Broker members of Northwest MLS, a regional broker-owned MLS operating in western and central Washington, will soon be on their own in submitting property information for display on popular home-search site Realtor.com.
The MLS board has voted to discontinue the practice of sending a compilation of member-provided property information for display on that site, which consistently ranks among the most-visited real estate Web sites.
“We’ve always had as our focus the distribution of data to our members, and not to third parties,” said Jack Johnson, Northwest MLS president and CEO. “This is just a matter that has come up with our board of directors on several occasions over the years … and this time it passed.”
The decision has little to do with cost, Johnson said. “There would be some measure of cost savings — it would be insignificant I think.” The MLS has about 2,100 brokerage-company members that represent about 27,000 sales associates.
The MLS will continue to submit members’ property listings information to Realtor.com until the end of the MLS contract in April, Johnson said. MLS staff are working with staff at Move Inc., the site that operates National Association of Realtors-affiliated Realtor.com, to assist member brokers who want to continue sending property listings information to the site.
“It will be a fairly simple procedure for the broker or one of their staff to run this export function and pull their own listings and get them up to Realtor.com,” Johnson said.
J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO for Seattle-based John L. Scott Real Estate, said he did not attend the board meeting related to the vote on sending data to Realtor.com. “Not every (company) has their homes up on Realtor.com to begin with. This is just allowing each company to make their own individual selections,” he said, adding that the decision appears to be a continuation of the concept that the “MLS is not an advertising consortium.”
Scott also said that his company plans to continue to submit property listings to Realtor.com. “I see no change in our strategy,” he said, in building the company’s regional Web site and in seeking marketing opportunities on other Web sites, too. In addition to Realtor.com, the company also shares property listings information with LuxuryPortfolio.com and ReloHomeSearch.com, for example, he said.
Other Northwest MLS board members contacted by Inman News said they could not comment about the board decision.
Internet technology makes it easy for real estate brokers to send property listings information directly to Realtor.com, said Mike Grady, president of Coldwell Banker Bain & Associates. He said the board decision is “a nonevent — I don’t think it makes any difference at all.”
Coldwell Banker Bain & Associates will continue to market its property listings information on Realtor.com, he said. “I don’t think it’s a loss or gain. It doesn’t affect buyers or sellers.”
So why change the policy?
Grady said it’s simply not part of the MLS mission to send broker-supplied property listings information to Realtor.com or other sites. “The purpose (of the MLS) is to aggregate listings data gathered from the member brokers and to disseminate that aggregated data to the member brokers.” In this Internet era, it has become “redundant” for the MLS to do what brokers can already do themselves, he said. “It’s very easy to disseminate (listings data) anywhere you need to.”
In addition to submitting listings data to Realtor.com, Grady said his company also provides data to WallStreetJournal.com and AOL.com, among other Web sites.
Mollie O’Brien, director of investor relations for Move Inc., said Realtor.com receives “a very small percentage of our overall data feeds” from brokers, “as there is a very small number of MLSs with which we do not have data content provider agreements.” O’Brien noted that REIN MLS, an MLS which has not sent Realtor.com a data feed for several years, recently signed an agreement to provide data to Realtor.com
Glenn Kelman, CEO for Redfin, a Seattle-based real estate brokerage and technology company, said, “Generally, large brokers are beginning to become frustrated with the way that Internet sites are really decreasing their power. For the longest time the only way to access inventory was through the brokerages.”
While MLSs are in some cases facing pressure to shift more decisions to brokerages, that is not necessarily good for consumers, Kelman said. “We’re seeing real estate become more and more like fiefdoms again,” adding that decisions that fragment the total inventory listings can make property searches more cumbersome for consumers.
“It used to be that brokerages were fine having Realtor.com be their Web strategy. Now every brokerage is attacking the Web as its primary marketing channel. Rather than competing with Realtor.com they’d rather have customers come to their site,” he said.