2015 IDX MLS Policy Changes. Alright, alright, alright.
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2015 IDX MLS Policy Changes. Alright, alright, alright.

2015 MLS | IDX data guidelines… why bother to write about thee? My motivation to write is typically born out of my distaste of having to repeat myself. If someone asks me a question enough times, I’ll usually write my answer somewhere to reference going forward.

In this case I’m compelled to write on behalf of and with our Data Services team, who have become subject matter experts more so than the actual subjects of the matter… MLS’s Multiple Listing Policy changes for 2015… specifically around some new IDX guidelines for Association-owned MLSs.

For some context… back in July the common sense barometer was dropping rapidly over the inconsistencies in the interpretation of IDX data commingling policies from MLS to MLS. The barometer imploding moment happened when a manager at a very large MLS told us that they did not permit commingling with other MLSs because it was not permitted by the N.A.R… only to read their own IDX policy doc that stated the opposite.

Having to separate out unique search queries and results based on MLS coverage areas makes less than zero sense (said everyone).

We grew tired of trying to explain such nonsense to our mutual clients. So I was moved to write about their antiquated MLS rules actually being anticompetitive, especially towards the brokers they’re supposed to serve.

I stuck to the ‘no commingling’ issue because (A) I thought we had a solid chance to get written permission to commingle on an MLS-by-MLS basis, and (B) I didn’t believe that raising other far deeper and consequential issues would amount to much more than topics for circular debate.

Between that post and a bunch of back-and-forth with industry influencers, on Saturday, November 1st, at 9am in New Orleans, the Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee brought forth four substantial amendments to Multiple Listing Policy as it pertained to MLS IDX data:

  1. Allow MLS/IDX data to be commingled with other MLS/IDX data in a common set of search results.
  2. Provide brokers (and vendors) sold property data going back at least 3 years.
  3. Refresh your data feeds every 12 hours instead of 3 days.
  4. Implement the RESO Standards including: the RESO Data Dictionary by January 1, 2016; the RESO Web API by June 30, 2016 as the RETS standard.

… and they all passed.

Alright, alright, alright.

Today I’m here to only talk about numbers 1 and 2.  Number 3 is what it is, most property data resources already refresh their data multiple times per day, some every 15 mins. Number 4 deserves and shall get its own post.

We’re still finding many Association-owned Multiple Listing Services out there that haven’t received the memo that it is now mandatory to publish sold data in an IDX feed as well as allow for the commingling of data between multiple MLS IDX feeds.  We can debate the warrants of these policy changes in the comments… this post’s main purpose is to explicitly point out what and where the changes are, and that they are currently mandatory.

Below are said specific sections and page numbers from the MLS Policy handbook so you may not only trust, but verify… click for the entire 2015 Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy.

Let’s begin.

These changes are effective immediately:

    Page 11:
    Section 5-
    Effective Date of Changes in Multiple Listing Policy
    (Policy Statement 7.51)

    To ensure consistent, uniform understanding of and compliance with the multiple listing policies of the National Association, all changes incorporated into the National Association’s Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy  become effective only upon publication of a new edition of the Handbook and that a new edition of the Handbook be published annually, superceding and replacing all prior editions. (Adopted 11/90) Mandatory

MLS’s must provide sold data in IDX feeds (where allowed by state law).

    Page 23:
    Section 1-
    Internet Data Exchange (IDX) Policy
    (Policy Statement 7.58)

    …to comply with this requirement MLSs must, if requested by a participant, promptly provide basic downloading of all active listings, a minimum of three (3) years sold* listing data and…

    *Note: If “sold” information is not publicly accessible, sold listings can be removed from the MLSs’ IDX feeds/downloads. (Adopted 11/14)

Further clarification that MLS’s must provide sold data in their IDX feeds, now.

    Page 25-
    Policies Applicable to Multiple Listing Services.
    The following guidelines are recommended but not required to conform to National Association policy. MLSs may:
    Section 1.
    Prohibit display of expired, withdrawn, pending, or sold listings* (Amended 11/14)

    *Note: If “sold” information is publicly accessible, display of “sold” listings may not be prohibited. (Adopted 11/14) “Sold” information is not publicly accessible in non-disclosure states.

Commingling is then defined:

    Page 25-
    Policies Applicable to Participants’ IDX Websites and Displays
    Section 10.

    An MLS participant (or where permitted locally, an MLS subscriber) may co-mingle the listings of other brokers received in an IDX feed with listings available from other MLS IDX feeds, provided all such displays are consistent with the IDX rules, and the MLS participant (or MLS subscriber) holds participatory rights in those MLSs. As used in this policy, “co-mingling” means that consumers are able to execute a single property search of multiple IDX data feeds resulting in the display of IDX information from each of the MLSs on a single search results page; and that participants may display listings from each IDX feed on a single webpage or display. (Adopted 11/14)

… and reinforced:

    Page 122
    Internet Data Exchange (IDX)
    Section 18.2.10

    An MLS participant (or where permitted locally, an MLS subscriber) may co-mingle the listings of other brokers received in an IDX feed with listings available from other MLS IDX feeds, provided all such displays are consistent with the IDX rules, and the MLS participant (or MLS subscriber) holds participatory rights in those MLSs. As used in this policy, “co-mingling” means that consumers are able to execute a single property search of multiple IDX data feeds resulting in the display of IDX information from each of the MLSs on a single search results page; and that participants may display listings from each IDX feed on a single webpage or display. (Adopted 11/14) Mandatory

Association-owned MLSs, please update your policies to reflect the NAR’s zombie-apocalypsenew mandatory policies or we’ll have no choice but to release our common clients upon your customer service departments. At least have (create) a plan so you or they may discuss time frames to update your official policies, because we will be pointing every mutual client to this post if you’re still telling us you will not commingle and/or provide sold data in your IDX feeds.

Most MLS’s have already responded in writing that it’s ok to commingle data and have begun to provide sold data via their IDX feeds, others have already updated the required policies. Others have said they’re not sure when they will comply, ‘maybe later this year’ and ‘what are you talking about?’. To which we pass along such encouraging and motivational responses to our mutual clients. Brokers and agents are none to pleased that their MLS has no definite plans to make simple changes to an official policy doc, or giving written approvals in the meantime. So, brokers and agents are left with websites that won’t display a single, complete set of property search results. Last I checked, that’s a horrible User Experience compared to other brokers/agents sites (and the portals) whose MLS’s have already made the required changes, or were ahead of the curve and already allowed for such.

Anyway, please do not stop here. Other data MLSs contain in their silo’d databases (expired, pending, selectively displayed performance, experience, expertise data) stand to allow brokers the ability to provide relevant data-driven values that their clients are likely getting elsewhere.

BoomTown’s clients are real estate professionals… assisting their consumers and Multiple Listing Service’s by proxy… which allows us a uniquely insightful and objective angle to advise where there is room for improvement on multiple levels.

From my perspective, the real estate industry must afford itself the chance to compete by making some major concessions on its own terms before it is forced to participate under someone else’s.

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