There’s always something to howl about

NAR, IDX, Franchisors.. It’s complicated.

“It’s complicated” is my FAVORITE relationship status on Facebook.

It describes perfectly the indescribable complexities that arise in life. And on this newfangled thing we call the internet that NAR seems to be trying to lasso. Such is the relationship with NAR, franchisors, and IDX . In Anaheim, the real fun will be had at BHB Unchained (goes without saying)…but the interesting side show may be best described in Rob Hahn’s latest post. (Well worth reading BTW) R.O.B. is on my short list of people that when he writes, I read for a reason.

I will probably tick off both sides of this argument in the next couple of posts I write on I am going to attempt to articulate both sides’ positions better than they have…truth is I think I have a better solution, but one that would never be agreed to. (see below)

One of the solid points that ROB makes at the end of his analysis is this:

Consider that the franchisor is not a member of NAR. Nor is it a participant in the MLS. NAR has no jurisdiction whatsoever over the franchisor.

And yet, the way that the original, now-repealed language of the IDX policy read, it purported to bind the franchisor to a variety of MLS rules. Look at the conditions numbered 3, 4, 5, and 6 above. Those rules bound the franchisor, by threatening sanction against the participant franchisee.

Now that the whole thing has been struck down, what binds the franchisor to any limitation?

Why couldn’t a franchisor now modify or manipulate the IDX information, or retain it permanently? Sure, a MLS could bring a lawsuit under some copyright infringement theory, but the Kelly v. Arriba case seems to lean heavily towards the franchisors. If anything, manipulating and modifying the IDX information would likely be seen as being even more transformative.

As long as there was some sort of a Franchise IDX policy, the franchisors voluntarily submitted to the authority of NAR and of the MLS to dictate what they could and could not do on their websites. Now that the whole thing has gone poof, I wonder what now makes the franchisors submit to anything at all.

There are literally dozens of ways that I can see a franchisor attempting to get around this… up to an including becoming a syndicator. If syndicators can become brokers (and I think that may be more and more likely as they have to generate return for overvalued shares **cough**Zillow**cough**. Then why can’t it work the other way around.

Why couldn’t Dave or Gary (for example) buy a small national syndicator site that is getting feeds and just push it to their domains? Again, I am not taking sides, I am just asking… is this not possible?

Oh…my solution? 😉 Glad you asked. I think that NAR trying to control who gets their data now that almost any website that wants it CAN get it via syndication if they are willing to pay a bit…is pretty ridiculous. I think that it is not unlike Congress trying to legislate control over the internet. They are trying to control where they have no jurisdiction.

I am more of a fix it from within kind of guy (I KNOW there will be others who will comment with other opinions on this and that is totally fine.) And the fix from within is to say Opt In – and your listings go EVERYWHERE online. Opt Out – They Go NOWHERE online. Don’t like it? Tough noogies.

Seriously. Tough noogies. Have your high priced lawyers write THAT in, NAR. T-O-U-G-H (space) N-O-O-G-I-E-S…And then fire them and pass the savings on to the REALTORS.

BTW- In all of this, I am neither for nor against. I simply am watching the futility of an “it’s complicated” relationship. Like most of those relationships, it does not have to be.

It is MUCH easier to explain to the consumer “We put your listing EVERYWHERE”, than it is to say..”It’s complicated”. I think that consumers deserve some simplicity there…

I am willing to change my mind on this. Someone convince me to…please?


8 Comments so far

  1. Michael Wurzer October 24th, 2011 7:30 am

    I see a couple of problems with this approach. First, the broker who disagrees with it will simply opt out, and then use their own tools to send the listings to the sites they want. The problem with this is that, at least historically, this results in data quality problems as the brokers/agents don’t update the destinations once the listings are pumped out there. Second, there are vast differences in purpose and quality of destination sites that an all or nothing approach ignores. Instead, competition by the destination sites for listings should be encouraged by syndication, not discouraged.

