The Data Hostage Crisis

As a broker, you own your data. Your listings, your sales, your history, your transactions - they all belong to you, even when you enter them into an MLS. So why is getting your data back so difficult?

At last June’s DOJ/FTC Workshop for Real Estate, Katie Johnson, Chief Counsel of the National Association of REALTORs stated, “a broker can get their listing data back from an MLS, no questions asked.” This is NAR’s official policy - but it’s not the reality many brokers experience.

Some MLSs use broker-provided data as an additional revenue source. They charge brokers to get their data back in a feed, or charge their technology/IDX vendor huge sums of money each year for access to the data feed. Those vendors pass those fees along to the broker, so the broker ends up paying for their own data. Some MLSs even tell their members that they can only have their active listings, some limit which fields can be accessed, and some MLSs restrict where the data can go. These MLSs will deny brokers access to their own data if they are looking to send that data to a different MLS. When they do give data back, some MLSs claim ownership over MLS numbers - claiming those numbers are generated and owned by the MLS. 

MLSs are attempting to be the central technology platform for brokers. Technology has not just become a useful tool in the real estate industry; it has become an integral part of the way our entire industry works. Buyers can find a home with a few clicks, get pre-approved for a mortgage, or even sign their purchase contract right from their phone. Real estate agents can schedule showings with a text and open lockboxes with an app.

But for the most part, MLS technology is still in the same place today as it was in the early 1990s. This failure to grow by many REALTOR boards and MLSs is holding brokers back from expanding their business. Most technology has made it easier to share data - so why is it so difficult for brokers to retrieve their own listings? Some MLSs have elected to hold listings hostage, preventing brokers from downloading years (if not decades) of listing information stored on their MLS.

Without brokers, there would be no data - and therefore, no MLS. If MLSs acted in the best interest of their broker members, they would give listings back freely upon demand.  

If MLSs want to become a central technology platform, they need to act like technology vendors. MLSs frequently forget that they should be focused on what their users want in their policies and their site updates; that includes making it easy for brokers to send their data wherever they need it. MLSs should also accept data via a RETS feed or  API from the broker’s technology vendor of choice.

State Listings owns both NY State MLS and My State MLS. We have elected to never hold broker data hostage, instead making it simple and free for brokers to receive their own data back or send it wherever they want it go. We don’t charge the vendors either - that’s just charging the broker through a third party. In addition, we offer a broker-branded version of our software to create a seamless experience for their agents. Rather than this creating a threat to our business, we’ve been able to retain members because of this policy. 

We’re so committed to this philosophy that we’re partnering with IDXStream to provide you the technology vendor experience you deserve - for free. When you bring your whole office and listings from another MLS to My State MLS, we will take that data and send it anywhere you want, at no additional cost to you.

Why are we offering this now? Soon, MLSs won’t have a choice when it comes to your data. Starting January 1st of 2021, all REALTOR-owned MLSs must adopt the following policy:

A Multiple Listing Service must, upon request, promptly provide an MLS Participant (or the Participant’s designee) a data feed containing, at minimum, all active MLS listing content input into the MLS by or on behalf of the Participant and all of the Participant’s off-market listing content available in the MLS system. The delivery charges for the Participant’s listing content shall be reasonably related to the actual costs incurred by the MLS. The data feed must be in compliance with the RESO Standards as provided for in MLS Policy Statement 7.90.

That means you’ll be able to get your listing data back without restrictions for no more than the actual costs incurred by the MLS. You can then send your data to any system that will take it - and we want to help.

You own your data. Isn’t it time for an MLS that acts like it?