Generally speaking, real estate business media companies write a 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. There are many steps along the grade of the slope including VOW, IDX, and Syndication. Today’s broker and agent may select the step they like for all of their listings or on a listing-by-listing basis. It may not be the tidiest of hillsides, but it allows competition to flourish as it may.
Good article! Well done and surprising to see that coming from our friends at RealTrends. But I think, as you suggest, that it points to a much larger issue, IDX rules need to be updated or eliminated altogether. When rules like these inhibit real estate professionals from doing things that syndicators can do with virtually the same data common sense tells us that something needs to change. Of course common sense has not necessarily been the guiding light in our industry at the policy level, has it?
A Brokerage has three primary assets. Order them in the way you see fit:
1. Its hard earned reputation
2. Its Associates/Realtors
3. Its listings
Before the Internet we had to ask the listing broker’s permission to be able to advertise one of her/his listings. Mostly we did not do this because of cost considerations of a newspaper/magazine ad. Viola, enter the Internet and we are falling all over each other to get the maximum exposure for our listings and to top it off, we wanted to make sure that the consumer would use “me” to buy someone else’s listing. Even the non-producer with knowledge of Internet marketing could easily mislead the consumer into thinking that they were very active and highly regarded in their market place – because they had “so many listings”. The small disclaimer at the bottom is not what the consumer is focused on.
Zillow, Trulia, R.com and others became the “go to sites” for real estate because of their incredible marketing power. Not because they spent the time and effort to secure the listings that the consumers want to see. The consumer today believes that the portal on which they are viewing the properties is the ultimate source of reliable real estate information. How many times have prospective buyers told the Realtor that they didn’t know the market because the Zestimate said that the property was worth X% or X$ less or more.
I have never seen Walmart advertise CVS’s products and services. It is time to review these policies which allow my competitors to thrive from my hard work. I don’t have anything against cooperation through the MLS. However, I do not want to enable my competitors to use my assets to promote herself/himself. Let the Broker brand her/his “asset”.
Thank you for the commentary we are happy you took notice and I understand your points. At breakthroughbroker.com and myonlineyardsign, we understand the underlying spirit of IDX. As former broker/owners of a mid-sized independent brokerage we too saw benefit from MLS policy and IDX ideology. Our goal is not to undermine the MLS or spirit of IDX, our goal is to enable the listing agent and brokerage to be branded throughout syndication. We would like the industry to look towards the future. Zillow will spend nearly 60 million dollars this year (probably more) in conditioning the consumer to search on their site. As an agent and a company we feel branding should be where the consumer is. And more than likely it will not be on the agent or company website. I realize that is not a popular viewpoint but it is the likely reality. We would hope MLS’s would consider a “best of both worlds” scenario. A progressive MLS could syndicate branded photos and leave the unbranded for IDX. We will also advocate to our breakthroughbroker.com user base to direct load their branded photos to zillow and any other syndication sites that allow. Yes, in our resource section we also advocate having the agents start a conversation with their MLS. We are always happy to discuss our stance on these topics and would encourage open dialogue. Thanks again Victor.