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Thread: Letter to MLS

  1. #1
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    Default Letter to MLS

    Not sure of how much feedback/interest is to be gotten here, since it seems most OR members are more of technical participants than they are in the real estate business, also considering OR is not just for real estate, but I figured I'd post this here anyway. If I post this on a real estate site, most brokers/agents have very little technical know how of how IDX/RETS even works, which is why they just hire out the help. So I'm not sure I'd get any feedback there either.

    I have been getting many requests from customers to see homes that are not in my IDX feed and therefore, not on my Open Realty site. Hmmm...how in the world could that be? I pay huge sums of money each month and yearly fees for MLS membership. I even put the data in the MLS personally, for the listings that I have. Since these MLS listings are now cooperative and have broker reciprocity, I should have access to them via IDX, right? Not exactly.

    After investigating each and every last one of those MLS numbers I've been given by my customers, sure enough, those listings were listed with R.com. So how is it that R.com has all of these "extra" listings and I don't? Some goof with the IDX export? IDXManager import mess up? No and no. It's actually like that by design.

    In my mls account, buried deep in the account settings, are two options: 1. is to deny all IDX export of a participant's listings, and 2., just under that setting is an option to allow all listings to be exported to R.com. If that's not an unfair advantage given to R.com then I don't know what is.

    What makes this particularly bad, aside from looking a lot like an unfair trade practice, is the only difference between a listing showing up on R.com vs an IDX site, is that on R.com, the listing broker is the *only* contact entity for the "cooperative" listing (need I say double commission?)

    I kindly sent a letter to the mls concerning this combination of settings. Wonder how this will pan out?

    With kind regards.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Letter to MLS

    If by "R.com" you mean Realtor® (dot) com, you will find that they have a very exclusive arrangement (via each MLS and the NAR) that requires all dues paying members (i.e. every member Realtor®) to allow the MLS to forward ALL listings to R.com.

    If you buy one of their web site packages, I believe you will get all the listings for your area, go figure.

    Your MLS will probably tell you that this is how things are, suck it up, and keep paying your membership fees.

    There are good reasons the NAR and MLS boards are hauled into court by the DOJ almost every year. If more Brokers and Agents got vocally upset about the typical anti-competitive business practices that are so common to the RE biz, (by attending meetings to gripe) something might get done. First you'd have to boot all of the old-schoolers off your boards, and put people in place who are not just in it for themselves.

    You could also always stop paying to belong to the cartel, find some like-minded individuals, and call yourselves "Real Estate Professionals".
    "Much of what looks like rudeness in hacker circles is not intended to give offense. Rather, it's the product of the direct, cut-through-the-BS communications style that is natural to people who are more concerned about solving problems than making others feel warm and fuzzy."

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Letter to MLS

    Quote Originally Posted by the_sandking View Post
    If by "R.com" you mean Realtor® (dot) com, you will find that they have a very exclusive arrangement (via each MLS and the NAR) that requires all dues paying members (i.e. every member Realtor®) to allow the MLS to forward ALL listings to R.com.

    If you buy one of their web site packages, I believe you will get all the listings for your area, go figure.
    Not sure what you mean by "get." I just want the full deck of cards that Realtor® (dot) com gets via my IDX. My Open Realty site has more functionality to offer customers than r.com does, and will soon have a tax database as well. I even rank higher in Google for just about any street address and/or subdivision than they do. So who needs their site? I don't.

    Your MLS will probably tell you that this is how things are, suck it up, and keep paying your membership fees.
    My guess is they'll either ignore me (forcing it to go to a higher entity), or play dumb. I just wish there was a way to do it anonymously, because they don't view change as constructive, they view change as an attack. That won't work wonders for my symbiotic relations. This is why even the few Brokers who are "in the know" don't rise up. We're having to choose our battles.

    There are good reasons the NAR and MLS boards are hauled into court by the DOJ almost every year. If more Brokers and Agents got vocally upset about the typical anti-competitive business practices that are so common to the RE biz, (by attending meetings to gripe) something might get done. First you'd have to boot all of the old-schoolers off your boards, and put people in place who are not just in it for themselves.
    I hear you on that. The problem with Brokers and Agents is that the vast majority of them are technology ignorant. They're doing good just figuring out how to open a lockbox (while many end up locking my key in the house when they leave. I even coined my own phrase- "Key redundancy": I keep two lockboxes at each property for not *if* they lose them, but *when*). Those agents/brokers would have to know and understand that there is a problem before they can rise up against it.

