MLS & Associations

NAR vote could give broker and agent listing websites a shot in the arm

MLSs must let members co-mingle listings, display 3 years of sold listing data

The board of directors of the National Association of Realtors has passed policy recommendations designed to help broker listing websites become more friendly to consumers and competitive with third-party portals.

With the vote, multiple listing services must now allow brokers to display a minimum of three years of sold listing data on their non-password-protected websites — but only if the sold data is already publicly available. The three-year minimum was added by the NAR Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee on Saturday. There was no maximum imposed.

This policy may give brokers an advantage over third-party portals that rely on public property tax records to track the dates and prices of home sales — records that can lag behind MLS data by weeks or months.

The NAR board, which has nearly 850 members, also approved a policy recommendation requiring brokers to update their MLS listing data at least every 12 hours, up from a previous minimum of three days, and requiring MLSs themselves update that data at least every 12 hours. The obligation on the part of MLSs was also added on Saturday by the MLIP Committee.

The board also approved another policy recommendation allowing brokers to co-mingle listing data from multiple MLSs and make it available to consumers in a single search — a capability prospective buyers already have on third-party portals such as Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com.

All three recommendations are changes to NAR’s current Internet data exchange (IDX) policy, which applies to listings pooled by MLS members for public display.

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A fourth recommendation, also approved by the board, requires MLSs to comply with real estate data standards devised by the nonprofit Real Estate Standards Organization starting in 2016 — a move that sets the stage for tech developers to more easily create more, better and cheaper agent and broker tools powered by real estate data.

The board accepted an amendment from RESO suggesting that the deadline to comply with the Data Dictionary remain Jan. 1, 2016, but the deadline to comply with the RESO Web API be moved to June 30, 2016.

All four of these recommendations were previously options MLSs could choose to implement, or not, at will. As of January 2015, all Realtor-affiliated MLSs — the vast majority of the 850-plus MLSs in the nation — will be required to follow them.

The recommendations were approved by the board without discussion or debate, according to Bill Lublin, chair of the MLIP Committee.

“It was a perfect example of how smoothly change is advanced and progress made when the process is transparent and all the stakeholders have an opportunity to provide input and have their perspectives honored,” he said.

The approved policies:

1. That MLS Policy Statement 7.90, Real Estate Transaction Standards (RETS) be amended as follows (underscoring indicates additions, strikeouts indicate deletions):
The integrity of data is a foundation to the orderly real estate market. The Real Estate Transaction Standards (RETS) provide a vendor-neutral, secure approach to exchanging listing information between the broker and the MLS. In order to ensure that the goal of maintaining an orderly marketplace is maintained, and to further establish REALTOR® information as the trusted data source, MLS organizations owned and operated by associations of REALTORS® will comply with the RETS standards by December 31, 2009,and implement the RESO Standards including: the RESO Data Dictionary by January 1, 2016; the RESO Web API by June 30, 2016 and will keep current with the standard’s new versions by implementing new releases of RETS RESO Standards on at least one of the MLS’s servers within one (1) year from ratification. Compliance with this requirement can be demonstrated using the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) compliance checker Certification Process. (Amended 11/0914)

Rationale: These amendments provide MLS Participants with improved MLS data access including faster updates/results, increased security, and ease of use in displaying property information. The RESO Data Dictionary standardizes all available MLS data fields for software programming.

2. That “Policies Applicable to Participants’ Websites and Displays”, Internet Data Exchange (IDX) Policy (MLS Policy Statement 7.58), be amended in relevant part as follows (underscoring indicates additions, strikeouts indicate deletions):Recommendations #2, #3 and #4 are related and should be considered together.

  1. Participants must refresh all MLS downloads and displays automatically fed by those downloads not less frequently than every three (3) days12 hours

3. That Section 18.2.5 of the NAR Model MLS Rules and Regulations (all types) be amended as follows (underscoring indicates additions, strikeouts indicate deletions):

  1. Participants must refresh all MLS downloads and displays automatically fed by those downloads not less frequently than every three (3) days12 hours.

