Home MLS & Associations A Contrarian View on the MIBOR Anti-Indexing Issue

A Contrarian View on the MIBOR Anti-Indexing Issue

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Photo: Mick oOo, Flickr

If you’re on the RE.net, then you know that the hottest topic within the community right now is the issue of NAR’s ruling that search engines are no different from scrapers.  Even my post on this blog talking about social media process using just the NAR handling of the issue as an example got enormous traffic and commentary.  I think it’s fair to say that the overwhelming opinion within the RE.net community is one of outrage, anger, and outright rebellion against MIBOR and against NAR.

So it was a surprise when I got an email from a reader who asked for anonymity expressing a contrarian view.  S/he is a REALTOR who actually agrees with MIBOR’s ruling (backed up by NAR) that indexing of IDX listings should be prohibited and MLS members should be forced to block search engines from finding those listings.  I encouraged him/her to post the email as a comment, but got a firm refusal, as s/he was worried (with some justification, I think) about possible negative reaction from the RE.net.

In fact, I ended up chatting with this REALTOR and agreed that instead of posting his/her email, I would just understand his/her point of view then write it up myself.  While I wouldn’t normally bother, the issue is an important one, and the sensitivities are such that I felt it would be helpful to the conversation to present a contrarian opinion without fear of retribution or accusation of bias.

The Argument of the Contrarian View

The contrarian view on the Indexing issue is that allowing search engines to index IDX listings hurts REALTORS, sellers, and buyers, and ultimately hurts the image of the real estate professional.

[We must note at the outset that preventing the indexing of IDX listings is not the same thing as preventing the indexing of all listings.  The information still gets into the “Cloud” (the whole interconnected global web of computers & data), and is searchable by consumers, but only the listing agent and other authorized websites will show up in searches in the Cloud.  So a “Damn the Luddites!” counter is nonsense; the contrarian view is just as hip to Google and search engines as the majority view.]

That allowing indexing of IDX hurts listing agents is fairly obvious.  Whether NAR or society at large should care is another issue, of course, as is the whole related issue of dual agency.  But it seems fairly obvious that listing agents would rather bring all Internet search users to their website than to another agent’s website who has better search engine rankings.

The argument that indexing of IDX hurts consumers is not so obvious, but one worth considering.  It goes like this:

  • Seller clients select a listing agent for his ability not only to market the property, but also to price it appropriately and negotiate on behalf of the seller with full knowledge of the local market dynamics.  For all intents and purposes, the listing agent is the de facto expert on that house on that street in that neighborhood in that town.
  • IDX, when used internally by other agents, is fine as the buyer agent would call the listing agent to get information.  And professional-to-professional communication is relatively simple and straightforward.
  • When, however, the IDX data is indexed by search engines, then buyers go directly to the website of an agent who actually knows nothing about the property, the neighborhood, and in some cases, the entire town.  Depending on the coverage of the MLS, the agent could live in a whole different state.  The buyer, then, seeks to ask further questions about the property, the area, etc. to an agent who knows about as much about the listing or the neighborhood as the buyer who called her.
  • The buyer agent who gets the lead off the Web inquiring after a property that she herself knows nothing about simply cannot provide adequate information or context to the buyer about the property or the area.
  • This harms the seller since the advocate the seller had selected to represent her interests cannot do so, and cannot even comunicate with the buyer agent.
  • It harms the buyer since the agent he contacted doesn’t know squat about the property or the area.  She may receive erroneous information, and conclude wrongly that the listing isn’t right for her, when in fact, it actually is.

If the goal of REALTORS is to service consumers better, then ensuring that search engines serve up the listing agent’s own website is a way to actually advance that goal.  Furthermore, since NAR is charged with protecting the REALTOR brand name, making it easier for consumers to contact REALTORS who cannot speak with expertise on a particular property, area, or town found off the Internet continues the degradation of the REALTOR brand, and lumps the great agents together with the crappy ones who know Jacques Sheet.

Assessing the Argument [From here on out is me.]

I think there’s something to this argument.  I don’t know that I’m convinced, but there is something to the notion that the best source for information on a property is someone who knows it inside and out.  And that someone is often the listing agent who had to sit down with the seller, with knowledge of the local market, local comps, local inventory levels, what else has come on the market and what has been taken off the market, to come up with a price for the house.

Why exactly is it better for consumers — even for the seller — to have the blind leading the blind?  That is approximately the situation when a web searcher lands on the IDX-fed site of an agent who knows nothing about the property or the area.

On the other hand, it seems plainly ridiculous to treat search engines the same as malicious scrapers.  No other industry in the world would treat Google the same as some pirate hacker site.  Furthermore, with something north of 85% of real estate consumers beginning their search process online, probably with the dominant search engine Google, it seems a fair statement to say that most real estate agents would rather give up their membership in NAR than be blacklisted by Google.  Which is what blocking Google bots basically amounts to… a self-imposed blacklist.

Plus, it isn’t as if various REALTORS preventing indexing by search engines is necessarily going to drive inquiries to the listing agent.  As many commenters have pointed out in the original AgentGenius thread, various aggregator sites like Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow, etc. are not under any obligation to follow NAR (or any local association’s) policy on indexing.  So any such rules by any association only serves to hurt the buyer agents without necessarily helping the listing agents.

