The Idea

Back in 2012 the national portal websites deployed a model of selling leads generated from one broker’s listing, directly to their competitor buyer’s agents who purchased leads in a given zip code. This generated intense debate in the real estate industry about the fairness of this practice.

The discussion expanded quickly into the concept of whether a local MLS should also be allowed to have a public facing website to display the listings of their brokers and agents directly to the consumer. Fearing that an MLS public facing website might follow a similar business model to the large aggregators, there was a desire in the industry to nip things in the bud before they headed down that path. Many brokers were concerned that in the absence of some clear guidelines of what would be considered fair, these sites might erode the brokerage brand value or in a worst case scenario, be used against the best interests of the agents, their sellers and the real estate brokers.

The COVE group is an industry group of 23 of the largest MLS organizations in the country. At one of the COVE national conferences held in San Jose, California in February 2013, in sidebar conversations it became apparent that the big players in both the MLS industry and the largest brokers might actually be closer in thought than it first appeared. An informal alliance was formed to talk about the issues and see if we could collectively come up with some rules for the Fair Display of listings on an MLS Public Facing Website.

Gathering Of Thought Leaders

At the COVE meeting Anne Bailey offered to bring COVE MLS Reps to the discussion. Jon Coile offered to get Craig Cheatham to help invite The Realty Alliance Brokers. Pam O’Connor was contacted to bring in the Leading RE and Alex Perrilo was invited to represent the views of Realogy. The group was intentionally kept small with only 11 people invited to the meeting.

Ultimately the following group assembled at the National Association of Realtors 2013 Mid-year Meeting in Washington, D.C.

The Brokers:

Jon Coile – Champion Realty
Craig Cheatham – The Realty Alliance
Kent Hanley – William Raveis
Joe Horning – Shorewest
Cindy Ariosa – Long & Foster
Pam O’Connor – Leading RE
Dan Elsea – Real Estate One
Alex Perillo – Realogy

The MLS Industry:

Ann Bailey – COVE
Bob Hale – Houston MLS
David Charron – MRIS

The Script

Kent Hanley from William Raveis, representing The Realty Alliance, had been working for a couple years on a project known as Sparta to develop business rules for the display of listings on commercial websites. From that project he had assembled 24 points that were thought to be important starting points as we all worked to define the rules of Fair Display of a broker’s listings on an MLS Public Facing website. The full list of 24 Points was emailed around to the Brokers and the MLS executives and ultimately with the help of all, and led by Ann Bailey for the MLS side and Jon Coile for the brokers, the list was whittled down to ten points in advance of our face-to-face meeting at NAR Mid-Year.

The Outcome

The group ultimately settled on Eight “Fair Display” Guidelines. The guidelines were further vetted, edited and then ultimately approved and copyrighted by The Realty Alliance Board in early July 2013.

Trust But Verify

In July 2013 Clarity Consulting offered to survey the 300 MLSes that have public facing websites, and then verify their answers. From their surveys we have created a list of Fair Display Certifiedsm websites.

The Fair Display Guidelines may not solve World Peace but they are a step in the right direction to ensure that real estate listings are displayed on the Internet in a fair and honest manner that respects the seller, the potential buyers, the listing agent and the rest of the real estate industry.
© The Realty Alliance 2015