National listing site Homesnap is meant to be the real estate industry’s answer to third-party search portals such as Zillow and realtor.com. But for one market, Homesnap left something to be desired as a local listing site.
The Space Coast Multiple Listing Service in Brevard County, Florida — named due to its proximity to NASA’s primary launch sites — dropped Homesnap as its local listing portal this week, citing concerns about limited search parameters and agent lead forms next to listings.
Homesnap, the face of the first national public-facing MLS website known as the Broker Public Portal, adheres to “fair display guidelines” devised by a group of MLSs and brokers that are designed to differentiate the industry portal from third-party sites.
The guidelines include not forcing brokers to display their listings on the site; no featured listings or ads for other brokers or agents next to a brokerage’s listing; and free leads sent to listing agents or brokers, among other stipulations.
Space Coast MLS, which has more than 4,000 agent, broker and appraiser members, will continue to send its more than 7,400 active listings to Homesnap and use the Homesnap Pro app, for which it pays Homesnap $1 per member per month.
In an Oct. 2 announcement and email to members, Space Coast MLS said the Homesnap-powered public search on its new association website “wasn’t the right fit for our needs” and had been replaced by a search tool from Financial Business Systems’ (FBS) Flexmls, a previous vendor, while Space Coast MLS works on a permanent solution.
“We are a beachside community with 72 miles of oceanfront property located on the east coast of Florida. We have a variety of waterfront properties including intercoastal riverfront properties, lakes and estuaries that may be unique to Brevard County. The current search criteria offered [on Homesnap] is very limited,” Leah Selig, CEO of the Space Coast Association of Realtors (which owns and operates the MLS), told Inman via email.
“We are hoping that eventually more detailed search parameters will be available, for us at least Waterfront and Pools.”
Selig also said that some Space Coast MLS members expressed concerns around the “very prominent” box next to listings suggesting consumers contact the listing agent. Before using Homesnap as its local MLS site, Space Coast MLS did not have agent lead forms next to listings on its local site — though it did include the listing office contact information in a more subdued display.
“Our MLS public portal has always displayed the listing office and agent as well as their contact information. Right or wrong we have never used our public MLS portal on our association-sponsored website to generate leads for listing or buyers agents,” Selig said.
Homesnap’s website currently offers search filters for sale status, list date, property type, price, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, year built, square footage, and commute time. The Flexmls search tool offers quite a few more search criteria, including waterfront type, dwelling waterview, pool, acreage and open house date.
Space Coast will be requesting that Homesnap offer some additional search criteria and will provide a list of changes they would like to see, according to Selig.
“We do understand that this is a national database and most every area in the country has some sort of unique landscape or features that might not be [relevant] across the entire country,” she said.
Homesnap began in 2012 as a consumer-facing smartphone app allowing users to “snap” photos of properties to receive more information about them, and quickly evolved into a national search platform backed by major multiple listing services.
Of the nation’s more than 600 MLSs, 170 of them feed their listings to Homesnap and provide the Homesnap Pro mobile app for their 875,000 combined agents, the company said.
“Many of those MLSs use Homesnap.com as their public-facing search site, while some also maintain a local brand presence in addition to Homesnap, i.e. their own domain, like Space Coast does,” Homesnap spokesperson Gayle Weiswasser told Inman via email.
“No MLSs, including Space Coast, have stopped sharing listings with Homesnap or otherwise prevented them from being featured in Homesnap.”
Only a handful of MLSs have chosen to “frame” the Homesnap site on their own MLS website as Space Coast had done, according to Steve Barnes, Homesnap’s president and co-founder. WisconsinHomes.com is an example.
“This is really kind of a fringe case related to Homesnap,” Barnes said in a phone interview, adding that none of the other MLSs that iframe Homesnap’s site have chosen to turn it off.
“What it might say is a very local MLS needs unique flavor and a more seamless [tool]. Iframe might not be the best solution for them, but it’s not something that’s actually core to the Homesnap brand,” he added.
Framing Homesnap’s site is something Homesnap allowed Space Coast to do for free and is “completely independent” from the agreement for providing Homesnap Pro to their members and displaying their listings on Homesnap.com, Weisswasser said.
“Framing is an imperfect solution that any market can can do, but it doesn’t always work as well operationally as redirecting searchers to Homesnap’s full site,” she said.
Homesnap has search filters for “pool” and “waterfront” on its product roadmap, though there’s no timeline yet for when those criteria will be added, Weiswasser said later in a phone interview.
“Different markets across the country have unique, market-specific search needs, and we are continually balancing those needs with the desire to keep Homesnap search uncomplicated for users. We listen to and consider all MLS feedback as we continue to develop our product and feature roadmap,” she said.
Asked whether Homesnap planned to add or change anything else to address Space Coast MLS’s concerns, she said, “Not at this time.”
This includes lead forms, which will not be changed. Weiswasser said the forms are informed by the fair display guidelines, but that if buyer’s agents invite their clients to connect in Homesnap, all future inquiries from those clients go exclusively to the buyer’s agent.
Space Coast’s Selig realized that the forms might not change and said “our association will need to determine how critical that is for us. For the moment we are reconsidering all of the options for our public-facing MLS portal and Homesnap will be in that mix of vendors we will be looking at.”
Selig stressed that Space Coast MLS does not “have an issue” with the Homesnap product, which the MLS likes and has offered as a member benefit since January 2015. Space Coast decided to use Homesnap for its local public MLS portal because the Broker Public Portal partnered with Homesnap and “we are very supportive of the Broker Public Portal,” she said.
But “it just may not be the right fit for our local MLS public portal on our association-sponsored website which displays our members’ listing data, which is primarily Brevard County listings with all of the ‘uniqueness’ of our area,” she added.
Nearly three-quarters of Space Coast MLS’s members — 73 percent — are registered Homesnap Pro users, according to Weiswasser.
The company does not track how many MLSs link to Homesnap from their websites, she said.