Imagine my chagrin when I received a phone call while out in the field showing property and my longtime repeat client asks me, “Lee, do you really want me to put my credit card number into your Web site so we can search for a home?” “No I surely don’t! Please don’t.” And that’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks that I had lost an element of control over my business that I had enjoyed for a great deal of time.
For the last several years, I had been paying monthly for my local multiple listing service, known as the Real Estate Information Network, to provide hosting for my Web site. The big advantage was that a visitor to my site could view the entire MLS from my Web site.
Now, after I have established the site and it’s been up and working for several years, our local MLS has decided on its own without any input from minority shareholders like myself and many others that it will begin charging a nominal fee of $3.95 for one day or $4.95 for one month to view home listings through my Web site.
This was categorized by one MLS member opposed to the fee as a modern-day version of “taxation without representation.” As the Web-site owner, I gain nothing from REIN imposing this fee. However, it appears to the consuming public that Lee Halyard is the one charging $4.95 a month to view his Web site. It smacks of pure greed. A fee of $49.95 monthly would be less offensive to serious home buyers.
Furthermore, REIN is a corporation in which I am a shareholder. I feel the organization had a duty to contact me for my input, but I received nothing. I attended a presentation in which it was already a done deal, and the presenter equated the “nominal fee” to being parallel to such a fee being charged at Bill Oreilly.com and a host of other pay premium sites.
The success that I and other real estate practitioners have experienced via the Internet has been a free flow of information between myself and clients – “free” being the operative word. It’s apparent to anyone willing to study this program for a brief period of time that our MLS’s conclusions were hastily reached by some folks who have not sat in front of a home buyer or seller since the onset of the Internet.
It may be easy for someone to conclude upon reading this that I am but one disgruntled agent. Interested parties are invited to visit our Web site, No-epass.com, and see the masses of folks against this flawed initiative. Please look at the Web site thoroughly and read our presentations to the board of directors.
REIN is obviously blinded by its ambition and zeal in creating this new profit center, as they have overlooked the fact that I am already paying for the service. They stated emphatically that their motivation in implementing this program is to drive quality leads to member Web sites.
In the presentations posted to No-epass.com, opposing brokers clearly explain a simple solution to validating contacts on real estate Web sites that does not require the consumer to pay for access.
How many news leads would Inman News receive if anyone who wanted to submit a tip for a story had to enter his or her credit card number on the Inman News Web site?
Lee S. Halyard is broker/owner of Lee S. Halyard & Associate Realtors in Chesapeake, Va.
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