idx rules and regulations

1000watt nails large broker IDX strategy

by Victor Lund on August 14, 2015

Dum IDX

1000Watt Consulting wrote a post this week that is a must read. View it here – http://1000watt.net/2015/08/friday-flash-the-broken-down-lead-machine/# Brian Boero’s point is clear: “If you are a large firm with more than 10% market share – ditch IDX.” Reasons to Act This Way compromised presentation of properties raft of local competitors drafting on your listings paper brokers leverage your data with impunity relatively small number of leads that agents will probably drop the ball on. I am not going to recant the entire article. Please go and read it. But I do want to reinforce one point and add another. Reinforcement – We studied response time to IDX leads. 50% of inquiries get no response, and those that do respond usually do a bad job. Here is a whole white paper on the research. Its real. http://waves.wavgroup.com/2014/01/13/agent-responsiveness-study-reveals-critical-flaws-in-real-estate-lead-response/ New Point – Consider and IDX/VOW combination website. When a broker opts out of IDX, they cannot display other broker listings except when the consumer registers! Once a consumer registers, your broker website becomes more of a buyer client servicing platform. Not only can you display all of the IDX listings, but you can display 100% of all information in the MLS other than confidential fields like commission and agent-to-agent comments. Most consumers are driven to a broker website organically – 68% type in the URL. Again, we studied 1 million consumers using broker websites. There is a full paper on it here http://waves.wavgroup.com/2013/07/25/wav-group-releases-2013-broker-website-effectiveness-study/ Consumers are looking for the broker’s listings. Many brokers have dropped the “Our Listings” tab on their website, which is a mistake in my opinion. Lead with your inventory! “We represent 58 listings that match your search criteria, view them now or register to see all 486 area listings that match your search criteria.” This is not a new schema. This was developed by Wolfnet for the Chicago marketplace years ago when brokers would select who could display their listings and who could not (the DOJ terminated this practice). Believe it or not, lead capture was 20% higher when an IDX/VOW combination site than just an IDX site by itself. Better yet, if the top 5 firms in an MLS followed suit, it would devastate the raft of competitors using your another firm’s data to grow their business. I am with 1000watt on this point 100%. If you are a big broker, opt out of IDX and install a VOW property search for registered […]

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IDX Rules Continue to Become More Broker-Friendly

by Marilyn Wilson on May 22, 2015

Way to go, MLS Policy Committee for staying on a continued path to overhaul the IDX rules to make them work harder for brokers! As you may recall, back at NAR National, there were great strides made to evolve IDX rules to encourage data standardization, broker marketing in multiple MLS markets and an increased focus on data accuracy. I am proud to say that WAV Group, along with the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, brought forth just about all of the topics that were approved at this meeting, just like the NAR National meeting. These positive initiatives continued into NAR Mid-Year where continued enhancements were put into place. Here’s a summary of what was agreed to at this session. Increasing engagement on listings As we all well aware, third party sites surround their listings with TONS of interesting information to encourage consumers to spend more time on their website. IDX rules now allow brokers to do the same thing on their sites. They can augment IDX information with “applicable property information from other sources to appear on the same webpage of display.” With this new rule, brokers can now add differentiating information to their sites to help educate their prospects and clients and encourage them to contact their agent to learn more. Speedier Approval of IDX Feeds While most markets approve IDX applications in a matter of a few days, believe it or not, in some markets it can take a broker up to six months!   Talk about business obstruction! For those of you that have IDX approval committees that meet once a quarter or even monthly, this rule is for you. Monthly approval timelines are simply WAY too long in today’s aggressive market. The new policy requires an MLS to act on an IDX request within five business days for members in good standing. Hopefully, this ruling will speed up brokers’ ability to launch a new IDX website to promote their business. Clarification of Publicly Accessible Data All MLSs, with the exception of non-disclosure states, are now required to offer two different types of data feeds – one with actives and one with active solds. The third discussion clarifies what is meant by “publically accessible” data. Here’s the clarification: Publicly accessible sold information as used in IDX policy means data that is available electronically or in hard copy from city, county, state and other government records.  Clarification […]

