New search sites take the stage, raising the audible sounds in an opera of compliance and online home listings.

The audience recoils from this baffling aria that shatters the glass of logic.

The question of where a listing goes, how it appears, and who touches it reverberates through the hall without intermission.

That is the question

A seller hires an agent. The agent is given one charge: Sell the home. Sell it fast. Sell it clean. To accomplish this, the agent should go Ansel Adams on the home and push a gallery of pictures out to every gallery on the Web – even the funky ones that reek of body odor and weed. They too draw a crowd.

The task is arduous. But that’s not the seller’s concern. It’s what they pay five figures in commission to their agent to accomplish.

If the agent had stuck to the playbill and focused solely on the charge to sell the home and to represent the sellers’ wishes, the question of where listings end up would not be nearly so fraught.

The mortal coil

Sellers don’t understand the toil of agent marketing. They are unaware of the mortal coil of politics that surrounds real estate. And why should they? They aren’t authors or songwriters. Their homes are not songs or books. When the issues of copyright infringement and data protection arise, sellers get lost in the grunt and sweat of a weary life that is not theirs.

So when they read about agents and brokers in an uproar over third-party sites like DotHomes scraping data and displaying their homes in new places, they give pause and wonder.

The heartache and the thousand natural shocks 

Brokers want tight control over listing data. The 3 Oceans blog intelligently opened up this discussion and fielded an assortment of comments. They are: 

Brokers need to keep track of where the information is to make sure it’s displayed properly.

Brokers are concerned about some third world website screwing up the data about the home.

Brokers are concerned about how their brand is portrayed.

These are all sound concerns. The broker position is certainly mired in the heartache of a thousand natural shocks. But none has anything to do with the act at hand – the one centered on sellers who simply want their homes sold. The one centered on the sellers who have commissioned real estate agents to help them move on with their lives. 

If brokers want pictures and information about listings to be tracked, then why not just build tracking software so the scraped data leaves footprints?

If brokers are concerned about the home being displayed properly, why not start with their own Web sites, where visitors often have to machete their way through a tangled user interface only to encounter too many homes without pictures?

If brokers are worried about damage to their brands, how about cracking down on their own agents, who have beset them with slings and arrows for years with mangled messaging?

If brokers are concerned about third-party sites getting the data wrong — isn’t getting it wrong better than not getting it at all? If a buyer sees a home listed on some obscure site and likes it, 20 seconds on Google will get them over to the safety of an IDX feed.

MLSs are, and will likely remain, the core listings utility. Indeed, contrary to conventional wisdom, I believe that they will become increasingly more important and more powerful. But why waste time freaking out about the small satellites in its orbit?

To be or not to be compliant

Would it not be nobler to accept new entrants that scrape, borrow and bend rules than to take arms against this sea of troubles and by opposing… end them? My guess is most sellers would think so.

Right now, as for-sale signs wither in the heat of an anxious market, galactic distribution isn’t a problem — it’s an imperative. Sellers need to get out of their homes and onto the next phase of their lives and they are looking to the Three Tenors of real estate — the agent, the broker and the MLS — to do whatever they can, to do everything in their power to make that happen. Even if it means placing homes on the hood of car 55 at Daytona. Or for that matter, the index page of some classifieds site run by a couple opium freaks holed up in a Quonset hut on the steppe in Kazakhstan. In other words, wherever a buyer’s eyeball may come across it.

Real estate has made the error of focusing itself on the fleeting stash of listings — a commodity it can never truly own — instead of the client, the client’s desires and needs and the ensuing relationship real estate could own for life.

Sellers do not want to mire in real estate squabbles. They don’t pay large commissions to see their homes held inside a vault. They want their homes marketed. Far and wide. And sold. So they can move forward on their paths. That’s why they hired an agent.

To die, to sleep. Perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub.

Marc Davison is a partner at 1000Watt Consulting. He can be reached at marc@1000wattconsulting.com.

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