CORRECTION: This article has been updated to fix an error. Realogy is seeking permission for franchisors to index affiliated brokers’ IDX websites to provide enhanced search results on brand websites.
WASHINGTON — A year ago, members of the National Association of Realtors’ Multiple Listings Issues and Policies Committee recommended that NAR’s Internet Data Exchange (IDX) policy be updated to make it clear that search-engine indexing is not tantamount to "scraping" — the unauthorized duplication of listings by third-party websites.
Ultimately, NAR adopted a policy in November making it clear that brokers can allow "recognized search engines" to index their listings.
Meeting Thursday at NAR’s Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo, the committee heard a new request related to search-indexing from Alex Perriello, president and CEO of the Realogy Franchise Group.
Perriello put forward a case that franchisor websites like those Realogy operates on behalf of brokerages — such as Century21.com, ERA.com and ColdwellBanker.com — should be permitted to index its affiliated brokers’ IDX websites to enhance the search results.
That way, consumers who visited the sites would be able to see not only the listings represented by the brokerages in that franchise, but virtually all of the listings in the market they were interested in.
IDX reciprocity agreements allow brokers to display the listings of other participating brokers in their market on their own websites, and vice versa.
Perriello said franchisor websites should have the option of indexing the IDX listings on their own brokers’ websites — in other words: the listings of all brokers participating in IDX reciprocity agreements.
The initial search results would present consumers with brief summaries of IDX listings results from all listing brokers, with an acknowledgment of the source and a link back to a full IDX site.
Realogy would not manipulate or store IDX listing data, or show any preferential treatment in display, he promised.
Perriello said the benefits of allowing franchisor websites to index listings would accrue to unaffiliated brokers, whose listings would be exposed to consumers who are likely to be drawn to the franchisors’ larger websites.
About 45 percent of the traffic that comes to one of Realogy’s websites is direct traffic from the consumer typing in a brand name, he said. The rest comes from search-engine optimization, paid search ads, and display ads that drive traffic to the site.
Although Realogy’s proposal will undoubtedly stir up a debate, the Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee voted to postpone that debate until NAR’s annual meeting in November.
A work group was tasked with developing guidelines and definitions that could be used to draw up rules for the initial display of indexed listings, and determine who would be eligible to index.
"If you’re going to allow franchisors to do this, where do you cut off the line?" Committee Chairman Mike Jewell said. If all MLS participants were allowed, a "virtual franchisor" might claim the right to index listings, he said.
"We need to look at who gets to do it, and what are the display rules," Jewell said. "There should be some rules everybody’s going to play by, or brokers might say they don’t want to provide listings, which ruins the system."
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