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Major Changes In Real Estate

by Victor Lund on April 28, 2015

Behold, changes are taking place in real estate. We are seeing significant efforts like Project Upstream, RPR AMP, Broker Public Portal, Fair Display Guidelines, and RESO mandates that are shaping the future of our industry. It makes you wonder what is driving this explosive cocktail of industry wide initiatives. At the heart of many of these developments are brokers. When they survey the world around them, they rue the existence of poor data management and profit taking by others. Poor Data Management I believe that it was MRIS CEO, David Charron who coined the term Overlapping Market Disorder. He was referring to situations where MLS areas overlap. It is a condition that causes brokers and agents to participate in more than one MLS and struggle to keep data clean and abide by different regulations. MLSs have long established unique data schema and rules to “differentiate” themselves from a neighboring MLS. MLS of choice caused this. And in many ways, Association of choice amplified it. Today, nearly every MLS supplies brokerages with different IDX and VOW data feeds. For the broker and their vendor, maintaining these different types of feeds and rules is time consuming and painful. The Real Estate Standards Organization seeks to make it better. They are doing an excellent job and the Data Dictionary – the effort to normalize field names and attributes will see the day of light by the end of this year and into 2016. It will be a slow transition, but brokers will finally be able to get a data feed that is normalized across multiple markets. At least we are optimistic. The lever to cause the data dictionary to be adopted is the NAR MLS Policy Committee. Technically, MLSs not adopting the standard would be subject to penalties from NAR for non-compliance. We will see how seriously NAR and MLSs take this requirement. For its part, the MLS Policy Committee has done an excellent job of evolving the MLS model rules. For example, last year they standardized rules relating to the access and display of sold property data in the IDX model rules. Profit Taking Ask different brokers around the nation what they hate the most and they will tell you stories about how others are profiting from their data unfairly. Some will tell you that third party listing websites have been making extraordinary profits off the backs of agents and brokers. The […]

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As you probably know by now, the rules governing IDX were revised at the NAR Meetings in November last year.  Click here to view the details of the approved changes. One of the big changes requires that every MLS provide a Web API by June 30th, 2016 to make it much easier for brokers to allow third party companies to leverage MLS data for tools used by brokers. For the non-techies among us, let me answer the first question….What the heck is an API and why should I care? According to NAR…. API, short for Application Program Interface, describes a data transfer method that eliminates the need to copy listings between servers. The MLS becomes the original and only source of MLS property data. API technology creates efficiencies in the collection and use of MLS data by participants, vendors and MLSs. Here’s what it means in laymen’s terms.  An API will make it much easier for a broker or an MLS to allow a third party technology company to access MLS information much more easily than can be done today. Today, if someone wants information they have to get ALL of the data pushed to them. Then they have to ingest it, make sure it displays properly and then match it to all of the data fields in their own system. The API, combined with the implementation of the RESO Data Dictionary will standardize the way MLS data is collected and displayed with ALL MLSs across the United States.  It will make it easier for technology companies to pull only the data they need making for a more efficient and more accurate information that can be used by brokers for a variety of purposes in their business. It’s going to make it much easier for tech companies to provide innovative solutions to brokers and MLSs. It’s a really good thing for the industry. There was one big problem though. There were very few, if any companies that provided an API to accomplish the task required by the new IDX rules.   Until now….. Today, Onboard Informatics has created a relationship with CoreLogic to provide a comprehensive RESO standards-compliant data management and distribution solution to multiple listing services (MLSs), real estate brokers and vendors.  Any MLS in the country will be able to use this solution to provide RESO Data Dictionary-compliant data via RETS and the new RESO Web API without any […]

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There IS hope for the real estate industry!

