New brokers emerge every day in America’s MLS. They sign the MLS participation agreement and review the rules that outline cooperation and the offer of compensation. There is a lengthy portion of the participation agreement that discusses the broker’s right to access the shared MLS database as long as they are good stewards of that data. They also learn that there are technology vendors who can access that data on their behalf as long as the broker supervises the vendor to assure that they are also good stewards of that data.

You might be shocked that only a handful of MLSs in the nation has a page on their public website that provides information on how to access these data feeds. That is the problem that the Council of MLS is endeavoring to resolve with the publication of the MLS Data Access Marketing Guide. I found the title to the paper a bit curious because the term marketing insinuates something that is being sold. Many MLSs do charge fees to cover the costs of administrating programs like IDX and VOW, so I guess that it is a service that is sold.

CMLS data access best practices

The MLS Data Access Marketing Guide was compiled by issuing a survey to 258 professionals from the MLS and technology vendor community in collaboration with the Real Estate Standards Organization. The survey provided a laundry list of information that would be convenient to access on the MLS’ public website rather than through a phone call or locked behind a password wall. The list includes contact info for the data feed approval, transport method (Web API, RETS), Contact for technical support, links to MLS rules, regulations, data use policy, display rules, explanation of approval process, link to data access and licensing agreement, link to sample data model (standard and custom fields), link to fee structure for the vendor, agent, broker, expected timeline for approvals, and the RESO Data Dictionary and Web API certification levels. These items were considered important or most important by survey respondents. Pretty good list.

Trade organizations like the Council of MLS are wise to suggest minimum standards and best practices. Unlike the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® who governs the operations and rules of most MLSs in America, the Council does not have any ability to enforce standards. The hope is that MLSs will review this paper and respond by putting up a page on their website to outline some key areas of information that brokers or their vendors will need to get started on the right path to licensing and utilizing MLS data.