MLS & Associations

Connecticut MLS divorces ListHub, cites risk to listing data

Move Inc. says decision comes with several drawbacks for brokers and agents

One of the nation’s largest multiple listing services has decided to terminate its agreement with Move Inc.-owned ListHub.

The MLS cited concerns that the listing syndicator does not adequately protect its brokers’ data from misuse — a claim Move disputes.

Today, Wallingford-based Connecticut Multiple Listing Service announced that, together with its MLS vendor CoreLogic, it had created a way to give its brokers the ability to syndicate directly to third-party portals that make up a large share of real estate traffic — Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com, Homes.com and Homefinder.com — without the need for a separate platform.

Some major MLSs, including Rockville, Maryland-based MRIS, have chosen to sign direct agreements with Zillow and other portals, but also keep ListHub as a syndication option for their members.

Others, including North Alabama MLS and the Austin Board of Realtors, have taken CTMLS’ route and chosen to focus on the the few websites that attract the most consumer traffic and therefore seem to have the potential to deliver more leads to their members.

CTMLS’ syndication agreement with ListHub will end July 31, 2015. CTMLS’ listings database currently has over 25,000 listings. The MLS has more than 10,000 members and covers most of Connecticut.

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Portal Share of desktop real estate Web market in April*
zillow.com 21.83%
realtor.com 10.71%
trulia.com 8.92%
homes.com 2.67%
homefinder.com 0.4%

Source: Experian Marketing Services *Includes traffic from desktop computers and mobile devices, but not from mobile apps.

CTMLS’ direct agreements with the above five websites include guaranteed data protections with strict contractual terms of use preventing resyndication, sale and reuse, among others, said CTMLS CEO Cameron Paine.

“For our brokers, it was a matter of professionalism that their listings be as accurate as possible, whatever website they may be found on,” he said in a statement.

CTMLS’ board made its decision in order to better protect their broker members’ data, Paine told Inman.

“Since ListHub refused multiple requests to provide their agreements with the websites in question, it was entirely unclear how brokerage data was being used and monetized by ListHub,” he said.

“CTMLS believes every brokerage has the right to know how their listing data is being monetized, and by whom.”

ListHub makes some of the “core tenets” of their publisher agreements publicly available, including restrictions on use of listing data for any derivative works or other nondisplay uses, and does not allow publishers to resyndicate or distribute listing data to any third party without authorization.

Agreements between ListHub and the many websites in its networks did not adequately protect broker data, CTMLS spokesman Jack Strong Edwards told Inman.

“ListHub has agreements in place with a wide range of websites and publishers,” he said.

“We as members did not have access to exactly who those were and where listings could be going. We believe the broker as the owner of the data has the right to know exactly where they are headed.”

When ListHub stopped sending listings to Zillow and Trulia in April, that made it clear that ListHub was no longer necessary for CTMLS because the MLS had had direct agreements with Trulia and Zillow since 2011 and 2012, respectively, Edwards said.

“So, really, there was risk to our brokers’ data if we continued with ListHub, and we weren’t comfortable with that,” he said.

He cited an example of a broker whose $2 million listing was advertised on Overstock.com without the broker’s knowledge.

When asked whether the broker knew what his or her permission settings were for ListHub, Edwards said, “That’s just it and where the problem resides. Not all of the outlets that ListHub had agreements with were known to the brokers.”

In response to CTMLS’ assertions, Move spokeswoman Bianca De Rose said no other company offered better protections for broker content in the industry.

“ListHub has set the gold standard in the industry for data protection and accuracy. It has a compliance department dedicated to monitoring publisher practices — and accuracy,” she said.

“ListHub has no record of any data inaccuracies reported by CTMLS and has had no issues with misuse of data in their market. We would welcome a direct discussion regarding any specific questions or concerns.”

ListHub also offers brokers the ability to redirect consumer traffic to their website of choice, control where leads are routed for their listings, and an accurate method for reporting on all Web activity, she added.

The ListHub network currently includes 592 MLS customers, 88 of which signed up this year. Only three MLSs have left the network so far this year, De Rose said, noting that the number of MLSs joining ListHub has grown a record 25 percent over the last 12 months.

CTMLS now allows brokers to choose to send or not send their listings to the five websites above directly in the listing input screen of the MLS. The feature defaults to the brokers’ syndication choices on record, which brokers provided before the feature was built into CoreLogic’s Matrix platform at CTMLS’ request.

Brokers can change that default whenever they want, Edwards said.

If a brokerage chooses to send its lists to a specific website, all of the firm’s listings are sent. But if a seller doesn’t want his or her house listed on that website, listing agents can override the broker’s choice on a listing-by-listing basis, Edwards said.

ListHub syndicates to 183 publisher websites. CTMLS’ decision to stop using ListHub will limit its members’ ability to syndicate to websites other than Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com, Homes.com and Homefinder.com, according to Move.

“Most of our broker and agent customers believe that it’s in their clients’ best interest to maximize exposure for listings on a wide variety of national, regional, and niche sites such as Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Re/Max, Realty Executives, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” De Rose said.

“The ListHub platform provides a secure and accurate way to access a broad network, which, in turn, provides our broker customers with a clear advantage in their ability to serve the consumer.”

Paine said CTMLS will enact direct feed agreements with any franchise or government websites its brokers request the MLS to facilitate advertising their listings on.

De Rose cited several other drawbacks to CTMLS’ decision:

  • CTMLS members who depend on CTMLS for listing distribution will be at a disadvantage with limited syndication options compared to larger franchises and brokerage firms who have their own sources and systems in place.
  • Companies who use ListHub’s Connector products will not have access to the ListHub platform to synchronize their listing content between the MLS and their company database. This will cause them to manually re-enter their listings into multiple platforms, causing redundancy and problems with listing accuracy.
  • Companies who work with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will no longer have synchronization with those systems. This will result in additional hand-entry of data, redundancy and erosion of listing accuracy online.

In response, Paine noted that it is the right of every broker to determine where to advertise their own listings online.

“The Connecticut MLS is facilitating syndication to the five websites noted … and brokers are free to send their own listings anywhere they choose. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise,” he said.

“Furthermore, since our understanding is that the No. 1 and No. 2 most trafficked websites, Zillow and Trulia, will not have their statistics on the ListHub dashboard, in our opinion it renders it useless.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.