by Marilyn Wilson on November 19, 2014

I had one of the best days I’ve ever had since I’ve been a part of this industry at the NAR conference this year!   I witnessed what I believe to be a historic moment in the real estate industry where MLSs, Associations, Brokers, Franchises and Technology companies ALL came together for the greater good of the industry.   No drama, no conflict, just unity! Hallelujah! Kudo’s to the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World for bringing forth a set of balanced recommendations to the Emerging Issues committee on behalf of large and small brokers around the nation. I am proud to say that I facilitated discussions with the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World(LeadingRE’s) “TAC” or Technology Advisory Council that includes several of the nation’s best and brightest tech leadership from brokers of all sizes from around the U.S.  Together we brought forth a reasonable and well thought out set of recommendations that are designed to help everyone and simply allow brokers and agents to be able to use technology and data more effectively to attract new customers. These enhancements to the IDX policy could never have been approved so easily without the hard work and leadership of the Emerging Issues Committee led by Robert Bailey of Bailey properties. Behind the scenes, the Committee  invited LeadingRE to come and present the ideas developed by the TAC committee at their last session. They led a respectful, open and collaborative discussion trying to better understand the issues outlined and then asked LeadingRE to help them prioritize the issues to be brought forth to the MLS Policy Committee.  They also invited further discussion on other concepts suggested by the LeadingRE beyond the four that were presented and approved on Saturday. During the MLS Issues and Policy Meeting at the NAR conference, representatives of the Emerging Issues committee did a masterful job of explaining each of the proposed rules changes in simple terms to make it easy for the audience to understand the value of each policy enhancement. Special thanks to Henry Brandis of HomeServices for doing a masterful job of representing the needs of brokers and franchises.  Jonathan Bednarsh, CEO of Onboard Informatics also did a great job outlining how the Web API will help create efficiency, speed and innovation for real estate technology companies and their broker clients. The MLS Policy Committee brought forth four well-thought out revisions to the IDX […]

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IDX Policies Proposed to Go More Broker-Friendly

by Marilyn Wilson on October 29, 2014

I am proud to say that WAV Group has been working with the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World to create a set of recommendations for ways to improve and update IDX policy. No, there have no bloody fights or name-calling on this one. Just a collaborative process led by Pam O’Connor, CEO of LeadingRE and the MLS Emerging Issues and Trends Committee. In April, LeadingRE sent a list of recommendations facilitated by WAV Group and drafted by their Technology Advisory Council of top Brokerage CIOs to NAR.  These were designed to streamline and update the NAR IDX Guidelines. The recommendations were outlined to reduce the disparity in IDX guidelines from one MLS to another. The policy variations create enormous challenges for brokerages – small and large – that need to belong to more than one MLS for their service areas. As a result of this outreach to NAR, LeadingRE was asked to meet on September 19 with the MLS Emerging Issues and Trends Committee, which makes recommendations to the MLS Committee for agenda items.  Following that meeting, LeadingRE was told that four of the recommendations outlined by them will be included in the MLS Committee agenda on November 8. As a concerned and involved member of our industry, WAV Group respectfully requests that you please pay particular attention to these recommendations and if possible, support them at the upcoming MLS Issues and Policy meeting to be held at the NAR conference on Saturday, November 8th starting at 8:30 am in the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel, Grand Salon C. Definition of IDX As a matter of clarification here’s the definition of IDX or Internet Data Exchange Policy as described on the Diverse Solutions Website: In a nutshell, Internet Data Exchange, most commonly referred to as IDX, is how MLS listings end up on a website. Also known as Broker Reciprocity, IDX encompasses the policies, rules, and software that allow listings from the MLS database to be displayed publicly. Anytime you see properties on a website that came from an MLS, it was made possible through IDX. Most real estate agents and brokers use IDX to simply display MLS listings or home search tools on their website, but as home buyers have become more Internet-savvy, IDX has evolved to encompass more.  Agents today have the option to use basic home search tools provided by their MLS, or build more advanced […]

