The mid-Atlantic organization fines brokers $5,000 for marketing listings without putting them in the MLS. But days after those fines went into effect, everyone appears to be complying.

When Bright MLS debuted a ground-breaking pocket listing ban last fall, it was an open question how the multiple listing service’s members would respond. The idea was both new and controversial in the industry, and it was anyone’s guess if Bright MLS members would embrace it or revolt.

But now, days after the rule’s steep $5,000-fines for violations have kicked in, we have at least a preliminary answer: Bright MLS says that so far it has 100 percent compliance among its members, and it hasn’t actually needed to fine anyone.

Brian Donnellan

“We feel pretty good about how big this was, and about how far we’ve come,” Brian Donnellan, Bright MLS’s president and CEO, told Inman Tuesday.

Bright MLS first went public with its pocket listing ban in October. The rule requires agents to post their properties to the multiple listing service (MLS) within a day of marketing them — meaning that privately promoting unlisted homes for days or weeks is now verboten. Bright MLS’s ban was based on a similar policy proposal, which has since been adopted, from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Such policies were polarizing, with high profile figures such as Redfin’s Glenn Kelman offering enthusiastic support even as Compass and Assist-2-Sell strongly opposed Bright MLS’s version of the rule. The drama surrounding pocket listing bans eventually made the topic one of the dominant real estate stories of 2019’s final months.

But so far at least, it appears Bright MLS’s own members have embraced the policy. Though it actually went into effect last fall, the trade organization opted to not begin imposing $5,000 fines for violations until February 1, 2020. In the meantime, Donnellan explained, Bright MLS leadership launched an extensive education campaign that involved web trainings, videos and other efforts to educate agents on what was happening and why.

Donnellan said that Bright MLS ultimately fielded “thousands” of questions from agents about the rule.

“We put a lot of work in over the past couple of months in just about every area we could,” Donnellan said. “So we could say with a straight face that we answered every possible question that came up.”

Bright MLS serves nearly 100,000 real estate professionals in the Mid-Atlantic area, and Donnellan said that a variety of responses to the policy surfaced during the education period. And while there were some people for whom the pocket listing ban was “not what they were looking for,” overall most were ultimately onboard with the rule.

Violators of the rule can be identified either through reporting from other industry members, or through Bright MLS’s own monitoring efforts online and elsewhere. Agents who do break the rule are entitled to warnings, and can appeal their case to Bright MLS leadership.

But so far at least, Donnellan said, Bright MLS is not aware of any violations. Some warnings were issued in recent months, but have since been addressed and those violations have been brought into compliance.

Fines have only just kicked in of course, and February is not a particularly busy month for home sales, but Donnellan expressed optimism that going forward Bright MLS’s membership would continue to stand behind the rule.

“I would say from my experience, from talking to people, I believe that most have been very positive about this,” he explained.

Donnellan also said that Bright MLS’s experience offers a success story for other multiple listings services, which have until May 1 to comply with NAR’s similar pocket listing ban. And, he added, it’s an example of a positive change in the real estate industry.

“I do believe this was a big deal,” Donnellan said. “It’s good for the brokers, it’s good for the agents, it’s good for fair housing. I think it’s going to be worth it.”

Correction: This post originally stated that no warnings had been issued. However, Bright MLS provided updated information noting that some warnings were previously issued but have since been brought into compliance.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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