OK, before you criticize my choice of title (“Hey, Brian! 2003 called, and it wants its snarky remark template back!”), hear me out.

The Council of MLSs wrote a letter to NAR earlier this month regarding an item that will be on the agenda at NAR’s mid-year governance meetings in Washington DC next month. This issue arises from one of the dumbest policy interpretations I’ve ever seen come out of NAR. If you are a member of NAR’s multiple listing policy committee, I urge you to adopt CMLS’s recommendation; if you know a member of the committee, I urge you to urge the member to adopt CMLS’s recommendation; and if your MLS can write a letter supporting CMLS’s recommendation before the NAR meetings, I urge you to do that.

It’s best if you read the letter, but here’s the basics: NAR has told some MLSs that they may not require submission of pictures of listed property as a condition of having the property included in the MLS, and that an MLS cannot require participants to submit property disclosure forms as a condition of having a property included in the MLS. NAR policy staff has stated that NAR policy prohibits such requirements.

In our experience, a great many MLSs require brokers to submit a property photo for each listing. More and more MLSs are requiring that property disclosures that the seller must disclose to the buyer up-front also be included on the MLS.

CMLS’s view is “that an individual MLS can, at its option, require a listing broker to submit to MLS any nonā€confidential information relating to the property that is reasonably available to the listing broker, including: One or more photos, including an exterior frontā€elevation photo; and any documentation required by law to be provided by seller or listing broker to prospective buyers at or before the time of showing.”

As CMLS’s letter points out, the NAR policy interpretation does not make sense for brokers, and it does not even appear to be supported by the NAR policy documents.

I think NAR’s interpretation would have made sense back in 1994. In those days, digital cameras were expensive and crappy, and requiring brokers to photograph listings with film and then mail in or drop off the prints would have been an unreasonable burden on them. Don’t think that photos were not important back then, though. In those days, most larger MLSs and many smaller ones hired photographers to go out and take pictures of all the listings, for which the brokers paid (either on a per-listing basis or as part of their MLS fees).

I’m hoping NAR will make the move into its “Second Century” (and the 21st for the rest of us) and clarify this policy next month.

As always, I welcome your comments.


(Disclosure: Though you probably would not guess it from the tone of this post, I’m engaged in a consulting project for NAR that has nothing to do with this issue. BTW, nice to see y’all again. I’ve been so overwhelmed with work for the last couple months that I’ve neglected posting. I’m guessing many of you are happy you didn’t have to read those long, boring posts for a couple months.)