danger sign We have learned over the last half-decade of doing listing syndication that it is complicated, especially for firms that have multiple offices, multiple associations, multiple MLSs, and possibly a franchise or network. We call this overlapping syndication disorder and the existence of this disorder can lead to syndication fraud.

Last month, Amy Gallagher of Century 21® Hometown Realty in California encountered a fraud attempt that was blocked by ListHub. This is an important component of our service that you may not be aware of. Gallagher’s firm participates in three primary MLSs along the central coast of California and is also a franchise of Century 21. All three MLSs offer listing syndication and so does Century 21. Because the firm’s listings overlap in some MLS areas (same listing in multiple MLSs), they choose to use the ListHub service offered through their Century 21 franchise as their primary syndication tool. Gallagher has a ListHub account in each MLS, but has the listing syndication turned off.

In June of 2014, Gallagher received an email stating that her new ListHub account in a certain MLS was requested. The ListHub team alerted her that someone was using her broker credentials to try to create a ListHub account. The effort was blocked. “Without this fraud alert feature in ListHub, our listings could have been taken over and abusively syndicated!”

Since over 90% of consumers begin their home search online, it is essential that technology is available to support real estate professionals who choose to advertise their listings online within a safe environment. And if brokers want to block syndication there should be a mechanism to support this option as well.

ListHub, a leading technology-provider used by more than 450 MLSs and 50,000+ brokers in the United States, is a good example of a managed syndication platform. ListHub is controlled solely by the broker-in-charge and connected directly to the MLS. With ListHub, for example, only the broker-in-charge can decide where the company’s listings are being distributed online, or if they are distributed at all. ListHub has protective measures in place to help brokers prevent listing fraud including the ability to block syndication for your office codes, ensuring that no other broker or agent is able to fraudulently syndicate your listings via ListHub.

A little background to understand how this works… The ListHub platform is set up so that when a broker account is configured ListHub pulls the listings based on the office codes in the MLS, provided by the broker. When a broker creates an account a ListHub technician validates that the person who created the account is in fact the head broker-in-charge before enabling syndication. Once the broker-in-charge is confirmed, only the broker can make selections about where to distribute the company’s listings online. If an agent or associate broker attempted to create a separate ListHub account with the company’s same office codes the ListHub customer care team would block the account and trigger an alert to the broker-in-charge to let them know someone had attempted to create an account on their company’s behalf. This extra measure of protection protects the broker legally and prevents fraud.

According to a study conducted by ListHub in 2013, about 50% of ListHub broker customers choose to send their listings to all of the publishers in the ListHub network, while other ListHub customers selectively pick and choose where to send their listings. Either way, the choice is up to the broker. For those who prefer to block syndication completely the broker-in-charge simply create a free ListHub account and opt-out of all of the publishers in the ListHub network. This only takes a few minutes and will ensure that your listings are not sent to any of the 60+ national property publishers via ListHub’s MLS-sourced syndication. It will also prevent anyone else from creating a ListHub account to syndicate your company’s listings. “We are not in the business of telling brokers how to manage their online marketing” says Celeste Starchild, VP and General Manager of ListHub, “syndication is an individual business decision. We simply provide a platform to do it responsibly, within a broker-controlled environment where the listings are protected by ListHub’s contractual agreements with each publisher. Either way, the choice is the brokers.”

Below are the steps to take to prevent MLS-level syndication through ListHub so that no other person/s can create a fraudulent account on your behalf:

  1. Create free ListHub account
  2. Click the “Marketing Choices” tab in the ListHub account
  3. Make sure that all of the publishers you DO NOT want your listings sent to are deselected under the “My Publishers” sub-tab
  4. Check that all of your office codes are include by clicking “Settings” link in the upper right hand corner then “Manage Offices.” You can view the office codes currently included and add additional office codes as needed.

There are safe ways to syndicate to ensure that the data is used properly. If your company does syndicate, it is always recommended that brokers choose one method for syndication. Having multiple data feeds only contributes to online inaccuracy and potential legal risk. Take the time to educate your agents about your syndication choices and where their listings are being distributed. Make sure that your agents are not duplicating distribution through other companies that offer syndication outside of your company’s designated syndication platform, like website providers or virtual tour vendors. Agents can continue to use those services but should request that they disable syndication.

For more information visit ListHub’s Syndication Reference Guide.