    Boot the old-schoolers - I wish. I even tried offering my time (as if I have spare time...but I'd create spare time in lieu of complaining, in an effort to make a positive difference.) The response was, "well, you'd have to serve on many committees first, just to show that you know how the organization works, then once we see that you've been putting in the time on different related committees, you *may* qualify for a seat on the local committee." Can you believe the seat I was interested in was a technical seat? How many IT professionals making six figures are walking around with spare time to be on real estate committees? They should have jumped at the chance to have one ask them to be on it for free that way they could get advice from someone *other* than an outside paid consultant. It's no wonder they're in the shape they are in if that's their search criteria.

    You could also always stop paying to belong to the cartel, find some like-minded individuals, and call yourselves "Real Estate Professionals".
    Believe me, if there was a way, I'd take it. But then I wouldn't be in the Real Estate Broker business anymore, I'd be in the MLS business.

    With kind regards.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Letter to MLS

    Quote Originally Posted by mrealty View Post
    Not sure what you mean by "get." I just want the full deck of cards that Realtor® (dot) com gets via my IDX. My Open Realty site has more functionality to offer customers than r.com does, and will soon have a tax database as well. I even rank higher in Google for just about any street address and/or subdivision than they do. So who needs their site? I don't.
    R.com receives their own separate feed. It's completely separate and superior to an IDX feed. Unless something has changed recently, no one can opt-out of having their listings in the R.com feed, and it's the data source they use to populate the web sites they sell to Brokers and Agents (who also already pay dues to the NAR).

    Quote Originally Posted by mrealty View Post

    I hear you on that. The problem with Brokers and Agents is that the vast majority of them are technology ignorant.
    This really does not have anything to to with tech, and everything to do with business, and not being able to compete on an equal playing field because the deck is stacked. The people at the head of most MLS boards even if they were tech savvy would not change tack, because most are only on the board to realize their own agendas.

    Quote Originally Posted by mrealty View Post

    Believe me, if there was a way, I'd take it. But then I wouldn't be in the Real Estate Broker business anymore, I'd be in the MLS business.
    Exactly, form your own "co-op" of sorts and vote with your dollars. I don't know about where you live/work but places like "Assist To $ell" are growing like mad and in many places in the West where I have RE clients the local MLS boards literally beg the Brokers and Agents working in those shops to become members.
    "Much of what looks like rudeness in hacker circles is not intended to give offense. Rather, it's the product of the direct, cut-through-the-BS communications style that is natural to people who are more concerned about solving problems than making others feel warm and fuzzy."

    "We gotta' go to the crappy town where I'm a hero!"
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    "When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front-row seat.."
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Letter to MLS

    R.com receives their own separate feed. It's completely separate and superior to an IDX feed. Unless something has changed recently, no one can opt-out of having their listings in the R.com feed, and it's the data source they use to populate the web sites they sell to Brokers and Agents (who also already pay dues to the NAR).
    The MLS participants most certainly can opt out of r.com and it's been that way since I've had an account (see attached pic). You better believe there's an option for a seller to exclude himself from r.com if he so wishes. If it's not visible in the broker's mls account, it is most certainly a special request put in to the mls vendor. Brokers would be in all sorts of legal messes if we said, "we'll sell your house, but we are putting it on R.com no matter what you say."

    The r.com feed is not superior by any comparison (unless you are talking about the excluded listings if opted by the participants) to that of my IDX feed. I'm only missing one field that r.com has, and I took care of gaining it by a "creative means" since it was not a mandatory exclusion field in my 21 pages of requirements. R.com is missing roughly 8 fields that I carry. My data/feed is superior to *any* national or local site, thanks to OR and the list of addons below. They also have a max of 4 photos from the mls (unless the agent purchases additional services from r.com) and my mls contains a max of 12 (no limit in Open Realty so I can add as many as I want - even on other broker's listings if they request it.).

