Brokers who belong to multiple listing services that operate public portals powered by Solid Earth's Spring platform can now add a "deep link" bringing consumers who find listings they represent on the portals back to listing detail pages on their own websites.
Many public-facing MLS portals, including websites operated by the Houston Association of Realtors, California Regional MLS and Connecticut Multiple Listing Service Inc., provide the listing broker or agent's contact information, and generate lead forms that allow prospective buyers' contact information to be collected and forwarded to them. But those portals and others don't link back to listing detail pages on the listing brokers' websites.
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Solid Earth launched its Spring platform last year, growing it from a public-facing MLS website to a full-fledged MLS. The company pitched Spring as a "lean" platform that could help resolve the conflicts between MLSs and brokers that have recently preoccupied the industry. Now, Solid Earth is taking another step with that goal in mind.
The company announced a new free feature today: broker deep links. Previously, Spring-powered public portals did not link to broker websites. But now, brokers can add a button to their listing pages on Spring directing consumers to their website for additional property details. The button links directly to that listing page on the broker's website.
MLS public-facing websites are controversial in the real estate industry. Some brokers, notably those belonging to the large brokerage network The Realty Alliance, say the websites compete with their own efforts to attract consumer traffic.
Back in the mid-2000s, one of The Realty Alliance's members in the Birmingham, Ala., area, RealtySouth, was an early critic of Solid Earth's efforts to create a market-level public portal, said Bill Fowler, Solid Earth's chief marketing officer and vice president of new business.
"Why? Because realtysouth.com was kicking butt. They had billboards all over (Birmingham) advertising "search for a home" on realtysouth.com. With 25 to 30 percent of the market, they had a right to be threatened by the MLS coming out with a public portal to draw eyes away from them," Fowler said.
So when the Birmingham Area MLS (now Greater Alabama MLS) launched its LiveinAlabama.com public portal in early 2003, RealtySouth pulled out the firm's listings.
"There was great tension between the MLS and the largest broker in the market. It's a familiar story," Fowler said.
But a few months ago, Solid Earth invited RealtySouth, a HomeServices of America subsidiary, to the MLS' new Spring-powered public portal, GreaterAlabamaMLS.com. The brokerage agreed -- on the condition that consumers would be able to access their brokerage site from the portal.
Solid Earth agreed and RealtySouth's listings started appearing on the site on Jan. 21.
"This opens the previous closed environment that Spring represented to (RealtySouth)," Fowler said.
"Consumers may choose which area to browse and research. The more data, the better. We have GreatSchools data, area profiles and other MLS-based metrics, Planwise features. They have other data sets relevant to their business. The consumer wins."
Solid Earth also added another feature to Spring: Leads on RealtySouth properties received through GreaterAlabamaMLS.com are held inside the Spring API for RealtySouth to collect and funnel through their own back-office system, Fowler said.
"Those two very pivotal changes -- in my opinion -- have really made Spring a broker-friendly public portal option, breaking down some of the major grudges held by The Realty Alliance related to MLS-sponsored public portals," he said.
RealtySouth did not respond to requests for comment.
The Realty Alliance has drawn up "fair display guidelines" for public-facing MLS websites, one of which is that every listing have the brokerage's contact information displayed, "including a link directly back to the brokerage website (or other site as dictated by brokerage)."
The deep-link feature is available to any brokerage on Spring.
"With this release we are extending our vision of providing innovative solutions to our MLS clients that helps them empower their member brokers both small and large," said Robb Dempsey, Solid Earth's chief technology officer, in a blog post.
He added that the company believes the deep-link feature will help both the listing brokerage and the local MLS move up in search engine rankings.
Later this month, Solid Earth and Greater Alabama MLS are hosting a hackathon in an effort to encourage innovation using the Spring API and data sourced from several MLSs. Plenty of slots are still open for developers interested in signing up.