MLS committee gives nod, in concept, to new ways to display property listings

Committee also recommends repeal of franchisor IDX indexing policy

ANAHEIM, Calif. — A National Association of Realtors committee today recommended that the trade group’s board of directors, which meets Monday, erase a controversial policy relating to franchisors’ pooling and display of Internet Data Exchange listings on their websites.

The NAR Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee also approved, in concept, suggested language to broaden the group’s IDX policy to also apply to mobile apps and social media, while eliminating RSS feeds from consideration for the new policy language.

A new work group will be created to draw up formal policy and rule suggestions that will be considered by the MLS committee during its next meeting, in May 2012, so any of those policy and rule changes will not be considered by the NAR Board of Directors until that meeting, at the earliest.

An IDX Policy Presidential Advisory Group, formed by the committee, had suggested a series of changes to the existing IDX policy, which committee members chose to amend.

Speaking before a standing-room-only crowd in a large ballroom at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel on Saturday, Ted Loring Jr., the chairman for the advisory group, explained the history of the IDX issues that the group was tasked to consider, and said that "in my mind it was something of a miracle" that the advisory group was able to find consensus among its members on the franchisor IDX indexing policy provision.

"The group was, shall we say, not collegial to begin with. My job was to build a foundation with which we could build agreement."

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NAR’s initial rule change related to franchisor IDX indexing and display of property listings, in particular, had erupted as a contentious issue across the industry earlier this year — but only after its initially uneventful approval in November 2010 by the committee and adoption by the NAR Board of Directors.

The original policy allowed national franchisors to display a vast array of properties in online searches by aggregating collections of IDX listings from all of the markets where they have affiliates, and was subsequently amended to necessitate an opt-in provision for those brokers not affiliated with the franchisors.

Underlying the latest suggested changes to IDX policy is the fact that technology has advanced, with new and emerging forms of media, Loring noted.

"IDX, as it was originally constructed, governed the display of MLS data on a participant’s website. It was designed for a specific medium. Part of the problem with IDX policy today is that there are so many more media. How does it impact those?"

The advisory group suggested that the IDX policy should be changed to "govern the display of information, regardless of the medium."

Language that the committee approved, in concept, broadens the existing policy to address listings display "by electronic means," including websites, "display on social media sites used by participants, and applications for mobile devices."

The committee rejected language suggested by the advisory group that would have included RSS (really simple syndication) feeds among the various forms of electronic display for IDX listings — several committee and audience members said it can be challenging to control content distributed via RSS feeds.

And the committee’s conceptual approval also added language providing for a discretionary opt-out that would allow brokers to prevent their property listings from appearing on social media sites via IDX.

Cliff Niersbach, NAR’s vice president of board policy and programs, responded to the committee discussion in offering up language for the committee’s conceptual approval of the recommendations of the advisory group, providing that the "RSS component be deleted, and the social media display component include a listing broker opt-out, with necessary implementing rules and definitions being provided to the committee prior to the 2012 (NAR) Midyear meeting."

The committee voted to approve the suggested language, in concept.

The policy changes conceptually approved by the committee also included language relating to short text displays of property information, including Twitter messages: "This policy acknowledges that certain required disclosures may not be possible in displays of minimal information (e.g., ‘thumbnails,’ text messages, ‘tweets,’ etc., of 200 characters or less. Such displays are exempt form the disclosure requirements established in this policy but only when linked directly to a display that includes all required disclosures."

While some committee members voiced worries about further delays in forwarding IDX policy and rules recommendations for consideration by the NAR Board of Directors, others said it was prudent not to act too hastily.

The committee also approved the recommendation to amend MLS policy relating to brokers’ reporting of sales prices to MLSs. The amendments, if approved by NAR’s Board of Directors Monday, would gives MLSs the right to provide aggregated sales price data to third-party entities for some specific uses, while allowing individual sales data to be withheld at the request of the seller, in some instances.

Among other actions:

  • The committee approved a recommendation allowing associations to raise the maximum required initial deposit for lockboxes from $200 to $300.
  • The committee recommended board adoption of a new Statement of Multiple Listing Policy providing that MLSs "may require participants to disclose if a listed property is a foreclosure, bank-owned or real estate owned (REO)."


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