    This really does not have anything to to with tech, and everything to do with business, and not being able to compete on an equal playing field because the deck is stacked. The people at the head of most MLS boards even if they were tech savvy would not change tack, because most are only on the board to realize their own agendas.
    If you attempt to fix it from the outside: Being able to understand a problem before you can take a stand for or against it has everything to do with tech; this is a technical issue [IDX]. Have an average Joe agent read this, and then have him translate. The response would be, "huh?" So if he doesn't get it, he's not interested. His action will be directly proportionate to his interest, especially if I cannot quickly and easily translate it into net profit. I agree with you on the rest.

    If you attempt to fix it from the inside: Are you closely acquainted and/or related to anyone on an MLS Board/Committee? I am with several. I'm good at reading people as well. I wouldn't come up with an easy conspiracy theory such as, "the majority don't want change because they have their own agendas." Everybody has an agenda. I would give you a few good reasons that make more sense as to why they don't change:

    1. they have major social issues and don't play well with others. The only social group I've seen in the USA that is a typical exception, is military. Typically with military groups there is respect, honor, and discipline within groups.
    2. they are technology ignorant. How will they want to change it if they don't understand it?
    3. they are typically "status quo" types who have an "I'm not getting paid to do this attitude" and don't want to rock the boat because they want everyone to "like" them.

    I'll check out a$$ist to $ell. I've seen a few of their signs around my area but never looked into it.

    With kind regards.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Letter to MLS

    Quote Originally Posted by mrealty View Post
    The MLS participants most certainly can opt out of r.com and it's been that way since I've had an account.

    The r.com feed is not superior by any comparison (unless you are talking about the excluded listings if opted by the participants)
    It's not like that everywhere, and I have only once seen where the Broker can opt-out of the R.com feed themselves using the MLS's Vendor (backend) listing system, and that was in Florida. In some places R.com has almost twice the number of listing data fields as the local MLS provided via its IDX program. In some cases street addresses (for example) that are not included in a local IDX feed for whatever reason get exported to R.com.

    If R.com contains more listings than an IDX feed for the same area, it is superior in that it has an unfair advantage by simply having more listings and because they are working outside the reciprocity program and its rules, the rules that you will get crucified for for not following. When they have better quality listing data, i.e. more fields or fields that are "restricted" from a local IDX feed, it makes you wonder how that ever became a decision that benefits the local MLS members.

    Quote Originally Posted by mrealty View Post
    Brokers would be in all sorts of legal messes if we said, "we'll sell your house, but we are putting it on R.com no matter what you say."
    They don't have to say it, it's usually in the fine print of the Agreement the seller signs when they list a property. It does not say R.com specifically, but phrases such as "local & National internet marketing endeavors" are used. Again, maybe it is different where you are.

    Quote Originally Posted by mrealty View Post
    Are you closely acquainted and/or related to anyone on an MLS Board/Committee?
    Yes I am actually, numbering probably a couple dozen individuals from various parts of the US. about 1/4 of them I would consider to be somewhat tech and business savvy. Most started out with grand intentions but eventually resigned themselves to serving on their boards to benefit their individual firms directly. Almost all feel they are just fighting an uphill battle whenever it comes to suggesting/implementing positive changes that benefit members and they later concluded they might as well be "swimming with the sharks". A Broker in particular that I know very well has been his board's president at least 10 times, and if his other board members and member-Brokers had any idea how he uses his position to directly benefit his firm and himself, they would likely remove him Julius-Caesar-style. But, he is very "likable".

    Quote Originally Posted by mrealty View Post
    I wouldn't come up with an easy conspiracy theory such as, "the majority don't want change because they have their own agendas."
    I've worked with a hundered or so different MLS boards the last several years, I think what I have personally experienced goes quite beyond theory. The similarities in how most of these boards (and their vendors) operate internally is very telling. Maybe your specific board is doing things a little better, but your average board member does not seem to be getting any "smarter", and in my experience (and opinion) they really seem to care less about becoming too educated maybe because that way if they do something questionable or unethical that gets exposed later, they can just claim ignorance. When a Vendor finds out it is working with a naive board, it can really get interesting, but that's a different can of worms.

    Quote Originally Posted by mrealty View Post
    3. they are typically "status quo" types who have an "I'm not getting paid to do this attitude" and don't want to rock the boat because they want everyone to "like" them.
    Amen to that, and the same goes for your description of offering change being seen as an attack.