  2. Eric Blackwell October 24th, 2011 8:53 am

    Michael – Good points, my contention that brokers will not actually opt out. (Because I think it is a LOT less about quality of site showing the listings than it is about sticking it to a competitor.) Consider how many brokers currently syndicate via Listhub or one of the other major syndication engines. They send their listings to heaven knows where right now. Places that they have never seen let alone looked at the data quality of. They are not going to opt out of the entire thing and then back into four or five select places because their competitor will then use that as a listing tool against them. (He only send your listing out to 5 sites while “I” send it EVERYWHERE–followed quickly by “sign here”). While I agree with your second that it “should” be encouraged by syndication…in truth how many brokers will actually do that and defend their choice NOT to send syndicated data out to this site or that? Very few if any. It is too easy to say “Everywhere”. Thoughts?

  3. Michael Wurzer October 24th, 2011 9:38 am

    Given the very strenuous debate over franchisors receiving IDX versus becoming syndication destinations, I think it’s pretty clear that some very major brokers will in fact opt out if “everywhere” includes destinations they don’t like.

  4. Sean Purcell October 24th, 2011 3:24 pm

    Eric, I have read your post twice now, as well as Notorious R.O.B.’s (a favorite of mine too). I also went back through some of his links as well. It is a credit to how well you both write, that I believe I now understand something approaching 50% of what you guys are talking about. 🙂

    Having said that, here’s the thought that keeps coming back to me: This has very little to do with the Mission of being a real estate agent, and a whole lot to do with the Business of being a real estate agent. (In other words: Selling Homes vs marketing for leads.)

    I naively say this from the perspective of a listing agent who understands his job is to actually, you know, sell the house he has listed! So I’m not interested in creating leads or selling leads or driving traffic or leading traffic or trafficking in leading drives or whatever. I’m interested in selling my clients’ home. Toward that end, I would like to make it findable, yes? The MLS has been the main provider of that service and it has been provided with all the efficiency and innovation one expects from a sclerotic, backward looking (is that oxymoronic?) monopoly.

    I would much rather other agents (and their clients) found my listing on the internet directly, wouldn’t I? In a perfect world (one without MLS altogether) the aggregators’ (and the franchisors’) display of my listing would include a link that leads to my site. And if it’s not a perfect world, and they scrape my data (my copyrighted data), without a link, they still can’t do nearly the job I can do with that data. Without MLS, I wouldn’t be concerned that an aggregator (or a franchisor or anyone else) could link to more info.

    All they can do, whether Zillow or Coldwell Banker, is collect leads (good, more power to them). They might whet someone’s appetite for my listing. But thus intrigued, most people are savvy enough to scroll down past the first 3 or 6 or 10 big name url’s and get to my “123 Main Street” url (a al Greg Swann’s breadcrumb theory).

    This comment has already gone too long. I’ll wrap it up with this observation: the internet is an uneven playing field… and that’s good. We sometimes used to refer to that as “competition.” And I know I can put together a single site that blows away most other agents and ALL other aggregator / franchisor lead generator thing-a-ma-bobs.

    So, is this accurate? Is this whole tempest in a turdpot a clash between people who want to generate leads they can sell to agents who don’t know how to generate their own leads, and people who want to generate leads they can give to agents whom they’ve already sold (on desk fees and national marketing splits and so forth)?

  5. Eric Blackwell October 26th, 2011 9:26 am

    Yep. That is about the EXACT size of it. 😉

  6. Wayne October 27th, 2011 6:44 am

    Sean… I think your comment is right on target.. Very well said and a very interesting post Eric. I will be following the comments and EricOnSearch posts.

  7. […] just last week I bragged in a Comment on Eric Blackwell’s NAR, IDX, Franchisors post ”I know I can put together a single site that blows away most other agents and ALL […]

  8. Barry Bridges November 18th, 2011 7:18 am

    It is our job to get our clients property sold. That should include every site possible.( With the clients permission ) It may be your business plan to get both sides but that is not your duty. I love having my listings on other brokers sites. I love having other agents sell my listings.