• California Regional MLS (CRMLS) distributed all of the revenue it gets from licensing listing data to third-party portals to its brokers for the second year.
  • CRMLS declined to comment on the revenue it receives from third parties overall or the syndication revenue the checks added up to total (last year that figure was about $160,000).

The largest multiple listing service in the nation, California Regional MLS (CRMLS), cut checks to about 2,100 of its member brokerages last week, turning over all of the revenue that the MLS has received from third-party portal syndication.

That’s a 62 percent increase in brokers receiving checks compared to last year — the first year CRMLS started this program — when 1,300 brokers were eligible to receive checks.

CRMLS said the increase was due to more brokerages opting into listing syndication, but the company didn’t know why more brokers had chosen that route. Last year, about 60 percent of CRMLS brokerages with listings opted in. CRMLS declined to say what percentage did this year.

The payouts aren’t huge for most brokers, but CRMLS rolled out the program as a nod to the value of listing data as well as the hard work that brokers put in to obtain the listings behind the data, in effort to help them offset some of the costs involved in that process. (CRMLS has more than 81,000 agent, broker and appraiser members, but declined to say how many brokerages total belong to the MLS.)

“CRMLS enters into data syndication agreements which it believes will benefit their subscribers and participants in the business of serving buyers and sellers of California real estate,” the MLS said in a press release.

“As part of such agreements, CRMLS has received licensing fees for providing a feed of participating brokers’ listing data. Since this listing data comes directly from the efforts of those brokers, and there being substantial costs for those firms to successfully obtain listings, CRMLS has resolved to return all resulting income back to the listing brokerage community.”

While CRMLS CEO Art Carter expressed hope last year that other MLSs would join CRMLS in instituting similar programs for brokers, that doesn’t seem to have come to pass. One exception is Mid-Atlantic MLS MRIS (now incorporated as Bright MLS), which has been paying out syndication and other licensing revenue to brokers for five years.

MLS shares some details, but remains mum on others

Eligible brokerages are those that contributed 10 or more listings to the CRMLS database between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, and chose to allow CRMLS to distribute those listings to third-party websites for them. Listings that had confirmed MLS rule violations and fines during that time were not included.

The funds distributed to brokers represent all of the fees collected from syndication channels over the course of the last year, minus the costs of printing and distributing the checks, CRMLS said.

Art Carter

The MLS is paying out $1.24 per listing (down from $1.36 last year), so the smallest check amount a broker will receive is $12.40. The biggest check amounted to $7,267.14 (down from more than $10,000 last year), according to Carter.

The median check amount is $30.98 (down from $39.51 last year), which is equivalent to about 25 listings.

Carter did not respond to a question asking how much syndication revenue the checks added up to total (last year that figure was about $160,000).

CRMLS syndicates listings to more than 80 third-party websites, mostly through third-party listing syndicator ListHub. But the MLS only earns licensing fees from websites that it has direct-feed agreements with.

Last year, Carter said CRMLS was persuading those 10 or so websites to pay licensing fees “when we can.” When asked whether Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com or Homes.com were among the payees, he declined to say, citing contract obligations.

This year, he declined to say how many third-party listing sites CRMLS has direct-feed agreements with and which are paying CRMLS licensing fees.

Carter also declined to say how much income CRMLS receives from licensing its data to third parties overall and why CRMLS was only turning over licensing income from third-party portals.

“CRMLS is committed to the idea that brokers should maintain control over their data,” Carter said in a statement.

“We will continue to support broker choice to ensure their data is used to benefit the brokerage community and their consumers, and we will continue to help brokerages recoup costs related to obtaining listings, whenever possible.”

MRIS’s longstanding program

David Charron, former CEO of MRIS and now chief strategy officer of its successor, Bright MLS, praised CRMLS’s decision to reward brokers for their efforts in an email to Inman.

David Charron

“[W]e recognized some time ago that rewarding brokers for their data is the most effective way to ensure continued support,” Charron said.

“Pristine data separates the MLS from all other data sources. Eighty-plus percent of any syndication and licensing revenues for participating brokers are returned directly to the broker.

“Kudos to CRMLS and those other enlightened markets that recognize and respect broker participation.”

Bright MLS will continue this program, which is “baked into” its model, Charron said.

“We actually return [revenues] based on a formula that considers total premium revenues (syndication and licensing) generated and the number of listings that do not have a compliance sanction issued against it.”

Bright MLS expects to have 85,000 members at the end of 2017, once all nine of the MLSs that make up Bright transition over.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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