The board of directors of the Texas-based Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR) has rejected a controversial proposal that it change its Internet Data Exchange (IDX) policy to require prominent display of listing agents.

At a May 30 meeting, ABoR’s board did, however, vote unanimously to update its IDX policy to come in line with a policy update approved by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) at its midyear meeting in Washington, D.C., last month. The update clarifies IDX policy on the use of mobile devices and abbreviated (200 characters or fewer) listing announcements through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

ABoR’s action gave a "business-as-usual" nod to what had become a hot-button issue for some members, said ABoR board chairman Leonard Guerrero.

As of now, ABoR’s IDX policy clarification mirrors NAR’s: "Properties aggregated via IDX will identify the listing firm on a stand-alone line that reads ‘Property listed by.’" As such, the listing agent’s name/info is not shown, and the attribution line itself appears at the very bottom of the listing detail page.

Proponents of a rule change requiring prominent display of the listing agent’s contact info said that the listing agent or broker is in the best position to answer questions about a property from prospective buyers. If prospective buyers see the listing agent’s contact info prominently displayed with each listing, they are more likely to contact that agent with questions about the property, even if they discover the listing on another broker’s IDX site.

Some opponents of a rule change said some listing brokers and agents welcome opportunities to also serve the buyer in the same transaction, a situation known as dual agency in other states.

Debate over ABoR’s IDX policy came to a head earlier this year after Cord Shiflet, an agent with luxury broker Moreland Properties, started an online petition aimed at prompting ABoR to reconsider its policies regarding the display of listings. It read, in part:

"Any listing that is syndicated to other websites through IDX, VOW, etc., should immediately and clearly show the listing agent and listing office. I do not like the current policy that simply has the language ‘listing courtesy of XYZ Realty.’ I believe the public needs to clearly understand who is the listing agent on every property. "

Austin luxury broker, Michele Turnquist, who supported the petition, cited service, accuracy and privacy concerns as motivations for her endorsement of it.

Others were strongly opposed.

"I think the reality is luxury listing brokers pushing this were finding they were dealing with (buyer’s agents) more often and not getting both sides of the transaction. They figured out the (buyer’s agent) probably came to work with their client through effective website marketing that included IDX feeds, didn’t like it, and decided to try and change (ABoR’s) IDX policies," wrote Ted Mueller, an Austin Realtor and ABoR member, commenting on a May 23 Inman News article.

The petition was all about getting a debate started, wrote Shiflet in a comment to the same article. "The goal was simply to get a discussion started," he wrote.

Shiflet is also the chair of ABoR’s MLS committee, which considered the motion in a heated session a week before ABoR’s leadership unanimously approved its decision Wednesday.

Guerrero, for one, hopes ABoR has put the matter to bed, at least for now. "We hope we have," Guerrero said.

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