoring sites on the whitelist). 2. Domain – If you […]

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October 3, 2012—The WAV Group today published the results of an independent study of 11 major markets that found local real estate brokerage websites give consumers the most complete, accurate and timely information about homes for sale. The study evaluated sites from three local brokerages with real estate agents who help consumers buy and sell homes, comparing listing search results to those found on two national portals, Trulia and Zillow, which operate almost exclusively online. In the markets analyzed, the study concluded: Local real estate brokerage sites display 100% of the agent-listed homes for sale compared to about 80% for the national portal sites. Local real estate brokerage sites show newly listed homes for sale seven to nine days earlier than national portals. Local real estate brokerage sites almost never show a home listing as active that has already sold; about 36% of listings that appear as active on national portals are no longer for sale. The WAV Group, a national consultancy specializing in real estate technology, conducted the study. Independent analysts verified the study data, record by record. Redfin, a technology-powered broker with more than $5 billion in home sales sponsored the study.  Listing data from the websites of Long & Foster, one of the largest independent real estate brokerages in the U.S. and Windermere, the largest regional real estate brokerage in the Western U.S., was also included in the study. “We analyzed a sample of more than 6,000 listings in 33 zip codes in 11 markets, comparing the data on various websites against 14 local Multiple Listing Services,” said WAV Group CEO Victor Lund. “The findings are clear: real estate brokerage websites showed by far the most homes for sale, recognized which homes were no longer for sale, and displayed new listings much earlier.” The source of brokers’ advantage is direct access to local real estate databases. In each U.S. city or area, all real estate brokers subscribe to a local association known as a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to share the listing data collected by their agents with consumers. Each MLS tracks locale-specific attributes about listings, noting for example which Seattle homes have waterfront access or which Virginia homes are historic. Only real estate brokers can be members of a local MLS. In contrast, national portals mostly rely on individual agents or real estate brokerages to re-post MLS listings on the portal websites, or the portals aggregate […]

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Mitch Skinner Now Partner at Larson Sobodka

by Victor Lund on September 20, 2012

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WAV Group is please to extend congratulations to Attorney Mitchell Skinner who has become a member of the legal firm Larson Sobodka. Mitch as been working with the firm’s founder Brian Larson and first member, Elizabeth Sobodka for about two years. Clients of Larson Sobodka have undoubtedly had a solid experience working with Mr. Skinner. Skinner has been helping the firm with their core speciality: data licensing and vendor contracts. It is an area of expertise that has made the firm renowned throughout the industry. Vendor contracts has long been a speciality of the firm – and they have foraged new paths over the past years in the emerging practice of structured data licensing agreements. WAV Group also enjoys geeky talk with the firm on topics like Listing Syndication, IDX Rules and Regulations, and MLS rules and regulations. It is all good stuff. I wonder if they will rename the company? Will it be LSS or SSL? I guess that the founding partner always go first – but SSL seems to resonate for a technology aware law firm. Press Release Minneapolis, September 20, 2012: Larson/Sobotka PLLC, the Minneapolis-based law firm that serves multiple listing service, REALTOR® association, and brokerage clients around the U.S., announced today that Mitchell A. Skinner is now a member of the firm, which is an equity position roughly equivalent to that of a “partner” if the firm were organized as a partnership. Skinner provides copyright, trademark, and technology and licensing counsel to the firm’s clients. According to firm member Elizabeth S. Sobotka, “Over the last 18 months, Mitch has led the firm’s MLS data licensing and vendor contracting practice. He has become the foremost practitioner in these types of transactions on behalf of MLSs.” The firm’s managing member, Brian N. Larson, emphasized Skinner’s commitment to the real estate industry. Skinner is providing pro bono counsel to the Real Estate Standards Organization, and for the second year he is a member of the organizing committee for the Council of Multiple Listing Services Legal Seminar in Boston, MA on September 26, 2012, where he will also be presenting on current strategic issues and vendor relations. Skinner received his J.D. from the University of Minnesota cum laude and is admitted before the Minnesota Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Prior to joining Larson/Sobotka, Skinner practiced general litigation in Minneapolis. Larson/Sobotka focuses its practice on e-commerce, databases, web branding […]

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