4. That the third paragraph of the Internet Data Exchange (IDX) Policy (MLS Policy Statement 7.58), be amended as follows (underscoring indicates additions):  

To comply with this requirement MLSs must, if requested by a participant, promptly provide basic downloading of all active listings and other listings authorized under applicable MLS rules and may not exclude any listings from the information which can be downloaded or displayed under IDX except those listings for which a participant has withheld consent, or listings for which the seller has prohibited Internet display. Associations and MLSs can also offer alternative display options including framing of board, MLS, or other publicly-accessible sites displaying participants’ listings (with permission of the framed site). For purposes of this policy, “downloading” means electronic transmission of data from MLS servers to participants’ servers on a persistent or transient basis, at the discretion of the MLS. The MLS’s IDX download must be refreshed to accurately reflect all updates and status changes no less frequently than every twelve (12) hours.  Data transmitted must exclude the listing or property address, respectively, of any seller who affirmatively directs that the listing or the property address not appear on the Internet or other electronic forms of display or distribution. (Amended 05/12)

Rationale: Increases the frequency of the updates MLSs provide, so that MLS Participants will be able to display IDX property information accurately reflecting all updates and status changes no less frequently than every twelve (12) hours. The current IDX refresh requirement is at least every three (3) days.

5. That “Policies Applicable to Participants’ IDX Websites and Displays”, Internet Data Exchange (IDX) Policy (MLS Policy Statement 7.58), be amended as follows (underscoring indicates additions):Recommendations #5 through #8 are related and should be considered together.

10. An MLS Participant (or where permitted locally, an MLS Subscriber) may co-mingle the listings of other brokers received in an IDX feed with listings available from other MLS IDX feeds, provided all such displays are consistent with the IDX rules, and the MLS Participant (or MLS Subscriber) holds participatory rights in those MLSs. As used in this policy, “co-mingling” means that consumers are able to execute a single property search of multiple IDX data feeds resulting in the display of IDX information from each of the MLSs on a single search results page; and that Participants may display listings from each IDX feed on a single webpage or display.

6. That “Additional Local Issues/Options”, Internet Data Exchange (IDX) Policy (MLS Policy Statement 7.58), be amended as follows (underscoring indicates additions, strikeouts indicate deletions): 

5. MLSs cannot prohibit participants from downloading and displaying or framing other brokers’ listings obtained from other sources, e.g., other MLSs, non-participating brokers, etc., but can, as a matter of local option, require that listings obtained through IDX feeds from REALTOR® Association MLSs be searched separately from listings obtained from other sources, including other MLSs.

Note: An MLS Participant (or where permitted locally, an MLS Subscriber) may co-mingle the listings of other brokers received in an IDX feed with listings available from other MLS IDX feeds, provided all such displays are consistent with the IDX rules, and the MLS Participant (or MLS Subscriber) holds participatory rights in those MLSs. As used in this policy, “co-mingling” means that consumers are able to execute a single property search of multiple IDX data feeds resulting in the display of IDX information from each of the MLSs on a single search results page; and that Participants may display listings from each IDX feed on a single webpage or display.

7. That Section 18, Internet Data Exchange (IDX), NAR Model MLS Rules and Regulations (all types), be amended as follows (underscoring indicates additions): 

Section 18.2.10

An MLS Participant (or where permitted locally, an MLS Subscriber) may co-mingle the listings of other brokers received in an IDX feed with listings available from other MLS IDX feeds, provided all such displays are consistent with the IDX rules, and the MLS Participant (or MLS Subscriber) holds participatory rights in those MLSs. As used in this policy, “co-mingling” means that consumers are able to execute a single property search of multiple IDX data feeds resulting in the display of IDX information from each of the MLSs on a single search results page; and that Participants may display listings from each IDX feed on a single webpage or display.

