- IDX policies include a requirement for MLSs to allow brokers to offer sold and pending listings in IDX feeds.
- Several MLSs have refused to comply with the policy, however.
The National Association of Realtors’ (NAR’s) MLS Issues and Policy Committee, with the support of the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, The Realty Alliance and many individual brokers and technology companies, has successfully revisited IDX (internet data exchange) policy over the past couple of years to allow brokers to leverage IDX data in new and exciting ways.
Some brokers are really excited about the option to enrich the data they offer to consumers to make their websites more engaging and more competitive with third-party sites.
These changes make IDX a more flexible and comprehensive method to attract homebuyers and sellers.
Here’s the problem, though.
I wrote an article a few months ago outlining the fact that even though all MLSs are required to provide sold and pending listings in their IDX feeds, several MLSs have refused to comply with the policy.
This inconsistency has created frustrations from brokers all over the country, especially for those operating in multiple MLS regions.
One large broker I interviewed told me he was looking to add sold listings to his IDX in all of the MLS regions where his company operates.
When he requested sold listings in his IDX feed, here’s what happened:
- One-third of the MLSs he works with immediately approved his request and got him the necessary paperwork to secure the feed in short order.
- Another third of the MLSs he works with initially said “no” to the request and then came back and approved the feed after doing some research.
- The final third simply refused to even consider the idea of including sold listings in an IDX feed — even though the policy has been approved for almost two years.
Without the final third of his MLSs providing him sold listings, the broker was not able to add sold listings to his corporate website, eliminating a significant opportunity to strengthen his online marketing program.
He is not alone, unfortunately. We hear stories like this all the time from many of our broker clients.
To make matters worse, brokers feel like they have no recourse to require their MLSs to comply with approved IDX policies. In order to include sold listings on a brokerage website, a broker would have to fight for changed rules and regulations at every local MLS that refused to comply with the approved IDX policy.
What broker has the time and energy to conduct such a labor-intensive fight? Isn’t that why we have national MLS policies? Aren’t IDX policies intended to make it easier for a broker to leverage MLS data to effectively promote their company, agents and listings?
Brokers are afraid to get vocal about their frustrations or report their MLS to NAR. They feel like their MLSs will “punish” their company if they go to NAR to report non-compliance with IDX policies.
Many of the broker technology staff leadership I spoke in preparation for this article told me that although they are often frustrated, they do not complain because they need cooperation from their MLS to get their job done.
To illustrate the seriousness of this perceived threat, none of those whom I spoke with were willing to be quoted for this article for fear of repercussions from their local MLSs. They didn’t want to go public even though they are not getting what they need from their local MLSs.
I am not sure why there is no program in place that monitors compliance with MLS policies to ensure that every MLS organization is allowing their brokers to take full advantage of leveraging a more complete data set to attract consumers to their websites.
I have outlined a proposed solution for consideration.
Here’s a proposed solution
Today, there are approximately 730 MLS organizations in the United States. NAR provides oversight for many of its policies relating to association and MLS services.
As part of this oversight, NAR could provide a valuable service to brokers. Here’s how it can work:
Promote rules changes to all MLSs
Many times when a broker reaches out to an MLS to co-mingle between MLSs or add sold listings to an IDX feed, the broker discovers that the MLS is not aware of the latest changes to IDX policy.
It would be great if NAR could promote all of the changes to associations and MLSs to ensure they know how to keep their policies up-to-date, much like RESO (Real Estate Standards Organization) does when it updates its Data Dictionary.
Review MLS rules and regulations for all MLSs
It would be great if NAR or another sanctioned governing body could review the rules and regulations of each MLS to be sure it has adjusted policies to be in full compliance with all required elements of the latest IDX policy.
NAR does not have jurisdiction over all MLSs, since some are broker-owned, so it might need to be a collaborative effort between multiple groups like NAR and CMLS (Council of Multiple Listing Services) to ensure broker-owned MLSs are consistent with NAR-governed entities and so brokers have consistent data to work with across all markets.
Test IDX feed for compliance
Next, NAR can conduct a test of the actual IDX data feed to ensure that requirements like sold listings and pending listings are, in fact, available for technology companies that offer IDX feeds via a RETS (real estate transaction standard) feed to service brokers.
The test can also ensure that a brokerage with its own technology solutions can receive an IDX feed that provides all of the required features of the IDX policy, just like a third-party technology vendor does.
The compliance review would apply to all required policies and could provide guidance on which optional policies are covered, as well.
Publish available markets
Fourth, all MLSs in full compliance with all required IDX policies can be published for easy reference for technology companies and brokers to access.
Ideally, NAR will promote the location of this list to all brokerages with a link to the complete list of compliant MLSs in the broker section on realtor.org.
Systematically identify non-compliance
The next step may be the most difficult and yet most valuable for brokers.
Once all of the compliant MLSs have been identified, there will be a short list of MLSs that have not adapted their rules and regulations to include the revisions to required IDX policies.
Ideally, this list will be non-existent or minimal once NAR’s education effort has been implemented.
Promote NAR rules hotline
As a last resort, brokers can call the NAR Rules Hotline and issue a complaint if the local MLS is not in compliance with the latest NAR IDX rules.
It would be great if NAR could promote that hotline to all brokers and let them know that they do have recourse if they are having an issue. There is currently little broker awareness of this service or where to find it on realtor.org.
NAR or another sanctioned governing body can then go to work to educate non-compliant MLSs about IDX policy changes and then require compliance for required policies.
I believe that many MLSs simply are not aware of the changes that have been made to the policy. Simply by educating local MLSs, I believe that many MLS markets may be resolved.
For those that are aware of the changes to IDX policy and refuse to comply, NAR has a much tougher job. It will need to find a way to incentivize and/or punish MLSs that refuse to provide their brokers with the marketing opportunities IDX policy provides them.
Maybe it can provide these groups a short-term incentive to get up to speed. If that doesn’t work, then the hard work begins. NAR may have to fine an MLS that refuses to comply or even pull its charter.
Bottom line: If an MLS refuses to comply with policies that serve the best interest of the paying customer, I’m not sure why that MLS even exists! Shouldn’t every business work every day to provide the solutions its customers want and need, even if there aren’t policies that require it to?
If you are of a board member or leader of an MLS, I strongly urge you to review the rules and regulations to ensure that are they compliant with today’s MLS policies.
The best answer is for each and every MLS to step up and do the right thing for its customer-members without any need for NAR — or anybody else — to step in!
Marilyn Wilson is a founding partner of WAV Group, a consulting firm serving the real estate industry.