Oodle, a Web search engine that scours the Internet for online classified ads, plans to incorporate real estate brokers’ MLS listings into its results through a partnership with iHomefinder.
The agreement between Oodle and iHomefinder, announced today, would allow brokers to make their multiple listing service data available to consumers through Oodle by filling out a simple form. Once brokers make such a request, iHomefinder would work directly with the broker’s local MLS board to get the listings to Oodle.
The cost of the service was not disclosed, but brokers would have the option of paying a flat monthly service fee or be charged for the volume of traffic generated.
The partnership is touted as a way for brokers — and eventually individual real estate agents — to make their own listings more widely available on the Internet.
“We have been getting tons of requests (from brokers and agents) — how do we get our listings in Oodle?” said Oodle’s chief executive officer, Craig Donato. “The technical process was just too difficult for small agents and brokers.”
Oodle‘s database of 17 million active classified ads includes more than 2 million properties for sale in the U.S. and United Kingdom, Donato said. The search engine gathers some of its real estate listings through partnerships with Real Living, Real Estate.com, Harmon Homes, Foreclosure.com, and New Home Source.
Oodle plans to begin incorporating MLS data from iHomefinder in August, when a Beta version of the new service rolls out. One potential hitch: local MLS boards must sign off on each request to share data.
That doesn’t seem like it would be an issue, because iHomefinder says it already has agreements with local MLS boards across the nation encompassing about 70 percent of all listings. The company makes about 2.2 million listings searchable through its own Web site, and provides MLS search functionality for the Web sites of thousands of brokerages and Realtors.
But the agreements iHomefinder has with local MLS boards do not necessarily allow the company to share the data with a third party. The president of one MLS board in California that has an agreement with iHomefinder said he’d be reluctant to allow the company to pass MLS data along to Oodle.
“We have very tight, very specific contracts vendors sign that restricts what they can do with the (MLS) data,” said James Harrison, president and CEO for REInfoLink, which handles about 8,000 listings in five counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. “We’re not in business to give permission to dozens of third-party vendors to redistribute our data.”
If anything, Harrison said, REInfoLink is moving in the other direction, cutting the number of outside vendors with access to its MLS data from about 300 to less than 100.
“I don’t know if I’m interested in negotiating a new agreement” with iHomefinder, he said. “We have tightened down on data control significantly in the last 12 months, and are not likely to loosen up.”
If a REInfoLink broker wants to make his or her listings available through Oodle, Harrison said, “There’s no reason for any of our brokers to employ a third-party firm to move our data. We will send listings wherever brokers want them to go.”
Oodle and iHomefinder see their partnership as a way to work in concert with the industry to provide consumers with up-to-date information. While some other real estate search engines “scrape” the Internet for MLS listings, the results can be out of date and MLS boards take a dim view of the practice.
Reaching agreements with MLS boards to provide current information from individual brokers “is certainly the right way for things to progress,” Oodle’s Donato said. “Rather than challenging the existing architecture, it can be done very quickly for a lot of people.”
Alon Chaver, chief executive officer of iHomefinder, said only brokers who sign up for the service would have their listings sent to Oodle. Many of those expected to take advantage of the service are “premier brokers” who are “influential members” of their local MLS boards, Chaver said.
“It really depends on the board. The boards are always right,” Chaver said. “We’re in 135 markets, and MLS boards vary greatly. We have quite a few boards that specifically permit brokers to do this. This would probably be the first step of the rollout.”
Although REInfoLink may be technically adept enough to provide its brokers’ MLS data directly to Oodle, “there are many boards that are not going to have the ability to do that,” Chaver said. “We simplify the process for them.”