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MyOnlineYardSign Attacks MLS IDX Policy

by Victor Lund on August 28, 2014

Generally speaking, real estate business media companies write pretty respectful commentary regarding the well-developed MLS IDX policy. Sure, the policy is a living document and the MLS Policy Committee is an open forum for clarifying the policy and amending it from time to time. But generally, it is a well adopted program that publically exemplifies cooperation among brokerage firms. Today, Travis Saxton of Real Trends promoted a product called MyOnlineYardSign. The product allows real estate agents and brokers to put contact information and the company logo on their photos for free. Watermarking of this type has been around for a long time and I think the product is exceptional for listings that are being syndicated. However, the article suggests that agents upload these photos to the MLS – which is a clear violation of every IDX policy in America. But wait, it gets better. The website, http://myonlineyardsign.com, goes on further to explain what agents should do if the MLS not approve the photos. On the resources page, http://myonlineyardsign.com/Resources they suggest that Talk to other agents in your office including your managing broker to call or write to the MLS Talk to other agents in other offices to call or write to the MLS Start a petition to the MLS I am more than a little surprised that the Real Trends article does not inform the agents or the broker that the photos would be a clear violation of IDX policy that will ignite disciplinary action agent the firm and the agent. Be that as it may, MLSs may want to put agents and brokers on notice about this company and remind them about the MLS policy that forbids this activity before it gets started. But in a larger sense, I do think that IDX policy could use some renewed thinking. Perhaps the stoic policy of tucking the listing broker and possibly the listing agent down at the bottom of the page has lived out its life.  Perhaps a discussion should be started about IDX following the broker fair display guidelines, or eliminating IDX all together. The consequences of brokers who want to tightly manage the display of listings online is a very slippery slope. It slides from the open range of anyone using the broker’s data for any purpose without restriction to the closed door of requiring that only a consumer working with an agent may ever view the listing. […]

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Brokers Should Audit Their MLS

by Victor Lund on December 30, 2013

2014 may well be the year of the broker, or as they are referred to in MLS speak, the year of the Participant. If your MLS has adopted the National Association of REALTORS® template for MLS Rules and Regulations, you will find that brokers are Participants and agents are Subscribers. As a Participant in the MLS, brokers accept full responsibility to adhere to MLS rules and regulations. The MLS does a pretty good job of enforcing those rules. But who among you is making sure that the MLS is not running afoul? WAV Group MLS clients are traditionally the largest MLSs in the nation. If the MLS has a member count of less than 2000, it is unlikely that WAV Group has ever facilitated a strategic plan for your MLS. From this perspective, WAV Group has learned that large MLSs rarely run afoul of staying current. The place to spend time auditing your MLS is the small MLS. These MLSs are unlikely to attend NAR’s National or Mid-year meetings where MLS policy evolves. They rely on NAR emails to stay current. Moreover, the MLS board of directors is also unlikely to stay current with MLS policy, which erodes their appreciation and ability to make informed policy decisions. Beyond NAR, there is also the Council of MLS or CMLS. This is the industry trade group for MLS executives that has regular meetings to discuss best practices of operating an MLS. Ask your MLS if they attend NAR Annual, Midyear, and CMLS meetings. The goal of this post is not to pick on small MLSs. The reality is that they do not have the resources to participate in all of these things. Where WAV Group discovers small MLSs that have fallen behind is when we audit large brokers for rules compliance. Large brokers proactively engage in an audit each year to make sure that all of their systems are in compliance with local rules and regulations. This process is as much a vendor audit as it is a broker audit. MLSs often change rules and the broker or vendor miss the memo on the rules change. Alternatively, the NAR rules change and the MLS does not revise their rules to keep current. Either way, the broker is out of compliance, and is liable for fines and other disciplinary action. WAV Group gathers the rules and regulations from each MLS then review all […]

