I have to tell you that every time I think about the MLS Policy Meeting at this year’s NAR Conference in New Orleans, it puts a big smile on my face. For the first time that I’ve witnessed, four important, but fundamental changes were made to the IDX policy with absolutely UNIVERSAL acceptance. Brokers, MLS Executives, Associations and Technology Companies also spoke from one voice about the relevance and importance of the changes that were proposed and approved. Check out my blog post from a few weeks ago to see the details about what was approved at that time. In a nutshell there were four new policies adopted:
· Adopting the RESO Data Dictionary and offering an API by January, 2016
· Allowing co-mingling of data among multiple MLSs on one broker site
· Requiring data be updated every 12 hours instead of every 3 days as the previous policy stated
· Requiring each MLS to offer brokers the ability to include solds in their IDX feed as desired; an exemption of this rule were included for non-disclosure states
Now that we’ve proven as an industry that we CAN actually work together to get things done, we don’t want to lose the momentum. There are still several more areas of opportunity for brokers, MLSs and technology companies to work together to strengthen a broker’s ability to attract and engage potential customers on their websites.
Just to catch you up quickly if you haven’t followed the story, Pam O’Connor, CEO of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World engaged the WAV Group to help work with her organization’s TAC (Technology Advisory Council) to come up with practical suggestions about how to help make IDX feeds work harder for brokers that use them. Below are the remaining areas of opportunity that were outlined. I would love your input to help us prioritize the next round of IDX policy enhancements that we should focus on.
In the wise words of Henry Ford, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
Let me know what you think.
The remaining areas to be addressed as outlined by LeadingRE brokers are outlined below.
The policy suggestions center around three overarching tenets to the suggestions we are making: Consistency, Timeliness and Flexibility. Below are excerpts from the letter that was sent to the MLS Issues and Policy Committee for consideration:
While we certainly appreciate the fact that local real estate markets have unique requirements, we believe that it is time for every MLS across the country to recognize the need for more consistency in their policies. While local IDX policies are modeled after the national IDX policies, there are local nuances that can make it very difficult for brokerages to operate efficiently and effectively in more than one MLS region without investing in deep technology resources to help “normalize” information. We would highly recommend that the MLS Policy Committee consider the following methods for creating more consistency across all MLSs.
Nationwide, consistent IDX Policy devoid of local nuances
Leading Real Estate Companies of the World would like to recommend a fundamental change from locally approved IDX policies. We would like to suggest that the MLS Policy Committee rollout one standard IDX policy and eliminate the need for continual updates to local policies. The policies that need to be set should help vendor partners and brokers maintain/display the information in an effective and efficient manner to reduce costs and minimize complicated processes. We believe that a consistent national policy would spur technology innovation, and geographic expansion for some brokers. We would like to request that the Committee pay particular attention to the areas of the policy that affect Data Display.
While there is a model IDX policy already in place, our members tell us that they see many variations in their local markets.
While most IDX policies do require reciprocity to display the listing broker, the specifics about the display vary greatly. We would like to request a rule that will require a standard set of listing display rules for all MLS’s. One standard makes it easier to monitor for compliance.
Access to Historical Data for Internal Purposes
While not normally covered by an IDX policy, many brokers have the need to access historical data for their own internal evaluation purposes. Many of our brokers have requested access to historical data for their own use and have been turned down. We would like to suggest that the MLS Policy Committee add a nationwide requirement to provide historical data to brokers in good standing for internal use only.
While we truly appreciate the efforts made by many MLSs to protect the listing data online, we would like to suggest that the committee consider implementing a standardized data security policy to be followed by all MLSs. In addition, we would like to request that the policy be considerate of the need to keep images clean of obvious watermarks that detract from the quality of the image.
VOW Policy Suggestions
According to the brokers in our network, there is a huge variance in the level of support and understanding of VOW websites among MLSs. When asked for approval for a VOW website some MLSs simply say NO, not recognizing there is a legal mandate in place for ALL MLSs to provide this type of data feed. Leading Real Estate Companies of the World would like the MLS Policy Committee to devise a plan to help every MLS understand they are required to provide a VOW feed.
In addition, there are different MLS policies for validating the customer relationship and auditing for VOW feeds. Our brokers would be interested in the MLS Policy Committee’s leadership in identifying a consistent method for validating the customer relationship and auditing processes.
Timeliness is the next overarching goal we would like to see the MLS Policy address. Our members experience huge variations in the amount of time it takes to receive approval for a data feed as well as differences in the speed in which data updates are made available. We would like the committee to consider the following changes to the IDX policy.
No more than 3 to 5 Business Day Approvals
Some of our members tell us that it can take them up to 3 months or LONGER to get an approval on an IDX feed request. These delays can happen because some associations have an IDX approval committee that meets quarterly and that is the only way an IDX feed can be approved.
We would like to suggest that the policy add a ruling that IDX feeds for members in good standing must be approved in no more than 3 to 5 business, not including holidays. Since brokers cannot survive today without competing online we believe that it is their best interest to gain approval of a data feed quickly.
To ensure that the policy is truly being met by all MLSs, we would like to suggest that there is a $100 per instance rebate to the broker/agent by the MLS if they exceed the approval timeline without specific communication to the broker telling them the reason for the delay. This will require a change in policy by some MLSs, but we believe that this change is in the best interest of REALTORS®.
As we are all well aware, brokers are faced with formidable competitors online today. Third party sites are well funded and have a laser focus on continually evolving their sites to meet the ever-changing information needs of consumers. The brokers of our network would like to suggest some revisions to the IDX policy that will allow brokers to apply their own powerful methods of marketing properties and their brand.
There is also inconsistency with the ability for brokers to feature advertising next to their IDX data feeds. Since online marketing is becoming more competitive and more expensive every day, our brokers would like to suggest that the MLS Policy Committee add a clause to allow all brokers to feature advertising next to their listings if they so choose. This clause would NOT allow for agents to be featured on listings other than their own or in any way undermine the spirit of cooperation which is the key underpinning of the IDX concept.
Real estate consumers are very interested in additional information about a home once they find one that interests them. They would like to know about the school districts, walkability, local economy, weather patterns and many other types of information. Brokers would like to be able to freely share this information within the body of a listing since research proves that’s where consumers are most interested in looking at it.
To date, many MLSs do not allow any value added content or supplemental information to be shared on a listing detail page. We would like to ask the MLS Committee to re-visit this area and see if there can be more opportunities for brokers to provide their clients with the information that will help them make a better real estate decision.
Allow Brokers to Submit Data via API
In markets like Dallas and a recent announcement in Southern California by CRMLS, brokers have the option of pushing all of their listings to their local MLS via an API. The Leading Real Estate Companies of the World would like the MLS Policy to consider adding this option to MLS sample rules. The rules could also include requirements for all listings to be compliant with all data policies.
We thank you very much for your consideration of these important matters. If you would like to have a further discussion of any or all of the issues mentioned above, I will be happy to schedule some time to talk to our taskforce.
We would love to get your feedback on what you believe are the next four priorities that should be fleshed out and pursued. Also, if you believe there are topics that the taskforce missed, please send us those as well. We promise we will run them up the flagpole for discussion right along with the ideas that have already been outlined. If you would like to discuss these ideas in more detail feel free to drop me an email at Marilyn@wavgroup.com or call me at 805 748-9118.