SAN FRANCISCO — A broker revolt over multiple listing service policies could become a reality if the playing field among brokerages is perceived to be uneven, and some participants in a two-day Data Summit event also suggested that a new national entity be established to help the industry manage its data.
In referencing a controversial franchisor IDX (Internet Data Exchange) policy that was approved by the National Association of Realtors in November 2010 and amended in May 2011, Robert Moline, president and chief operating officer for Home Services of America, said that "each and every broker has always had their own choice on where their data went," while the controversial policy — still under review — could dictate "where your data is going to go."
He added, "If it gets to the point that brokers are paying the cost, and getting very little … (they) are going to move. Not all brokers will agree, but enough will that I think you’ll see some major changes for MLSs.
"If they’re pushed far enough, some brokers will show leadership," Moline said. "A lot of things will change, at the end of the day."
The controversial NAR policy, which allowed franchisors to index and display Internet Data Exchange listings in any market where they had received permission from their own franchisees, is under review by a work group that will prepare a report for consideration at NAR’s upcoming annual meeting in November.
The amended policy gives brokers the choice, by opt-in, whether their listings will be displayed on franchisors’ national websites.
Ira Luntz, vice president of data products for LPS Real Estate Group, said during a separate session at the conference that Moline "is at the center of a firestorm that’s potentially brewing — I think there could be a concerted dismantling of cooperation" depending on the outcome of the franchisor IDX issue.
"If we don’t think about it and make some changes, my personal opinion is that the brokers are going to step up — that you’ll see brokerages pull listings from the MLS."
And he suggested that brokerages could potentially set up their own listings cooperative as an alternative to a traditional MLS.
"There’s nothing to say that a bunch of brokers in a given community couldn’t put listings up, share them, and there you go," Luntz said.
Jay Thompson, a Phoenix real estate broker who participated in an MLS committee workgroup that reviewed the franchisor IDX policy, said he is skeptical that the issue will be resolved soon.
While Thompson said that "IDX allows me to eat. That’s my entire brokerage. It’s my livelihood — I have to have it," he also said, "I don’t think (the franchisor IDX issue) is going to get resolved at the November meetings."
Luntz said he has a vision for a new framework for sharing listings: "Maybe the time has come to … stop IDX completely."
He proposed a system for "single-source syndication" — an entity to manage licensing and distribution of "the massive quantity of information" generated by the real estate industry.
The entity could offer up industry data under certain terms and conditions. "If we don’t come to an understanding for a national vehicle to deliver data, that everyone can trust and everyone can agree to … if we don’t do that, we have a disassociated marketplace," he said.
He said the industry is doomed to the same circular data conversations it’s been wrapped up in for more than a decade if it can’t establish "an entity or group or some sort of definition for this" data pool.
"We have this quandary of different syndication models, the inaccuracy of data. We have to move ourselves away from that."
John Heithaus, chief marketing officer for MRIS, a mid-Atlantic regional MLS that is the nation’s largest MLS, said the Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange and Carfax vehicle history reports provide models for what an MLS system could be.
"I think we need to rethink the whole context (of the MLS). We are fighting today’s battles with yesterday’s tools," he said, and suggested that open-source solutions could power a wave of innovation for MLSs.
Luntz said, "If you don’t speak up, don’t speak the vision, it’s never going to happen."
Mike Myers, co-founder of MLS Data Marketing, said he is already working on a plan to bring more than a dozen MLSs together in a common goal to improve listings syndication and data quality. The project, which he has embarked on with industry veteran Bud Fogel, is known as the MLS Internet Data Cooperative.