It isn’t clear to me anymore what the right answer is.  I don’t envy the policymakers at NAR and elsewhere.  This issue is not as clear-cut as partisans on either side of the issue would like to portray it, and however things ultimately get decided, some significant group or another is going to be pissed at the policymakers.

Good Faith, Y’all

In any event, I think it’s somewhat unfortunate — and surprising to boot — that people would feel so worried about what others in the RE.net would think of them that they would rather remain silent, or email bloggers asking for anonymity, to voice what is a reasonable opinion.  I do hope that will change, and that we will all treat arguments in good faith instead of engaging in ad hominem attacks.

That can only be good for the state of dialogue amongst and between us all.

-rsh

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Rob Hahn
Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

38 COMMENTS

  1. I think it’s worth noting that the entire issue stems from a complaint from another member of MIBOR. Not saying that either side is right or wrong, just that this issue was not a MIBOR vs agents ruling. The rules we are working under were voted on by members of NAR. I know people in RE.net don’t want to hear this, but not everyone wants to open the flood gates.

    >>”Furthermore, with something north of 85% of real estate consumers beginning their search process online, probably with the dominant search engine Google, it seems a fair statement to say that most real estate agents would rather give up their membership in NAR than be blacklisted by Google.”

    This continues to bug me. Because this issue effects the 15% of real estate consumers who do not begin their real estate search online, not the 85% who do. If you are Googleing an address or MLS number, you already found a house. You are not beginning your search online. Or at least, you are not starting your search on Google.

    I would love to get some real world feedback from Agents who get leads as a direct result of Google to IDX SERP’s. This is what is at issue, and it’s still important, but not nearly as important as ranking in Google for key words that a simple blog can deliver.

    I am expressing my personal opinion here. If I was an agent, I would want my IDX to be indexed by Google. Of course I would. But counting on an IDX for your presence on Google seems insane to me. The same IDX that the guy down the street can buy? Why don’t you just go back to your templated, frames integrated, static web site while you are at it?

  2. Why not block Google indexing, BUT relax MLS rules to allow agent branding and contact information to be included in the sacred MLS sections (description, visual/virtual tour, etc.) where agent/company information is currently prohibited? Then consumers who happen to find the listing will also have contact info for the “expert” on the property. That should allow listing brokers to have their cake and eat it too, which seems to be the goal of the MIBOR and NAR rulings.
    My opinion: I want the widest exposure possible for my listings. My first responsibility is to the client who has trusted me to market their home better than my competitors. Odds are against my getting both sides of the deal (and getting both sides seems to be the huge driver in this whole conversation since the birth of IDX).

  3. I think it’s worth noting that the entire issue stems from a complaint from another member of MIBOR. Not saying that either side is right or wrong, just that this issue was not a MIBOR vs agents ruling. The rules we are working under were voted on by members of NAR. I know people in RE.net don’t want to hear this, but not everyone wants to open the flood gates.

    >>”Furthermore, with something north of 85% of real estate consumers beginning their search process online, probably with the dominant search engine Google, it seems a fair statement to say that most real estate agents would rather give up their membership in NAR than be blacklisted by Google.”

    This continues to bug me. Because this issue effects the 15% of real estate consumers who do not begin their real estate search online, not the 85% who do. If you are Googleing an address or MLS number, you already found a house. You are not beginning your search online. Or at least, you are not starting your search on Google.

    I would love to get some real world feedback from Agents who get leads as a direct result of Google to IDX SERP’s. This is what is at issue, and it’s still important, but not nearly as important as ranking in Google for key words that a simple blog can deliver.

    I am expressing my personal opinion here. If I was an agent, I would want my IDX to be indexed by Google. Of course I would. But counting on an IDX for your presence on Google seems insane to me. The same IDX that the guy down the street can buy? Why don’t you just go back to your templated, frames integrated, static web site while you are at it?

  4. Why not block Google indexing, BUT relax MLS rules to allow agent branding and contact information to be included in the sacred MLS sections (description, visual/virtual tour, etc.) where agent/company information is currently prohibited? Then consumers who happen to find the listing will also have contact info for the “expert” on the property. That should allow listing brokers to have their cake and eat it too, which seems to be the goal of the MIBOR and NAR rulings.
    My opinion: I want the widest exposure possible for my listings. My first responsibility is to the client who has trusted me to market their home better than my competitors. Odds are against my getting both sides of the deal (and getting both sides seems to be the huge driver in this whole conversation since the birth of IDX).

  5. Rob- Thanks for sharing this interesting take on this discussion.

    A few years ago my company’s major competitor in our small town decided the best business model for them was to have most of their listings as “office exclusives.” If you wanted to see their listings you needed to use their agents and the MLS was not the source for ALL the listings in town.

    I, and many consumers, thought this was a horrible idea and as a business model it eventually failed.

    I bring this up because I have heard a similar argument about using “office exclusives” as a way to protect the consumer.

    “Our agents are the only experts in this town, everyone else is a liability to the consumer”

    “Our sellers will get better prices for their homes if the buyers aren’t represented by their own agent”

    I think the consumer benefits with an open market and as much information as possible. Let the sunshine in.