    I am looking forward to reading your MLS board's response to your letter, so I hope you post the details here. Here's to hoping they take it positively and are open to deliberation.
    "Much of what looks like rudeness in hacker circles is not intended to give offense. Rather, it's the product of the direct, cut-through-the-BS communications style that is natural to people who are more concerned about solving problems than making others feel warm and fuzzy."

    "We gotta' go to the crappy town where I'm a hero!"
    -Hoban 'Wash' Washburne 2485-2519


    "When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front-row seat.."
    -George Carlin 1937-2008

    New to Open-Realty® and need help? Check the:
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Letter to MLS

    If you're interested in seeing the workings of another MLS vendor, here are some related emails. I may pull this later, if it is somehow found and is believed to be an issue for the vendor. These confirm the functionality of the setting in the above attached pic. I edited out the MLS vendor's name and myself for anonymity.

    ************************************************** **********
    ME:
    ************************************************** **********
    Hi:

    I was in the [EDIT: MLS VENDOR BACKEND] site,
    under the Firm Maintenance, where it says IDX Download and R.com
    --> there are absolutely no explanations as to what that means. I
    looked in the [EDIT: MLS VENDOR BACKEND] Help as well. Could you please explain to me
    exactly what those two settings do? I've noticed that there are a few
    brokerages who add listings to the mls, and they are quite surprised
    when their listings aren't listed on aggregate sites. I would hope
    neither of those two fields are related.

    With kind regards,

    ************************************************** **********
    MLS VENDOR:
    ************************************************** **********
    Hi

    IDX Download allows you to select whether listings within your firm will be allowed to go out to
    people's personal websites via IDX data feeds that they are subscribed to from
    [EDIT: MLS VENDOR]. The R.com allows you to select whether your firm's listings will show on R.com.

    Thank you

    ************************************************** **********
    ME:
    ************************************************** **********
    Is that a per agent setting or per firm setting? Meaning, can each
    agent within the same firm decide whether or not to have listings
    exported in IDX or is it an all or nothing only done in the broker's
    account and done for the entire group of agents within the firm?

    With kind regards,

    ************************************************** **********
    MLS VENDOR:
    ************************************************** **********
    Hi

    Some agents have access to AGENT MAINTENANCE and can change these settings, however,
    if the firm opts no for these fields and the agents opt yes, then the listings still will not show on the sites.

    Thank you

    ************************************************** **********
    ME:
    ************************************************** **********
    One last question concerning this and I'll be set. If the firm has
    IDX download = yes, then an agent can go in to AGENT MAINTENANCE and
    change his IDX download = no and so now all of the listings for only
    that particular agent will not be exported to IDX? Please confirm.

    With kind regards,

    ************************************************** **********
    MLS VENDOR:
    ************************************************** **********
    Hi

    Yes that is correct.

    Thank you,

    ************************************************** **********
    ME:
    ************************************************** **********
    Sorry...this would be the last question. What is the default setting for:

    Firm:
    IDX Download = ?
    R.com = ?

    Agent:
    IDX Download = ?
    R.com = ?

    With kind regards,

    ************************************************** **********
    MLS VENDOR:
    ************************************************** **********
    Hi

    That is no problem. When adding an agent or firm those fields default to yes.

    Thank you

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Letter to MLS

    Your original issue at hand was that R.com had listings that are not in your IDX feed and you found out about this via buyer inquiries.

    Given that the opt-in/out settings for IDX and R.com are right next to each other (albeit buried deep within the interface), and per your MLS the default export settings for both are 'yes', why do you suppose some of your competing Brokers are opting their listings out of the IDX feed and not R.com?
    "Much of what looks like rudeness in hacker circles is not intended to give offense. Rather, it's the product of the direct, cut-through-the-BS communications style that is natural to people who are more concerned about solving problems than making others feel warm and fuzzy."

    "We gotta' go to the crappy town where I'm a hero!"
    -Hoban 'Wash' Washburne 2485-2519


    "When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front-row seat.."
    -George Carlin 1937-2008

    New to Open-Realty® and need help? Check the:
    -OR DOCUMENTATION -

    Important: Read this at least once in your lifetime
    How To Ask Questions The Smart Way

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Letter to MLS

    Easy answer: ignorance or greed and envy.