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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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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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Is the MLS In Danger?

by Victor Lund on February 20, 2013

danger

I do not really know Alain Pinel as well as I would like to. He sold the company that bears his name and pursued other interests. He is back now and runs the Luxury division of Intero Real Estate, one of Alain Pinel Real Estate’s chief competitors in San Jose, along with Coldwell Banker and others. What I do know of Alain Pinel I like and respect a lot. I have a similar level of respect for the maverick efforts of Intero, who used passion combined with technology (AgentAchieve) to launch a powerful brokerage in a very competitive marketplace. In a blog post today, Alain Pinel asked – Is the MLS in Danger? He says: there are signs suggesting that the MLS is going through some mid-life crisis. (Non MLS transactions are) depriving most local Realtors of the ability to objectively judge values and trends listing agents who bring only a few of their peers in the loop, can nevertheless achieve the objective: the sale. They may even argue that the fact that they cooperate with only a few, creates some urgency among the select group we must respect the seller’s decision to withhold a listing from the mls (the MLS) has its own agenda you may wonder if the tail (the MLS) is not wagging the dog (The Broker). One thing is sure; the tail (The MLS)is now bigger than the dog (The Broker). many brokers think that the MLS is now eating their soup, somewhat competing with their business, and too zealous regarding new constraining rules MLSes which offer all their members a vast menu of state-of-the-art apps which compete with similar services that the finest companies created, at great cost, to differentiate themselves from other brokers more and more syndicated sites and real estate related service providers which feed off of the MLS, progressively divert the consumer from our sites to theirs and capture value-pieces of our business Intero operates the bulk of their company operations in MLS Listings, an expertly operated MLS covering Silicon Valley, San Jose, and Monterey. MLS Listings is somewhat unique in that their Board of Directors are brokers, and all of the large firms are represented, including Intero. This is important to understand in order to frame the gravity of Alain Pinel’s post. His thoughts are couched in a deep understanding of what MLSs do, and based largely upon his experience with an MLS that […]

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InmanConference

PHOENIX—According to sources currently seated in rows 14 through 18 aboard flight 763, two middle-aged REALTORS® are really hitting it off during the trip to Inman in New York. Using terms like “AVM” and “CMA,” the slightly overweight, average-looking men are reportedly engaged in a detailed discussion about overwhelmingly exciting work-related topics and, sources said, seem to be getting along great. “They got to talking as soon as we boarded, and you could tell they just clicked right away,” said 31-year-old Camille Catteano of 16B, adding that one of the men, upon looking up from his REALTOR Magazine™, immediately recognized the Keller Williams™ logo on the polo shirt of the man sitting down in the next seat. “Since then, they’ve been going on and on about Zestimates, Lead Generation, RPR, and commission splits.” I mean, just listen to them,” Catteano continued. “You’d think they were old pals. But they just met and just happen to both be in real estate.” Nearby passengers confirmed that the men, both wearing khaki pants with cell phones clipped to their belts, began the conversation by exchanging information about their respective listings and recent transactions. Reports indicated they then began to discuss various methods for “social networking” and “Search Engine Optimization” which appear to occupy a sizable portion of the day-to-day work in their profession. “I tuned them out for 30 minutes or so while listening to music, but when I took my headphones off, they were still going strong, chatting about some trade show they’ve both attended in Orlando,” said Marco Cruz, who occupies the row’s window seat, adding that the two joked about how difficult it was to get between meetings at all of the hotels around the convention center. “Then they got into how IDX policy standards have changed over the years and how listing syndication is really broken across the board, and at that point I dozed off.” Although sources reported a brief lull in the conversation when both men took out their laptops and began typing blog posts. The discussion is said to have picked up again after one of the men complained about his company’s efforts to write a blog, prompting both individuals to express their frustration that “its every agent for himself now” and “no one has offices with doors anymore.” “When I came around to their row with refreshments, they were so engrossed in conversation, talking about […]