  6. Rob- Thanks for sharing this interesting take on this discussion.

    A few years ago my company’s major competitor in our small town decided the best business model for them was to have most of their listings as “office exclusives.” If you wanted to see their listings you needed to use their agents and the MLS was not the source for ALL the listings in town.

    I, and many consumers, thought this was a horrible idea and as a business model it eventually failed.

    I bring this up because I have heard a similar argument about using “office exclusives” as a way to protect the consumer.

    “Our agents are the only experts in this town, everyone else is a liability to the consumer”

    “Our sellers will get better prices for their homes if the buyers aren’t represented by their own agent”

    I think the consumer benefits with an open market and as much information as possible. Let the sunshine in.

  7. Rob,
    I’m one of the partisans that sees this as a very clear cut issue. The data is “out there” and pretty much beyond of the control of NAR and every other Realtor, agent or broker — in a zillow/trulia world. Attempts to control the Realtor’s data feed just weakens our position relative to these other portals.

    I’ve not heard or seen anything that moves me even slightly from that position. The argument that the buyer’s agent (IDX lead recipient) can’t collect and report the accurate property information makes no sense at all to me since that’s pretty much the point of hiring a buyer’s agent in the first place. Don’t you expect your agent to go collect accurate info for you about whatever listings you like?

    By commenting here, I guess I run the risk of exposing my incomplete knowledge of the subject. But, here’s the thing… I’m not convinced that those in power understand it any better than I do 🙂

    • Matt-I think you probably understand better than anyone at NAR.
      You are absolutely correct in this Zillow Trulia world. The fight has already been lost and it is a battle that should have been waged 4 years or so ago. Too late game over.

      Let’s see. You take a listing and put it through the MLS. Then as a dues paying member of your Board you are not allowed to get your list of listings to index in the engines. You send a copy automatically or manually on over to Trulia. They can get the listing indexed. I wonder if Pete sends thank you notes to NAR?

      The Board of Realtors: ” To serve and reject”

      Tim O’Keefe
      Spider JuiceTechnologies

  8. Rob,
    I’m one of the partisans that sees this as a very clear cut issue. The data is “out there” and pretty much beyond of the control of NAR and every other Realtor, agent or broker — in a zillow/trulia world. Attempts to control the Realtor’s data feed just weakens our position relative to these other portals.

    I’ve not heard or seen anything that moves me even slightly from that position. The argument that the buyer’s agent (IDX lead recipient) can’t collect and report the accurate property information makes no sense at all to me since that’s pretty much the point of hiring a buyer’s agent in the first place. Don’t you expect your agent to go collect accurate info for you about whatever listings you like?

    By commenting here, I guess I run the risk of exposing my incomplete knowledge of the subject. But, here’s the thing… I’m not convinced that those in power understand it any better than I do 🙂

    • Matt-I think you probably understand better than anyone at NAR.
      You are absolutely correct in this Zillow Trulia world. The fight has already been lost and it is a battle that should have been waged 4 years or so ago. Too late game over.

      Let’s see. You take a listing and put it through the MLS. Then as a dues paying member of your Board you are not allowed to get your list of listings to index in the engines. You send a copy automatically or manually on over to Trulia. They can get the listing indexed. I wonder if Pete sends thank you notes to NAR?

      The Board of Realtors: ” To serve and reject”

      Tim O’Keefe
      Spider JuiceTechnologies

  9. Dear Rob, That argument is laughable! Where is it ever in the best interest to be driven to a dual agency situation vs. a Buyer/or Seller having their own advocate with their own agent. A listing agent’s job is to price the property correctly and to market the home to get the highest and best price. A buyer should have their own Agent working for them with their interests at heart – which by the way are not the same as the Seller’s.

    The cats out of the bag with IDX and VOW information. Trying to somehow restrict its use with these lame arguments is really dark age thinking. I say beside certain confidential information which can harm the Seller’s get the data out there where it already is.

  10. Dear Rob, That argument is laughable! Where is it ever in the best interest to be driven to a dual agency situation vs. a Buyer/or Seller having their own advocate with their own agent. A listing agent’s job is to price the property correctly and to market the home to get the highest and best price. A buyer should have their own Agent working for them with their interests at heart – which by the way are not the same as the Seller’s.

    The cats out of the bag with IDX and VOW information. Trying to somehow restrict its use with these lame arguments is really dark age thinking. I say beside certain confidential information which can harm the Seller’s get the data out there where it already is.

  11. Thanks for the passionate responses, guys. I tried to convince the original REALTOR to unveil and come argue on this thread, and will continue to do so. But let me put my I-can-argue-any-side-of-the-case lawyer hat on for a second….

    The reason why I think there’s something to the argument is closely connected to another issue you real estate agents bring up all the time: agent quality. Y’all bemoan that there are all these horrible crappy agents who ruin the reputation of the rest of you hardworking, professional agents. Suggestions ranging from tougher licensing guidelines to raising the fees for NAR/MLS membership to thousands of dollars per year to whatever have been floated by real estate agents themselves. So why are you so interested in protecting crap agents who bought a templated “SEO-optimized” website from a vendor?

