24 REALTOR® JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014 REALTORMAG.REALTOR.ORG
Do You Know Where Your Listings Are?
As relationships between MLSs, aggregators, syndicators, and
brokerages shift, pay close attention to what happens after your listings
are entered into the MLS. It’s your data, after all. By Meg White
Everyone knows that the listing agent’s duty is to get property
sold under the best conditions for the seller. Usually that means
getting the listing in front of as many eyeballs as possible. But
spreading your data far and wide can have unforeseen consequences. “A lot of folks don’t know where their data is going,”
says Kip Cooper, CEO of the Huntsville (Ala.) Area Association
of REALTORS® and the North Alabama Multiple Listing Service.
“They just set the dial and forget about it.”
After hearing from frustrated members—including one
whose listing was next to a video explaining how to buy and sell
property without the help of a real estate agent—the association
decided it needed a different approach to distributing its data. It
was time to “take control of the information,” he says.
The North Alabama Multiple Listing Service took one route—
ending an agreement with a company that distributes listing
data to more than 50 websites—but there are almost as many
distribution scenarios as there are listings at any given time.
From a “pocket listing” with no public exposure to a listing
advertised on a public-facing MLS site, brokers’ sites and
feeds, realtor.com®, Zillow, Trulia, Homes.com, and the local
newspaper site, or some combination thereof, the possibilities
are virtually endless.
The one thing nearly everyone can agree on is that sellers
should have the final say as to where their property is advertised online. To make an informed decision, they’ll need your
guidance. That starts with understanding syndication—the
process of distributing listing data to online portals.
Typically, when you enter listing data, including photos and
video, into your MLS, you have options regarding just how the
MLS and other MLS participants will use your content. The Na-
tional Association of REALTORS®’ Internet Data Display (IDX)
and Virtual Office Website (VOW) policies authorize electronic
display of listing content by other cooperating participants
under specific rules. The policies also say a broker’s listing
content can’t be transferred to a third-party site without the
listing broker’s consent. The purpose is to ensure that brokers
retain control over where their listing content appears and that
the data is up-to-date.
But such safeguards aren’t necessarily in place when it
comes to data aggregators (sometime referred to as portals,
sites that display listings from several sources) or syndicators
(those who push listing data out to other sites). Displays that
aren’t governed by the MLS rules or controlled by a person
connected with the transaction can easily become out-of-date
or contain inaccurate information, as any agent who’s had to
answer e-mails from excited buyers inquiring about a home
that sold months before can wearily attest. Finally, there’s
almost zero control to be had over the information posted by
data “scrapers,” who lift listing data and often post it far and
wide without any rights to do so.
Syndication: It’s Complicated
MLSs have been syndicating their data to aggregators since
1996, when realtor.com® put the real estate industry at the
center of the burgeoning dot-com world. Today, a majority of
MLSs syndicate their data under the premise that it’s the best
way to reach consumers where they’re shopping. Syndicators
like ListHub and Point2 make it relatively easy, delivering data
to dozens of aggregators including the big three—Zillow, Trulia,
and realtor.com®—and providing analytics to MLS participants.