The MLS Technology and Emerging Issues Subcommittee (TEIS) of NAR’s Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee is at it again. This group (and its previous iterations) has labored to sort out the issue of Broker A displaying Broker B’s listing in social media for years it seems (yup, I just checked my old files; I think it’s appropriate to pronounce the subcommittee’s acronym as “tease”). The efforts came to something of a head in May, when the NAR board adopted a policy change that effectively permitted IDX through mobile applications. I think that was great news: though I expect we’ll see problems of one kind or another with it over the coming months and years, I expect we can work them out.

Drop me a line if your MLS wants help sorting out how to implement the mobile app in IDX stuff. Generally, it requires slight changes to your data license agreement (you do require anyone who gets access to your data to sign one, right?) and rules.

But the MLIPC also directed the TEIS to try on social media again. Last week, the TEIS came out with its further recommendation. It’s based on feedback NAR received from the whole MLIPC and a conference call by the TEIS earlier this month. According to an NAR staffer’s summary, the feedback from the MLIPC over the summer reflected several tendencies of thought: First, there was not a consensus whether NAR policy should even address the display of listings outside of IDX and VOW. Some folks are hostile to the idea, and think that “display of other participants’ listings outside of VOW and IDX may result in overexposure, misappropriation of listing data, failure to attribute listing participants, and license law violations.” This is no doubt true, but it’s also true within IDX. Most MLSs make some effort to police for these problems in IDX; and it may be difficult to police social media sites in the same ways. So, for example, stale data and its consequences would likely be a more widespread problem in social media displays (or at least the ones I’ve seen described). Of course, there are other folks who strongly believe that “display of other participants’ listings outside of VOW or IDX will give greater exposure of listings to consumers, enhancing the possibility of quicker sales.”

Second, there is a consensus that there’s not a consensus on how to define what actually constitutes a “social media” site. I posted at length on this last year—no need to rehash here.

Third, there is a consensus that if there is a policy, it should be optional for the MLS and the listing participants; that is, each MLS can decide whether to adopt it, and each listing broker can decide whether her listings will be included in it.

The TEIS cleaved to these principles when it proposed the following new policy, which will be on the agenda in Orlando:

MLSs may but are not required to give participants the ability to authorize electronic display of their listings by other participants outside the context of the Internet Data Exchange (“IDX”) policy and rules and the Virtual Office Website (“VOW”) policy and rules. 

Participants may not be required to consent to display or distribution of their listings through non-IDX and non-VOW channels as a condition of participation in MLS or as a condition of participation in IDX.  Electronic display and distribution pursuant to this policy contemplates, but is not limited to, Short Message Services (“SMS”)/texting technologies, and interactive “social media”.  All electronic displays and/or distribution of other participants’ listings conducted pursuant to this policy must comply with state law and regulations and applicable rules. 

Displays addressed by this policy may be subject to technological limitations on disabling/discontinuing third-party comments/reviews, disabling/discontinuing automated displays of market value, “refreshing” displays on a periodic basis, and possibly other issues which should be taken into consideration when developing rules and policies governing such displays.

There’s nothing controversial here, unless you were hoping the TEIS would give your MLS a blueprint for how to do this. OK, so this is really just punting to the local organizations, but I don’t mind that, as the locals make good laboratories.

So, now we’re looking for an MLS or two burning to adopt this optional policy; we’d like to help sort out the complex of legal, operational, and technical issues. If the project works well, maybe NAR will adopt your approach as a model for the rest of its MLSs. We can have some fun with it in the meantime.

I’m really interested in comments from folks (a) who think that MLSs SHOULD adopt an approach like this and (b) who are willing to share specific concerns/reservations about the idea.


Reader Interactions


  1. Doesn't the mandatory MLS model rule already cover the first point authorizing electronic display outside of IDX/VOW?

    Section 2.7 Advertising of Listings Filed with the Service
    A listing shall not be advertised by any participant other than the listing broker without the prior consent of the listing broker. M

    Our MLS went a step further in this rule altering it to

  2. Great article and summary. Me wonders if the broker will be able to opt in or opt out on a listing by listing basis. Me also hopes that the default setting is opt out. Me also questions if the issue will die on the vine.

    Me is feeling a bit irish today.

  3. By the way, I was reminded that I neglected to say who I am and which MLS I refered to in my original comment. Paul Kriewall Project and Contract Manager for the Arizona Regional MLS.

  4. Sorry I've been slow responding to comments:

    @Paul: The answer is "sort of yes". But NAR adopted a change in May that allows display _within_ IDX but via media like mobile.

    This new proposal would allow an MLS to create a new category of display, outside IDX, but similar in that listing brokers would be able to opt-out of it.