    Getting IDX indexed doesn’t take rocket science. That means a crappy, dumbass agent who shouldn’t be practicing real estate at all can have very high rankings on search engines, bring buyers in, and make an embarrassment of himself and the profession as a whole.

    Jeffrey is right that the cat’s out of the bag with IDX and VOW information. The flipside of that, however, is that a consumer who is contacting an agent is likely to be armed with all of the information available via a website. If the agent then can’t add a single thing, a single insight, something I couldn’t find out with a 15 minute Google search, then I can say with fair degree of certainty that my opinion of that agent is not going to be high. And since my exposure to real estate agents isn’t high to begin with, my impression of your profession as a whole is not likely to be good. That’s a reality.

    FWIW, I am 100% opposed to allowing dual agency, and that is an area where the industry needs to take a close look. Every other professional services provider entrusted with confidential information — lawyers, accountants, even advertising agencies — do conflict checks and routinely turn clients away because of an existing conflict. That realtors don’t do this is not a credit to the profession, sorry.

    But the listing agent who knows the property, knows the neighborhood, knows things that a random Googler can’t find online, can provide the information, and make a referral to an appropriate buyer’s agent simply out of ethics.

    Why is this argument so easily dismissed? I can’t dismiss it that easily.

    -rsh

  12. Thanks for the passionate responses, guys. I tried to convince the original REALTOR to unveil and come argue on this thread, and will continue to do so. But let me put my I-can-argue-any-side-of-the-case lawyer hat on for a second….

    The reason why I think there’s something to the argument is closely connected to another issue you real estate agents bring up all the time: agent quality. Y’all bemoan that there are all these horrible crappy agents who ruin the reputation of the rest of you hardworking, professional agents. Suggestions ranging from tougher licensing guidelines to raising the fees for NAR/MLS membership to thousands of dollars per year to whatever have been floated by real estate agents themselves. So why are you so interested in protecting crap agents who bought a templated “SEO-optimized” website from a vendor?

    Getting IDX indexed doesn’t take rocket science. That means a crappy, dumbass agent who shouldn’t be practicing real estate at all can have very high rankings on search engines, bring buyers in, and make an embarrassment of himself and the profession as a whole.

    Jeffrey is right that the cat’s out of the bag with IDX and VOW information. The flipside of that, however, is that a consumer who is contacting an agent is likely to be armed with all of the information available via a website. If the agent then can’t add a single thing, a single insight, something I couldn’t find out with a 15 minute Google search, then I can say with fair degree of certainty that my opinion of that agent is not going to be high. And since my exposure to real estate agents isn’t high to begin with, my impression of your profession as a whole is not likely to be good. That’s a reality.

    FWIW, I am 100% opposed to allowing dual agency, and that is an area where the industry needs to take a close look. Every other professional services provider entrusted with confidential information — lawyers, accountants, even advertising agencies — do conflict checks and routinely turn clients away because of an existing conflict. That realtors don’t do this is not a credit to the profession, sorry.

    But the listing agent who knows the property, knows the neighborhood, knows things that a random Googler can’t find online, can provide the information, and make a referral to an appropriate buyer’s agent simply out of ethics.

    Why is this argument so easily dismissed? I can’t dismiss it that easily.

    -rsh

  13. Okay Rob, plenty of good arguments on both sides and it is a pretty big question. Just don’t use such a lame excuse for the lousy agents out there. Just like any new tool/technology it can be used by both the good and bad agents. My point regarding dual agency, glad to see you agree, is more pressing for the consumer and it much bigger issue.

    The business is changing and many agents are working more markets as technology expands their ability, and while the neighborhood expert may be able to tell you wonderful tales of why Aunt Martha’s house is so special, most consumers are far ahead of both the Listing and Selling agents.

    Just look at tools like Zillow for the iPhone – far better than anything the RE industry has to offer at the moment. Consumers are looking to other sources for information, it is up to the good agents to educate and re-educate them to the process and what may really hurt them.

    It is up to the consumer to demand better service and do a better job in their selection process of who they choose to represent them in a very important and complicated process. Bob Dylan once wrote a song about how the times were changing, then he wrote another about how the time has changed!

    Like some of your previous comments above the issue needs to be debated and considered, but trying to be a gatekeeper won’t work. There are plenty of good heads at NAR – let the arguments begin because they will not easily be dismissed.

  14. Okay Rob, plenty of good arguments on both sides and it is a pretty big question. Just don’t use such a lame excuse for the lousy agents out there. Just like any new tool/technology it can be used by both the good and bad agents. My point regarding dual agency, glad to see you agree, is more pressing for the consumer and it much bigger issue.

    The business is changing and many agents are working more markets as technology expands their ability, and while the neighborhood expert may be able to tell you wonderful tales of why Aunt Martha’s house is so special, most consumers are far ahead of both the Listing and Selling agents.

    Just look at tools like Zillow for the iPhone – far better than anything the RE industry has to offer at the moment. Consumers are looking to other sources for information, it is up to the good agents to educate and re-educate them to the process and what may really hurt them.

