When a home is listed for sale, the Realtor produces content for the MLS, multiple listing service in the form of photos, copy and sometimes virtual tours as allowed in the listing agreement. Now, the question is: Who owns that data?
That original content is syndicated with the Realtor’s permission and sometimes scraped without permission to dozens and even hundreds of internet web sites. The content is then monetized by some of those sites without remuneration to the original source of the data.
Some Realtors and some of the local MLS services are now crying “Foul”. I hear comments like:
“That’s our data. We produced it under license from our Sellers. Now, internet websites are using it to lure buyers and sellers, convert them into sales leads and sell those leads to Other Brokers. We don’t know these other Brokers and we certainly don’t receive any of the advertising fees generated by our data”.
It’s becoming a more and more common lament of disgruntled Realtors. We heard it a year ago when representatives of Zillow and Trulia were confronted by angry Denver Realtors. Since then MLS systems in some cities have limited or banned distribution of data automatically to those large, internet portals. Austin, Texas MLS recently announced it will stop syndicating its real estate listings by March of 2014.
And, now, the Denver MLS, Metrolist says it will likely delay data feeds of listings to those same portals. It believes that delaying the data feeds will deny the portals some of the advantages they now have to post data quickly and be recognized by the search engines and consumers as reliable sources of listing data.
As we reported previously, Metrolist CEO Kirby Slunaker, recently told a meeting at the Metro Denver Association of Realtors: ““We think our Realtors’ data has value. Aggregators think it is in the public domain. We intend to determine the value of the data and make sure Realtors are adequately compensated.”
But, has the genie really escaped from the bottle already? Can Realtors successfully reclaim their data and fairly charge for it rather than giving it away? These are serious questions that don’t have answers yet.
Some Realtors want to go beyond what Slunaker is advocating. Some Realtors want to stop the distribution of listings to those large, internet portals altogether.
One Realtor told me recently: “Trulia and Zillow are our competitors for (real estate) buyers and sellers. Why would we slit our own throats by giving up the listings that attracts buyers and sellers. I don’t want to just delay the feed to those guys or charge for the data. I want it stopped.”
Slunaker says that Metrolist will decide soon on how it will handle the listings data it distributes. A final decision will be made by the Metrolist Board of Directors. Even though Metrolist is a privately owned company, their Board of Directors has several Realtors with votes. Other MLS organizations and Realtors across the country will be watching to see what happens next.