    Easy answer explained:

    There are 2 cases of why they would exclude IDX while including r.com:

    1. Some brokers and/or agents will go in to configure things, don't understand what the "IDX download" means, and will actually change it to "no." There are probably hundreds of help pages explaining the settings in the backend, and not one of those pages explains the IDX setting. It's not even worded such that it makes sense. It would make more sense for it to be called, "IDX export." The first time I saw it a few years ago, here's what I thought to myself: "Hmmm...I'm not doing IDX so I don't want to download it, whatever that means, so I'll change this to no. They'll probably try and charge me for something I'm not using if I leave this set to yes."

    2. Some brokers and/or agents are satisfied with their listings being on the originating broker's site and on r.com (keep in mind r.com does not do broker reciprocity, they list the originating broker next to each listing). But the idea of broker reciprocity is for the benefit of the consumer; we share all listings and any agent can sell/market the listing of another on a competing real estate web site, given the competing broker is a participant. The moment the option is given to remove the IDX on a blanket basis, without the consent of the seller, negates the "cooperative" agreement. At this point the listings are no longer "cooperative", they are in fact exclusionary. The bottom line is the buyer lead, the commission, and embarrassment.

    a. buyer lead: if the lead comes from the "cooperating" broker's web site, then the cooperating broker gets the lead. More often than not, the lead will inquire about a home, and not buy that home - they'll end up buying another, and usually it won't be with the originating agent, nor the originating agent's firm. So now this lead has value. Without the cooperative listing, there is no lead.

    b. commission: exclude the "cooperating" broker from the deal, and the originating broker gets double the commission on the sale. Excluding a cooperating IDX broker while including r.com means that *only* the originating broker is listed as a contact for that listing on r.com. When the orginating broker is the *only* contact entity for that supposed "shared" listing, he won't be "sharing" that commission because he will have begun his chain of procuring cause; he will be the only one being contacted by that lead for his listing.

    c. embarrassment: It's pretty darn embarrassing for just about any agent in my town to have his/her seller go to the Internet to do a search to see how their agent's Internet marketing is doing, and come up with their home on MY site with my smiling face right next to it. Not only do they get my smiling face, but they can see me interacting with "Live Help" with buyer prospects in real time - while they are looking at that home, along with a map (thanks to Tmaps) of how to get to that home, more fields and information on that home than what they see at R.com, and even a subdivision tour with yours truly riding through their neighborhood with a video camera, pointing out all of the good things about that neighborhood. Add to that, when they create an account, they are part of a Social community, can publish additional pictures of their home in their photo albums, can chat in the forum, ask an expert (that would be me), and even get recognized on the home page when it's their birthday (people love recognition, especially on their birthday). The seller then thinks to himself, "what the heck am I doing listing my home with the schmoe I'm using - I'm calling this Open Realty guy to list my house." Now ask yourself, what do you think that agent is going to do in his/her IDX settings when they figure out they can cut me out of the picture with the click of a button?

    Getting the picture now?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Letter to MLS

    You don't have to explain to me how greed, leads, exclusionary tactics, reciprocity and split commission works in the RE industry. I've been doing IDX stuff since it was mandated and have been working with MLS Boards, Brokers and Agents since the early 1980's, so there's really no "picture" for me to get. My question to you was largely rhetorical.

    You definitely seem to have a good grasp of what's going on in your specific market. Perhaps you should politely suggest (to your board) some IDX/Vendor software training for your MLS membership to eliminate case #1. Perhaps prepare a single page informational flyer for them they can send out with any regular MLS mailings.

    Otherwise you are doing the right stuff, guys like you really irritate the old-schoolers because they are always the last to embrace change/technology and better ways of marketing that exist beyond newspaper ads, inserts, and signage.
    "Much of what looks like rudeness in hacker circles is not intended to give offense. Rather, it's the product of the direct, cut-through-the-BS communications style that is natural to people who are more concerned about solving problems than making others feel warm and fuzzy."

    "We gotta' go to the crappy town where I'm a hero!"
    -Hoban 'Wash' Washburne 2485-2519


    "When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front-row seat.."
    -George Carlin 1937-2008

    New to Open-Realty® and need help? Check the:
    -OR DOCUMENTATION -

    Important: Read this at least once in your lifetime
    How To Ask Questions The Smart Way

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