    It is up to the consumer to demand better service and do a better job in their selection process of who they choose to represent them in a very important and complicated process. Bob Dylan once wrote a song about how the times were changing, then he wrote another about how the time has changed!

    Like some of your previous comments above the issue needs to be debated and considered, but trying to be a gatekeeper won’t work. There are plenty of good heads at NAR – let the arguments begin because they will not easily be dismissed.

  15. Many agents are using indexed IDX to increase their ranking in the search engines and saying this exposure is the best thing for the consumer but is it? It’s definitely the best thing for that agent who HAS indexed IDX, no question.

    I’m on the Associate Technology Council of Keller Williams, and one of the huge win-wins for agents and consumers has always been “my listings my leads” when it comes to internet or any other type of lead. Rob, I agree, the dual agency issue can arise here, but in truth, it rarely happens that someone actually buys the house they are calling on. ( let’s save that for another blog because I don’t want to lose my point )

    Laurie Lister sells herself on the listing presentation to Sally Seller as the area expert and marketer – She knows about the elementary schools, how far it is from the train, that they have block parties and exactly which houses sold for what and when and can describe them all in detail.

    She can also provide the prospects on her website with the floorplan, the virtual tour, a gazillion pictures, the survey, and way more than what appears on any idx. THESE are the reasons sellers trust their homes to a listing agent.

    Sellers love that she advertises on Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com, and even here, they have access to the listing agent for more information if the address comes up in a google search. ( Not sure if these are searchable but if they are, fine. It still has listing agent contact info and link)

    Now from a buyer’s standpoint, when Bob Buyer googles Laurie Lister’s listing – the specific address or MLS number, Bob is looking for as much information as possible on that particular house and may even be looking for Laurie to find out these answers. Indexing this IDX info is very misleading to Bob because he thinks he’s getting the expert on this house, and it hurts Sally Seller because MLS areas are HUGE and what are the chances of that random techy agent knowing more than what Bob Buyer sees himself in that short IDX description?

    I’m all for new tools and advancing technology but that isnt the point here. I don’t buy the arguement that all sellers will want this kind of exposure because they arent understanding what that really means as in the above scenario. Its one thing having regular IDX. Everyone has it. But it’s a whole other thing when a consumer googles an address, mls number, or even a listing agent’s name and having it show up on someone’s indexed IDX page over the listing agent’s. Its misleading to the consumer and unfair to the seller and the listing agent.

    With IDX on every office’s site and most agents sites, consumers will find the houses they want, so let’s be honest – The people deriving the most benefit from the indexing are the agents who have it on their sites, not necessarily the consumers.

  16. Many agents are using indexed IDX to increase their ranking in the search engines and saying this exposure is the best thing for the consumer but is it? It’s definitely the best thing for that agent who HAS indexed IDX, no question.

    I’m on the Associate Technology Council of Keller Williams, and one of the huge win-wins for agents and consumers has always been “my listings my leads” when it comes to internet or any other type of lead. Rob, I agree, the dual agency issue can arise here, but in truth, it rarely happens that someone actually buys the house they are calling on. ( let’s save that for another blog because I don’t want to lose my point )

    Laurie Lister sells herself on the listing presentation to Sally Seller as the area expert and marketer – She knows about the elementary schools, how far it is from the train, that they have block parties and exactly which houses sold for what and when and can describe them all in detail.

    She can also provide the prospects on her website with the floorplan, the virtual tour, a gazillion pictures, the survey, and way more than what appears on any idx. THESE are the reasons sellers trust their homes to a listing agent.

    Sellers love that she advertises on Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com, and even here, they have access to the listing agent for more information if the address comes up in a google search. ( Not sure if these are searchable but if they are, fine. It still has listing agent contact info and link)

    Now from a buyer’s standpoint, when Bob Buyer googles Laurie Lister’s listing – the specific address or MLS number, Bob is looking for as much information as possible on that particular house and may even be looking for Laurie to find out these answers. Indexing this IDX info is very misleading to Bob because he thinks he’s getting the expert on this house, and it hurts Sally Seller because MLS areas are HUGE and what are the chances of that random techy agent knowing more than what Bob Buyer sees himself in that short IDX description?

    I’m all for new tools and advancing technology but that isnt the point here. I don’t buy the arguement that all sellers will want this kind of exposure because they arent understanding what that really means as in the above scenario. Its one thing having regular IDX. Everyone has it. But it’s a whole other thing when a consumer googles an address, mls number, or even a listing agent’s name and having it show up on someone’s indexed IDX page over the listing agent’s. Its misleading to the consumer and unfair to the seller and the listing agent.

    With IDX on every office’s site and most agents sites, consumers will find the houses they want, so let’s be honest – The people deriving the most benefit from the indexing are the agents who have it on their sites, not necessarily the consumers.

  17. Rob:

    I was active in the comments and rallied to create a one sheet of talking points to keep everyone on the same page when speaking to MLS Committee members attending @midyear. However, I completely understand the other side of the argument. As said before by Matt, Tim, and Jeff – the data is out of the bag. R.com, Zillow, Trulia all have this data being indexed by Google. Allowing the Realtor membership the same rights only seems like it would give the public a better chance of finding a local expert instead of a national advertising company.