8. That Section 18.3.11, Internet Data Exchange (IDX), NAR Model MLS Rules and Regulations (all types), be amended as follows (underscoring indicates additions, strikeouts indicate deletions):

Section 18.3.11

Listings obtained through IDX feeds from REALTOR® Association MLSs where the MLS Participant holds participatory rights must be displayed separately from listings obtained from other sources, including information provided by other MLSs. Listings obtained from other sources (e.g., from other MLSs, from non-participating brokers, etc.) must display the source from which each such listing was obtained. Displays of minimal information (e.g., “thumbnails”, text messages, “tweets”, etc., of two hundred [200] characters or less) are exempt from this requirement but only when linked directly to a display that includes all required disclosures. (Amended 05/1214O

Note: An MLS Participant (or where permitted locally, an MLS Subscriber) may co-mingle the listings of other brokers received in an IDX feed with listings available from other MLS IDX feeds, provided all such displays are consistent with the IDX rules, and the MLS Participant (or MLS Subscriber) holds participatory rights in those MLSs. As used in this policy, “co-mingling” means that consumers are able to execute a single property search of multiple IDX data feeds resulting in the display of IDX information from each of the MLSs on a single search results page; and that Participants may display listings from each IDX feed on a single webpage or display.

Rationale: These amendments will enable MLS Participants to display IDX information from all MLS IDX feeds where they hold participatory rights, allowing consumers to execute a single property search.

Recommendations #9 and #10 are related and should be considered together.

9. That MLS Policy Statement 7.58, Internet Data Exchange (IDX) Policy, be amended as follows (underscoring indicates additions): 

The IDX policy gives MLS participants the ability to authorize limited electronic display of their listings by other participants. (Adopted 05/12)

Associations of REALTORS® and their multiple listing services must enable MLS participants to display aggregated MLS listing information by specified electronic means in accordance with this policy. Electronic display subject to this policy means displays on participants’ public websites and displays using applications for mobile devices that participants control. For purposes of this policy “control” means participants must have the ability to add, delete, modify and update information as required by this policy. All displays of IDX listings must also be under the actual and apparent control of the participant, and must be presented to the public as being the participant’s display. Actual control requires that the participant has developed the display, or caused the display to be developed for the participant pursuant to an agreement giving the participant authority to determine what listings will be displayed, and how those listings will be displayed. Apparent control requires that a reasonable consumer viewing the participant’s display will understand the display is the participant’s, and that the display is controlled by the participant. Factors evidencing control include, but are not limited to, clear identification of the name of the brokerage firm under which the participant operates in a readily visible color and typeface, except as otherwise provided for in this policy (e.g., displays of minimal information). All electronic display of IDX information conducted pursuant to this policy must comply with state law and regulations, and MLS rules. Any display of IDX information must be controlled by the participant, including the ability to comply with this policy and applicable MLS rules. (Amended 05/12)

To comply with this requirement MLSs must, if requested by a participant, promptly provide basic downloading of all active listings, a minimum of three (3) years sold* listings data and other listings authorized under applicable MLS rules, and may not exclude any listings from the information which can be downloaded or displayed under IDX except those listings for which a participant has withheld consent, or listings for which the seller has prohibited Internet display. Associations and MLSs can also offer alternative display options including framing of board, MLS, or other publicly accessible sites displaying participants’ listings (with permission of the framed site). For purposes of this policy, “downloading” means electronic transmission of data from MLS servers to participants’ servers on a persistent or transient basis, at the discretion of the MLS. Data transmitted must exclude the listing or property address, respectively, of any seller who affirmatively directs that the listing or the property address not appear on the Internet or other electronic forms of display or distribution. (Amended 05/12).

* Note: If “sold” information is not publicly accessible, sold listings can be removed from the MLSs’ IDX feeds/downloads. 

