Yup, that is the call of the wild.
Organized online real estate is facing the biggest change since the launch of IDX, and the seeds of that change are already beginning to sprout.
The Department of Justice settlement with the National Association of REALTORS instigated changes to VOW or Virtual Office Website policies for the display of listings on an agent or broker website. Although the settlement did little to change the IDX or Internet Data Exchange policies, it may have that unintended consequence as MLSs grapple with the best way for VOW data to be displayed.
In essence, any data in the MLS system that an agent may share with a consumer must be provided to any participant broker for display on their virtual office website. To understand this more clearly, IDX data typically excluded information that agents to provide to consumers through CMA reports – competitive market analysis – which include sold data, tax data, days on market, etc.
The simplest explanation of the differences between IDX and VOW on a website is simply that VOW websites require registration by the consumer, and the consumer must indicate the intent to use that a real estate agent or broker in a transaction. Here are the implications as we see them.
Sold Data, Days on Market, Tax Data, and frankly – any other data that is in the MLS that is not market confidential must now be made available to brokers to display on VOW websites. We look forward to watching as MLSs change their policies to get in line with these new requirements.
Two ways to go.
One path that MLSs can take is to allow brokers to display all data fields by modifying their IDX policies – allow the display of sold data and days on market and all other non-confidential data through IDX. Hence, all data not marked confidential in the MLS may be displayed in IDX eliminating the need for VOW policies. Northwest MLS is moving in this direction by allowing Days on Market and Sold data to be displayed on broker sites through IDX
Another path MLSs can take is to adopt clear VOW policies and require consumers to register to get that information.
What is the big deal?
It is unlikely that agents will find themselves building CMAs Competitive Market Analysis in the future. Real Estate technology companies are likely to deliver a bounty of CMA applications that the consumer can customize.
Brokers will be able to compete with Zillow and others by offering consumers Automated Valuation tools to construct an opinion of a property value without the help of an agent.
Public data from the MLS that was previously hidden from consumers will now be shared.
The saddest part……
Organized real estate has invested millions of dollars and years of development pulling information together to assist REALTORS in helping consumers buy and sell property in the best possible way. Now the Department of Justice is requiring the industry to share that freely with consumers.
I think that the industry and consumers are about to enter into a period of confusion. Consumers will have more information than they will know what to do with. Agents will need to spend a lot of time informing their customers on how to interpret all of this information.
The best part……
Change always leads to opportunity. There are many companies who have developed outstanding VOW products. Leaders like Listingbook, Fidelity, Wolfnet, First American, Clean Offer and others should see instant attraction to their products as the industry upgrades from IDX sites to IDX/VOW combination websites.
There is no sense in debating the topic any longer. The future is here and the industry is about to adjust to the new world of sharing MLS data with the consumer.