Is it time to regulate how Realtors use MLS data? The problem is that too many agents simply solicit property owners and have no knowledge of the property or neighborhood. They just see another potential lead. There’s much more to it.

A client of mine reached out to me by email and pleaded “Is there any way to stop the onslaught of calls about listing the house? They are calling my kids and even my husband’s father in another state! I do not want to relist right now. Can you make this stop?”

Their listing had expired. Due to a pending divorce, they both decided to put selling their home on hold. Unfortunately, I could not help her stop the ridiculous number of phone calls.

Is the problem too many Realtors are chasing too few leads?

Here in Florida, it is said that there is a real estate agent every 10 feet. A standard joke in Florida is that when someone crosses the state line, we give them a real estate license along with a free bag of grape fruit.

With more than 187,000 members, the state association of Florida Realtors is one of the largest in the nation. Then add to that another 50,000 people who have a real estate license, but are not a Realtor. Nationally, there are 1.3 million-plus Realtors in the United States, up from 1.22 million in 2017, according to the National Association of Realtors Member Report.

It could be argued that this type of environment does not help the image of our profession. Yet chasing expired listings is a major source of leads for many agents. Along with personal phone calls, some agents sign up for robo calling and other expired listing lead generation programs.

Can MLS rules help solve the problem?

Some MLSs have taken action to try and prevent the onslaught of solicitations that an expired listing will create. California Regional MLS has decided that “Trolling expired or canceled listings in an effort to secure a new listing clearly falls outside of the permitted uses of MLS information.”

It has created a rule that forbids using MLS data for that purpose.

The rule states:

“In recognition that the purpose of the MLS is to market properties and offer compensation to other Broker Participants and R.E. Subscribers for the sole purpose of selling the property, and that sellers of properties filed with the MLS have not given permission to disseminate the information for any other purpose, Participants and Subscribers are expressly prohibited from using MLS information for any purpose other than to market property to bona fide prospective buyers or to support market evaluations or appraisals as specifically allowed by Sections 12.14, 12.15 and 12.16. MLS information may also be used to develop Statistics, Market Condition Reports, and Broker or Agent Metrics. Any use of MLS information inconsistent with these sections is expressly prohibited. Nothing in this section, however, shall limit the MLS from entering into licensing agreements with MLS Participants and Subscribers or other third parties for use of the MLS information.”

Why does the MLS exist?

Is the purpose of the MLS to sell real estate or to provide data for agents to get leads? Edward Zorn, vice president and general counsel, of the California Regional MLS, recently published a paper on the subject “When Farming Goes Too Far: Expired Listings and CRMLS Rule 12.11.”

He concludes his paper by stating: “Please remember that the MLS exists to help brokers cooperate with one another in assisting established clients in buying and selling properties. The MLS does not exist as a shortcut or method for you to obtain a new client.”

Should Realtors stop soliciting expired listings?

I’ll open that Pandora’s box by saying that I call expired listings. However, I limit my solicitations to neighborhoods where I regularly do business and have knowledge. I will often hear comments from these homeowners that I’m the first person to call who has any knowledge about their property and neighborhood.

The problem is that too many agents simply solicit property owners and have no knowledge of the property or neighborhood. They see the property owner as just another potential lead. I can only imagine a homeowner’s opinion of our profession when they get a robo call or a form letter.

Zorn gave us something to think about when he wrote: “Agents, or worse, computers, that call her are not gaining an upper hand in securing her business. What they are very successful in doing is angering her as a seller, and greatly diminishing her respect of the Realtors community.”

Jim Weix is a Broker Associate with The Keyes Company, Florida. He is best known as being the catalyst that brought about “MLS of Choice” nationally.

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