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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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What is a participant

by Victor Lund on September 4, 2012

Arizona Broker University

NAR published revised guidelines this year that outline the definition of a Participant in the MLS. It is a long description, so I will put it at the end. One key element is that the mere possession of a broker’s license is not sufficient, the broker must actively endeavor to make or accept offers of cooperation and compensation with respect to properties of the type that are listed on the MLS. If you are an NAR affiliated MLS, you probably have already adopted this language and amended your rules and regulations. Some MLSs go further. They require the broker to take training. Some state Associations go even further, like in Arizona. Effective January 1, 2013, all designated brokers, self-employed brokers and associate brokers who have been delegated authority (in writing) to review contracts and similar instruments on behalf of the designated broker will be required to take a nine-hour broker management clinic (BMC). If you are within your two-year renewal period (meaning you must renew before August 2014), you are eligible to fulfill your BMC requirement by taking a three-hour clinic through December 2012. Definition of MLS Participant (Policy Statement 7.9) Where the term REALTOR® is used in this explanation of policy in connection with the word member or the word participant, it shall be construed to mean the REALTOR® principal or principals, of this or any other association, or a firm comprised of REALTOR® principals participating in a multiple listing service owned and operated by the board. Participatory rights shall be held by an individual principal broker unless determined by the association or MLS to be held by a firm. It shall not be construed to include individuals other than a principal or principals who are REALTOR® members of this or any other association, or who are legally entitled to participate without association membership. However, under no circumstances is any *Compensation is unconditional except where local MLS rules permit listing brokers to reserve the right to reduce compensation offers to cooperating brokers in the event that the commission established in a listing contract is reduced by court action or by actions of a lender. Refer to Part Two, G., Section 1, Information Specifying the Compensation on Each Listing Filed with a Multiple Listing Service of an Association of REALTORS®, Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy. (Adopted 11/98) individual or firm, regardless of membership status, entitled to MLS membership or participation unless they hold a current, […]

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Defense of Commissions

by Victor Lund on July 27, 2012

Dollar Signs with handshale

American business is founded on the principal that pricing for a product or service is based upon what a willing seller will accept, and what a willing buyer will pay. This happens on an individual basis with each transaction, and price fixing is not allowed. Recently, Casey William Hyland who purchased a home from a Home Services of America brokerage, Semonin REALTORS brought a suit challenging the 6% commission rates on real estate transactions. His claim indicated that the 6% rate was price fixing and is a Sherman Anti Trust Act Violation. When there are multiple transactions of commerce, pricing patterns emerge. Consider the grocery store shelf. Within a given product category of similar items, pricing becomes normalized around a price point, plus or minus 20%. This trend happens everywhere, in every industry, and well beyond the grocery isle. The Plaintiffs claims were articulated as follows: Defendant engaged in parallel behavior by charging a “standard or typical commission of “6%” for “virtually standardized Services;” and Defendants “are expressly aware of the fee charged by one another” via their membership in and organization of at least 28 Multiple Listing Services (“MLS”) in the Commonwealth; and Defendants require that the real estate brokers pay their franchisees the “regularly charged brokerage commission or fee” for any home that the brokers purchase for their own habitation. The Defendants have engaged in parallel pricing of real estate broker commissions since at least 1991 at a “standard” or “typical” 6% even though: (a) the costs of providing these services have decreased, and (b) the prices of real property in Kentucky have increased dramatically; and The Defendants have “an aggregate market share in excess of 70% and, in certain areas of the state, in excess of 90%; and The Defendants have “boycotted price cutting rivals, such as Help-U-Sell…a non-Internet based discount brokerage firm that recently began operating in Kentucky.” The court ruled in favor of Homes Services. The Plaintiff failed to satisfy parts of the Sherman Act Test which include (1) a contract, combination, or conspiracy; (2) restraint of trade; and (3) an effect on interstate commerce. There are many interesting considerations that come from reading about the facts in this case regarding the conduct of brokers and agents when they are discussing commissions and fees. Clearly our industry has found an economic balance around a commission of 6%. 6% represents much more compensation to the practitioner […]

