MLSs, agents & brokers: Real estate consumer Web traffic will go where it needs to

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had the privilege of attending the CMLS conference in Boise, and the CAR Expo in Long Beach.

Standard dramatics have again surfaced, this time between The Realty Alliance (brokers) and MLS organizations. In addition, and per usual, “ZTR” remains at the nucleus of many conversations and debates.

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Being a radical advocate of “doing” instead of “saying,” I’m starting to reach a point of dismay. Similar to that feeling when you finally get to watch a highly anticipated, highly touted pay-per-view bout and all you get is a couple guys dancing around a boxing ring.

To be clear, I don’t think the parties involved in our industry need to be positioned as opponents of one another, or beating each other up for that matter. It’s just that there is so much talk, and hype, and flexing, and staring each other down. Yet, when it comes time to “act,” nothing is done. Whether it’s to risk a knockout “counterpunch” by the opposite party, or to protect their political “title belt,” there seems to be a cycle of monotonous activity that, in my opinion, is drastically prohibiting progress.

With that in mind, let’s discuss the resilient issues surrounding listing data, particularly the “friendly syndication” and control/copyright over data as it travels the Web. If I’m hearing everything correctly, there seem to be three congruent desires among brokers and MLSs:

  1. Photo copyrights for appropriate parties.
  2. Proper attribution to the broker and/or MLS.
  3. Preventative measures to deter “scraping.”

All three of these items can be under full control when they exist on the proprietary site of a broker, agent or MLS. For example, I learned of a stellar new product called Distil at CMLS. It can prevent bots from scraping your site, and seems to do it very well.

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The complications occur once the data leaves the nest, travels through the various channels, and ends up where it may. In my opinion, this is the nexus of most problems in our industry.

Now, I could go on forever about the politics, the bureaucracy, the big business, and every other relevant factor of why these problems have come to exist, and moreover, why they aren’t being solved. Instead, I’ll just concede that each one has a valid argument within its own right.

Instead, I’ll offer my advice. To MLSs. To brokers. To agents.

I promise you that taking measures to protect copyrights, attribution and data will cause a big problem with the syndicated sites. In some cases, it may directly affect the way they make money. Good news is, that’s NOT your problem. If you work together to solve your problems, I’m confident you’ll find results.

Water runs downhill. Consumers do too. Stand up to your fears of losing “traffic,” which is the only thing that third-party sites have to offer, or tout, for that matter. If the steps you need to take to secure your assets meet so much resistance that a site like Zillow is willing to threaten the display of your listings to its “traffic,” so be it. I promise, the consumers will find you.

Water runs downhill. Consumers do too.

That’s my advice.  Take it, hate it or debate it. But please DO SOMETHING. I can’t stand to go to one more conference and watch another dead horse get beat.

Jeff Nieto is a real estate technology entrepreneur, focused on the next generation of real estate professionals and consumers.