HomeServices of America, Realty Alliance wary of RealEstate.com model

Industry execs concerned about site's lack of broker opt-out option, brokerage services

RealEstate.com‘s announcement last week that it is getting real estate listings via Internet Data Exchange (IDX) feeds directly from 150 multiple listing services across the country has gotten the attention of several prominent leaders in the industry.

Currently, RealEstate.com has about 1.5 million listings — all of them IDX-sourced, according to Market Leader, RealEstate.com’s parent company.

"These types of actions will lead to the day when brokers will look to provide services that MLSs now typically provide," said Robert Moline, president and COO of Berkshire Hathaway affiliate HomeServices of America Inc. HomesServices of America is the parent company of a number of brokerages across the country, including Edina Realty, Iowa Realty and Prudential California Realty.

Last year, HomeServices of America and The Realty Alliance, a network of 60 real estate companies, were among the vanguard of brokerages who helped overturn a 2010 National Association of Realtors decision to allow the display of IDX listings of real estate franchisors’ affiliated brokerages on franchisors’ national sites.

IDX listings are pools of listings contributed by brokers who are members of a particular MLS. Only brokers who have entered into reciprocal agreements allowing other brokers to display their listings may display IDX listings. Last year, Market Leader acquired listing portal RealEstate.com from Tree.com for $8.25 million and retained the brokerage licenses held by the company. Although it is not providing brokerage services, Market Leader is a licensed brokerage and MLS member in each of the markets where it is getting an IDX feed, according to Ian Morris, Market Leader’s CEO.

Moline says HomeServices of America has not met to discuss the RealEstate.com model, but will.

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RealEstate.com’s new model, which launched in March, offers agents and brokers an exclusive monthly flat-fee referral service for all of the listings the site has in a market (to the city level). Those agents or brokers who sign up for the service have their contact information and photo in a column along all of the listings on RealEstate.com in the market they’ve purchased, effectively branding a whole city. (Read Inman News’ story last week for more details).

"We fully support the core MLS benefits of cooperation and compensation and the ability to utilize all market data for analytics and valuations, but upon first glance, this program appears to violate our understanding of IDX policy requiring (a participant to be) a bona fide real estate company and attempts to circumvent a broker’s ability to opt out," said Craig Cheatham, CEO and president of The Realty Alliance.

"The Realty Alliance led the most recent fight for the broker’s right to control where listing content is displayed, and we’ll step in again if necessary," Cheatham said. 

HomeServices of America’s Moline, echoing Cheatham, says it is his understanding that IDX participants have to do business as a broker, and is concerned about RealEstate.com’s model in this respect.

Industry watchers also commented on the "bold" move by Market Leader.

"This could start the unraveling of IDX, but that’s unlikely in the short run. It almost certainly will intensify the various murmured plans for broker-owned portals, MLS apostasy and retrenchment," wrote Brian Boero, partner at real estate consulting firm 1000Watt, in a blog post titled, "Market Leader’s RealEstate.com play: Welcome to Crazy Town," in response to the company’s announcement last week.


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