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Brokers pulling out of IDX

by Victor Lund on July 25, 2012

Change-same

Game changers happen when businesses test radical strategies. When a company breaks from the pack they learn things that none of their competitors learn. They understand a strategy that nobody else as any experience with. They grow their business wisdom and often find new ways to edge out the competition. By studying the impacts of strategies like withdrawing from listing syndication; launching single listing websites or virtual tours; and, withdrawing from IDX, marketers can learn volumes about how these strategies impact their online strategy. Listing Syndication Strategies that work WAV Group has been studying listing syndication strategies for more than 7 years. The depth of the data that we have aggregated and the case studies that we have modeled has informed performance increases for brokerages nationwide. There are three strategies that have demonstrated effectiveness: Scarcity, Abundance, Data Variance. We have clients using every one of these and they all work. Using the correct strategy for your marketplace is key to success. How does the syndication strategy impact SEO This year, WAV Group is extending our research methodology to understand the impact that syndication strategy has on search engine optimization. The methodology is rather simple. Take a broker’s listing and check the first 4 pages of popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Record the website domains and the order in which they appear. Address search is known as “long tail search” and it is important for two reasons. First, the searcher is presumably more valuable because they are highly focused and already partially informed (they know the address). Secondly, the volume of these searches is immense. The findings are impressive. Once thing to remember is that many third party websites have every property in America on their website – active or off market. Why aren’t brokers doing this? Why aren’t MLSs helping? How do single listing websites and virtual tours impact SEO Nothing is more powerful for search engine optimization than purchasing the address domain name and launching a single listing website. Beyond that, a virtual tour done correctly does an excellent job of enhancing search engine optimization. Virtual Tours done right means that the tour is built in HTML, not flash. Virtual tours are dynamically created using MLS data on every listing and updated with IDX. Non-branded virtual tours are posted to the MLS and distributed through the IDX feed. All virtual tours are hosted on the broker […]

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Zillow brings battle to Listhub

by Victor Lund on July 3, 2012

ListingSyndicationsmall

Zillow launched a preemptive strike against Listhub yesterday by requesting IDX feeds from the nation’s MLS providers. Zillow Executive Bob Bemis sent an email to all MLS CEOs and Executives titled “Why two data feeds when one will do.” In the email, Bemis admits that Zillow.com is focused on improving data accuracy and timeliness. The note goes on to explain that Zillow’s IDX service, Diverse Solutions, already has the data, why not allow Zillow to use it for Zillow.com so Zillow can circumvent their reliance on Listhub data feeds. A battle ensued when Listhub got word that Zillow was calling them out on the frequency of listing updates.  The Bemis email stated: “Because of the multiple hands through which the data passes, it can sometimes be days before a revised listing reaches us for posting.” Listhub responded to the call out from Zillow in an email titled “Correcting Zillow’s recent communication regarding Listhub.” Listhub executive Luke Glass indicates that Listhub feeds data to Zillow every day, and moreover – Listhub has had a standing offer to send data feeds to Zillow every 6 hours, but Zillow refused. Glass goes on to talk about the disadvantages of sending listings directly to Zillow which include multiple broker syndication dashboards, increased complexity of brokers managing feed sources, customer support, and something about setting a precedent of using IDX for Syndication. Here is the deal. If Zillow or other publishers want to clean up their data, they can do so in two steps. First, they can only display data that comes from a broker (not franchise) combined with the Listhub or Point2 feed. Zillow is spoiling their data by accepting feeds from non-MLS sources as an action of their own will, including FSBO listings. Until they end this practice, their data will always be kludgy, Listhub aside. Secondly, any listing that has not been updated for a time certain (90 days?) could be purged from Zillow display. It would appear that some consumers have gotten wind that Zillow data is suspect. This represents a significant risk to the company’s long term success and reputation. I applaud them for trying to fix it. MLSs should take great care in their next steps. IDX is restricted for display on Participant and sometimes subscriber websites. Licensing broker data to a third party without the expressed consent of the broker is a serious matter. If you want to measure Zillow accuracy in your […]