    I believe Joe has a valid point that should be considered in this discussion. What if the data itself was required to include the listing agent’s name? or perhaps the listing broker’s website, or phone number? One slight tweak in the MLS rules of IDX changes the entire landscape of how the data can be used effectively.

    I just don’t think preventing Google to index the data is a solution. If the anonymous contrarian really wants to make a difference, then push for changes in the requirement of what’s included in the data feed. Would Z, T, C, FD, or any other future aggregator exist if all MLS data was required to contain Broker, Broker Website, Agent Name? (this is not unlike the copyright issues of all media publishers on the web – the listing is after all the Listing Broker’s data)

  18. Rob:

    I was active in the comments and rallied to create a one sheet of talking points to keep everyone on the same page when speaking to MLS Committee members attending @midyear. However, I completely understand the other side of the argument. As said before by Matt, Tim, and Jeff – the data is out of the bag. R.com, Zillow, Trulia all have this data being indexed by Google. Allowing the Realtor membership the same rights only seems like it would give the public a better chance of finding a local expert instead of a national advertising company.

    I believe Joe has a valid point that should be considered in this discussion. What if the data itself was required to include the listing agent’s name? or perhaps the listing broker’s website, or phone number? One slight tweak in the MLS rules of IDX changes the entire landscape of how the data can be used effectively.

    I just don’t think preventing Google to index the data is a solution. If the anonymous contrarian really wants to make a difference, then push for changes in the requirement of what’s included in the data feed. Would Z, T, C, FD, or any other future aggregator exist if all MLS data was required to contain Broker, Broker Website, Agent Name? (this is not unlike the copyright issues of all media publishers on the web – the listing is after all the Listing Broker’s data)

  19. I think a major flaw in the contrarian’s argument is that it assumes buyers pick an agent to represent their interests based on their knowledge of that specific neighborhood/listing.

    With the tools now available online, I see the new generation of buyers being armed with absolutely a ton of information about the property/neighborhood before they ever speak to an agent. I see them hiring a buyers agent, to represent their interests in the negotiation of buying the property and not necessarily to educate them on the neighborhood/listing.

    I actually find it absurd to expect my agent (speaking as a buyer) to know everything about every property I am interested in. What I do expect, like any good agent in any industry (lawyers, entertainment and sports agents), is that they will properly educate themselves on the property before starting negotiation on my behalf.

    A couple more points:

    I hear a lot about the “crappy agent.” One that hurts the “image” of the real estate professional. I think this is an argument that holds true to every industry. I know in web design I look at hundreds of sites a day, and am naturally inclined to automatically judge that designer based off of that one design.

    Yet I know that there are designs our company has pushed through that I am not going to go brag about. As I am pretty sure every agent has had a situation with a perspective client that doesn’t go as planned. Does that make you a crappy agent? Of course not, this is business. Not every arrangement you enter is going to be a successful one. This is natural. There is no such thing as a “crappy agent.”

    Furthermore, I also know that not every joe smith agent can buy a website, feed google listings and rank in the top of the results. It just doesn’t work that way. So to be fearful that a “crappy agent” will out rank me in the search engines and feed the consumer false information about my property, to me is a bit absurd. Does it happen? Sure occasionally. But because of the times it does happen should we prevent agents from effectively marketing listings on line?

    • Hey Jason! How are ya mate?

      I think the most interesting point you raise is something I personally (this has nothing to do with the Realtor who emailed me) think is true:

      With the tools now available online, I see the new generation of buyers being armed with absolutely a ton of information about the property/neighborhood before they ever speak to an agent. I see them hiring a buyers agent, to represent their interests in the negotiation of buying the property and not necessarily to educate them on the neighborhood/listing.

      I happen to agree. Crikey, I worked at a company whose whole mission was to provide a ton of information about the neighborhood.

      The issue, though, is IF the buyer already has a ton of information at their fingertips, when they DO call up an agent wanting more information on a property, what does the agent give them that the Great God Google could not? My take is that the agent has to provide some sort of “inside scoop”, something the computer can’t tell me. And that’s where the “I’ll research it and get back to you” might work, and it might not. If I called an agent inquiring about a house, and she responded, “I’ll have to investigate that and get back to you”… I’m not sure how much I’m going to want to talk to that agent again because as a consumer, I don’t know about IDX, I don’t know about market areas, and I don’t know about MLS coverage geographies. So all I know is that I called a “professional” who didn’t know more than I do, and didn’t seem to know her shit all that well.

      I think Sue Adler’s point is worth addressing. It isn’t about getting someone to your site that ultimately matters — even to the seller. It’s about getting to a transaction. If the first step of converting a random lead into a real conversation is being taken by an agent who is less-than-well-equipped to convert the lead to an appointment (or whatever the next step is), then is that serving anyone?

      On the other hand… maybe the issue is really a broader one — why there’s a gap between IDX and VOW data, for example. Why the listing agent wouldn’t enter enough info for any buyer-side rep to know “insider details” about the property, etc. I don’t know… Plus the whole dual agency issue… this little gem is a bit complicated more you delve into it.

      -rsh

      • Good man, thanks for the great article!

        My take is that the agent has to provide some sort of “inside scoop”, something the computer can’t tell me.