MLSs that allow persistent downloading of the MLS database by participants for display or distribution on the Internet or by other electronic means may require that participants’ websites (1) utilize appropriate security protection, such as firewalls, provided that any security obligations imposed on participants may not be greater than those employed concurrently by the MLS, and/or (2) maintain an audit trail of consumer activity on participants’ websites and make that information available to the MLS if the MLS has reason to believe that a participant’s IDX website has caused or permitted a breach in the security of the data or a violation of MLS rules related to use by consumers. This policy does not require associations or MLSs to establish publicly accessible sites displaying participants’ listings. (Amended 05/12)

Unless state law requires prior written consent from listing brokers, listing brokers’ consent for IDX display may be presumed unless a listing broker affirmatively notifies the MLS that the listing broker refuses to permit display (either on a blanket or on a listing-by-listing basis). If a participant refuses on a blanket basis to permit IDX display of that participant’s listings, then that participant may not display the aggregated MLS data of other participants on an IDX site.

Alternatively, MLSs may require that participants’ consent for IDX display of their listings by other participants be affirmatively established in writing. Even where participants have given blanket authority for other participants’ IDX display of their listings, such consent may be withdrawn on a listing-by-listing basis as instructed by the seller. (Amended 05/12)

Access to MLS databases, or any part of such databases, may not be provided to any person or entity not expressly authorized such access under the MLS rules. (Amended 11/09)

Participants’ Internet websites and other authorized display mechanisms may also provide other features, information, or services in addition to IDX information (including Virtual Office Website [“VOW”] functions) which are not subject to this policy. (Amended 05/12)

Policies Applicable to Multiple Listing Services

The following guidelines are recommended but not required to conform to National Association Policy. MLS may:

  1. Prohibit display of expired, withdrawn, pending, or sold listings*.

* Note: If “sold” information is publicly accessible, display of “sold” listings may not be prohibited.

2. Prohibit display of confidential information fields intended for cooperating brokers rather than consumers including compensation offered to other MLS participants, showing instructions, property security information, etc.

3. Prohibit display of the type of listing agreement, e.g., exclusive right to sell, exclusive agency, etc.

4. Prohibit display of seller’s(s’) and occupant’s(s’) name(s), phone number(s), and e-mail address(es).

5. Require that any listing displayed identify the listing firm in a reasonably prominent location and in a readily visible color and typeface not smaller than the median used in the display of listing data. (Amended 11/09)

6. Require that the identity of listing agents be displayed.

7. Require that information displayed not be modified. MLS data may be augmented with additional data not otherwise prohibited from display so long as the source of the other data is clearly identified. This requirement does not restrict the format of MLS data display or display of fewer than all of the available listings or fewer authorized data fields. 

8. require that any display of other participants’ listings indicate the source of the information being displayed require that other brokers’ listings obtained from other sources, e.g., from other MLSs, from non-participating brokers, etc., display the source from which each such listing was obtained

9. Require participants to indicate on their websites and in any other IDX display that the information being provided is for consumers’ personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing. (Amended 05/12)

10. Establish reasonable limits on the amount of data/number of listings that consumers may retrieve or download in response to an inquiry. Such number shall be determined by the MLS, but in no instance may the limit be fewer than one hundred (100) listings or five percent (5%) of the listings available for IDX display, whichever is less. (Amended 11/09)

11. Limit the right to display other participants’ listings to a participant’s office(s) holding participatory rights in the same MLS.

12. Require a notice on all MLS data displayed indicating that the data is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by the MLS. Participants’ IDX sites and displays may also include other disclaimers necessary to protect the participant and/or the MLS from liability. (Amended 05/12)

10. That optional Section 18.3.12, NAR model MLS rules (all types), be amended as follows (underscoring indicates additions):

Section 18.3.12 — Display of expired, withdrawn, pending, and sold listings* is prohibited.

* Note: If “sold” information is publicly accessible, display of “sold” listings may not be prohibited. 

Rationale: These amendments enable MLS Participants to compete with other online sources of property information by permitting them to display MLS sold data for IDX display where “sold” information is otherwise publicly accessible.