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A Case of Concern Embedded Search and Display

by Victor Lund on May 14, 2012

facebook

There is some degree of discussion about the notion that the IDX rules may be expanded to support Embedded Search and Display on websites or displays not under the apparent control of the broker. I believe that this is too risky, too hard to control, and beyond the bounds of IDX as currently discussed. New thinking is needed and proposed herein. The foundation of new thinking is that MLSs may approve certain websites for embeddable display as a matter of local rule. Embedded Search and Display Defined Many real estate technology thinkers have discussed the suggestion of Embedded Search and Display. An embedded search and display is a technology solution that puts an application in a container, like an iFrame. Matt Cohen of Clareity Consulting has described the notion of an embedded search and display as a solution to putting listings on sites like Facebook. Cohen proposes that a Broker or Agent may embed an IDX compliant solution under their actual control on a site not under the Displaying Broker’s apparent control. Cohen suggests that this method is prudent to address the interest our industry recognizes for publishing listings on social media sites, like Facebook. Consultant and legal counselor Brian Larson recognizes that if an Embedded Search and Display were on Facebook, the IDX data would be in a tidy container under the broker’s control, not published on the Facebook website. This is a great thesis. This embeddable IDX display would solve the concern about a broker sending the IDX data to a third party, which is prohibited in the IDX rules. Here, Larson makes an important distinction that honors a core covenant of participant control outlined in todays IDX rules. Namely, if the embedded display is under the control of the broker and the data is not being provided to a third party, the data it is safe even when presented on a website not under the control of the IDX participant. Although this construct would keep the data safe, it does not go far enough. The genesis of intent in the IDX rules, in not allowing an IDX participant to provide data to a third party, was somewhat designed to address the notion that a broker may not “resell data,” or otherwise benefit from the data set at the expense other participant beyond usage on their own consumer website. While I do not believe that an embedded display […]

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Why Innovation Fails To Change Real Estate

by Victor Lund on February 21, 2012

Innovation Curve

Every year, real estate sees the launch of beautiful products, offering awesome features, advantages, and benefits. Excellent marketing programs back them and the press creates a jubilee – Innovator of the Year! Then the product launches, and the industry shrugs its shoulder. It is the conundrum of new product development and innovation for real estate. Most of these companies are doing everything right. They are doing research, spotting trends, holding focus groups, testing usability, and modeling lovely financials. If they can only get 1% adoption of this, or 3% of that, revenues will be awesome. There are 1 Million real estate agents; hundreds of thousands of brokers transacting trillions of dollars in transactions, buying $6 Billion dollars of technology in the United States alone! Wait until we go International! Canada is next! For most innovators, this never happens. The drawing on the napkin was flawed. What did they miss? Surely such a great product should have found success by accident. So, they go after it again. They get a few customers with a great social media-marketing program. Really connect with a group of excited agent and broker evangelists, hit a couple of more trade shows announcing how the early adopters are crushing it. More shoulder shrugging. Many outsiders look at the real estate industry and believe that it is ripe for disruption. It looks old. It looks slow. It looks easy. When you contrast the real estate industry with other industries, all of the foundational elements that trigger change and give birth to disruption are there. The industry really has not changed, ever. Sure, there was that shift from MLS books to electronic MLS; from newspaper advertising to website advertising; from chasing keys to lockboxes; and from paper forms to electronic forms. That is really about all that has changed. Innovation has happened very slowly and only because……

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