        Of course! That is sales in a nut shell. I know that when someone calls your company and already has a good idea of what your product is, the sales rep on phone would never leave them with a “I will have to get back to you with that.”

        In business there are two things to offer, products or services. A real estate agent offers both. Real Estate is the product, and their relationship with the client is the service. Most agents pride themselves on their service because their product is the exact same thing as every other agent.

        So in that given scenario, the agent should be selling their services over the phone to the perspective buyer, not their product.

        If the first step of converting a random lead into a real conversation is being taken by an agent who is less-than-well-equipped to convert the lead to an appointment (or whatever the next step is), then is that serving anyone?

        I know from past sales jobs, someone who is less-than-well-equipped to convert a phone lead in to an sales appointment, doesn’t last long in the industry. I also know that if I were to call and agent and not be that impressed with the conversation, I would move on to the next one until I found an agent I bonded with and could trust to handle my negotiations.

        So who does it serve? The next agent the consumer calls.

  20. I think a major flaw in the contrarian’s argument is that it assumes buyers pick an agent to represent their interests based on their knowledge of that specific neighborhood/listing.

    With the tools now available online, I see the new generation of buyers being armed with absolutely a ton of information about the property/neighborhood before they ever speak to an agent. I see them hiring a buyers agent, to represent their interests in the negotiation of buying the property and not necessarily to educate them on the neighborhood/listing.

    I actually find it absurd to expect my agent (speaking as a buyer) to know everything about every property I am interested in. What I do expect, like any good agent in any industry (lawyers, entertainment and sports agents), is that they will properly educate themselves on the property before starting negotiation on my behalf.

    A couple more points:

    I hear a lot about the “crappy agent.” One that hurts the “image” of the real estate professional. I think this is an argument that holds true to every industry. I know in web design I look at hundreds of sites a day, and am naturally inclined to automatically judge that designer based off of that one design.

    Yet I know that there are designs our company has pushed through that I am not going to go brag about. As I am pretty sure every agent has had a situation with a perspective client that doesn’t go as planned. Does that make you a crappy agent? Of course not, this is business. Not every arrangement you enter is going to be a successful one. This is natural. There is no such thing as a “crappy agent.”

    Furthermore, I also know that not every joe smith agent can buy a website, feed google listings and rank in the top of the results. It just doesn’t work that way. So to be fearful that a “crappy agent” will out rank me in the search engines and feed the consumer false information about my property, to me is a bit absurd. Does it happen? Sure occasionally. But because of the times it does happen should we prevent agents from effectively marketing listings on line?

    • Hey Jason! How are ya mate?

      I think the most interesting point you raise is something I personally (this has nothing to do with the Realtor who emailed me) think is true:

      With the tools now available online, I see the new generation of buyers being armed with absolutely a ton of information about the property/neighborhood before they ever speak to an agent. I see them hiring a buyers agent, to represent their interests in the negotiation of buying the property and not necessarily to educate them on the neighborhood/listing.

      I happen to agree. Crikey, I worked at a company whose whole mission was to provide a ton of information about the neighborhood.

      The issue, though, is IF the buyer already has a ton of information at their fingertips, when they DO call up an agent wanting more information on a property, what does the agent give them that the Great God Google could not? My take is that the agent has to provide some sort of “inside scoop”, something the computer can’t tell me. And that’s where the “I’ll research it and get back to you” might work, and it might not. If I called an agent inquiring about a house, and she responded, “I’ll have to investigate that and get back to you”… I’m not sure how much I’m going to want to talk to that agent again because as a consumer, I don’t know about IDX, I don’t know about market areas, and I don’t know about MLS coverage geographies. So all I know is that I called a “professional” who didn’t know more than I do, and didn’t seem to know her shit all that well.

      I think Sue Adler’s point is worth addressing. It isn’t about getting someone to your site that ultimately matters — even to the seller. It’s about getting to a transaction. If the first step of converting a random lead into a real conversation is being taken by an agent who is less-than-well-equipped to convert the lead to an appointment (or whatever the next step is), then is that serving anyone?

      On the other hand… maybe the issue is really a broader one — why there’s a gap between IDX and VOW data, for example. Why the listing agent wouldn’t enter enough info for any buyer-side rep to know “insider details” about the property, etc. I don’t know… Plus the whole dual agency issue… this little gem is a bit complicated more you delve into it.

      -rsh

      • Good man, thanks for the great article!

        My take is that the agent has to provide some sort of “inside scoop”, something the computer can’t tell me.

        Of course! That is sales in a nut shell. I know that when someone calls your company and already has a good idea of what your product is, the sales rep on phone would never leave them with a “I will have to get back to you with that.”

        In business there are two things to offer, products or services. A real estate agent offers both. Real Estate is the product, and their relationship with the client is the service. Most agents pride themselves on their service because their product is the exact same thing as every other agent.

        So in that given scenario, the agent should be selling their services over the phone to the perspective buyer, not their product.

        If the first step of converting a random lead into a real conversation is being taken by an agent who is less-than-well-equipped to convert the lead to an appointment (or whatever the next step is), then is that serving anyone?

        I know from past sales jobs, someone who is less-than-well-equipped to convert a phone lead in to an sales appointment, doesn’t last long in the industry. I also know that if I were to call and agent and not be that impressed with the conversation, I would move on to the next one until I found an agent I bonded with and could trust to handle my negotiations.

        So who does it serve? The next agent the consumer calls.

  21. It sounds to me that the the thing we are trying to protect is not the seller, it’s the listing agents ability to work both side of the transaction.
    How good can that be, seems to me we have forgotton about FIDUCIARY.
    It is impossible to represent both sides 100%.

  22. It sounds to me that the the thing we are trying to protect is not the seller, it’s the listing agents ability to work both side of the transaction.
    How good can that be, seems to me we have forgotton about FIDUCIARY.
    It is impossible to represent both sides 100%.

  23. Rob – Somehow, I missed this! I have a few comments.

    I spoke with a client this past week who mentioned two homes he had driven by and I knew exactly which properties he was talking about, why they haven’t sold and what the issues are. Why? because I have shown over 200 homes this year.

    That listing agent may know the neighborhood and the parks, when the swimming pool opens and when the neighborhood block party is, but really, do you think a buyer cares about those things? The listing agent also knows the sellers bottom line, and has a fiduciary relationship with that seller “first”.

    Buyers want to know that I know my contracts, how to negotiate on their behalf and when to walk away, how taxes affect their offer and qualification ( a huge issue here in Indy). They want to know what the comps are and I have no reason NOT to show them all the comps; I don’t work for the seller. They need more info, I can get that for them. Above all, they want to know I am working for them.

    Please don’t lump me in with “bad agents” because I use an indexable IDX – Just last week I had a sign call and sent the lead to an Associate. The lady who called me called another agent first, but he didn’t respond because the home he had listed was already sold. My associate sold the home and is listing the couple’s two homes. Indexable IDX or not, I work hard, not just for my clients, but also on my websites.

    I think it’s worth noting that the entire issue stems from a complaint from another member of MIBOR. Not saying that either side is right or wrong, just that this issue was not a MIBOR vs agents ruling.

    I do want to address this statement, because it is worth noting that the guy who reported me had no other motive except I have two sites; a blog and a website which were gaining on him in his #1 position. He was also doing the same thing with a blog and an RSS feed, which he will now have to take down.

    While this issue may have started with another agent complaint, it has most definitely become a MIBOR vs. an agent issue. When they told me they would adopt the ruling as it was defined on Thursdays meeting at midyear, then fight it at the Board of Directors meeting on Saturday, they were fighting “me” alone.

    Remember, this is not limited to only an indexable IDX; if you have a blog with an RSS feed of MLS data, you could very well be facing this same issue.

    Am I upset; yes, but my intent was to notify tech savvy agents and webmasters who do not know what they are facing. Yes, I want resolution; apparently that will be a while down the road. In the meantime, I will be six months ahead of them on my blog and website.

    Ann Hayman – That is certainly a concern and valid viewpoint.

  24. Rob – Somehow, I missed this! I have a few comments.

    I spoke with a client this past week who mentioned two homes he had driven by and I knew exactly which properties he was talking about, why they haven’t sold and what the issues are. Why? because I have shown over 200 homes this year.

    That listing agent may know the neighborhood and the parks, when the swimming pool opens and when the neighborhood block party is, but really, do you think a buyer cares about those things? The listing agent also knows the sellers bottom line, and has a fiduciary relationship with that seller “first”.

    Buyers want to know that I know my contracts, how to negotiate on their behalf and when to walk away, how taxes affect their offer and qualification ( a huge issue here in Indy). They want to know what the comps are and I have no reason NOT to show them all the comps; I don’t work for the seller. They need more info, I can get that for them. Above all, they want to know I am working for them.

    Please don’t lump me in with “bad agents” because I use an indexable IDX – Just last week I had a sign call and sent the lead to an Associate. The lady who called me called another agent first, but he didn’t respond because the home he had listed was already sold. My associate sold the home and is listing the couple’s two homes. Indexable IDX or not, I work hard, not just for my clients, but also on my websites.

    I think it’s worth noting that the entire issue stems from a complaint from another member of MIBOR. Not saying that either side is right or wrong, just that this issue was not a MIBOR vs agents ruling.

    I do want to address this statement, because it is worth noting that the guy who reported me had no other motive except I have two sites; a blog and a website which were gaining on him in his #1 position. He was also doing the same thing with a blog and an RSS feed, which he will now have to take down.

    While this issue may have started with another agent complaint, it has most definitely become a MIBOR vs. an agent issue. When they told me they would adopt the ruling as it was defined on Thursdays meeting at midyear, then fight it at the Board of Directors meeting on Saturday, they were fighting “me” alone.

    Remember, this is not limited to only an indexable IDX; if you have a blog with an RSS feed of MLS data, you could very well be facing this same issue.

    Am I upset; yes, but my intent was to notify tech savvy agents and webmasters who do not know what they are facing. Yes, I want resolution; apparently that will be a while down the road. In the meantime, I will be six months ahead of them on my blog and website.

    Ann Hayman – That is certainly a concern and valid viewpoint.

Comments are closed.