EDITORIAL NOTE: I do not like (what I perceive as) unfair competitive practices. Period. Competition helps things get better. And I REALLY don’t like it when people try to protect themselves by legislating monopolies so that they can take advantage of the little guy. In the following editorial, I make the case for removing those obstacles from the agents in the Roanoke VA Association of REALTORS. In my opinion, the brokers and board members in this MLS have stepped over the line in giving themselves options that they are not giving the agents. IT is a long read, BUT WORTH IT.
Ok, I was researching a number of MLSs that seem to have WEIRD MLS regulations. (ones that do not seems to make sense) In the process, I googled “IDX Business Rules”. Here is what I found. The number 2 result is the Roanoke Valley Association of REALTORS and their IDX rules. So I downloaded the March of 2013 document and started reading. Here is a link to the document on the RVAR.com site. (And in case they take it down, here is a link to what I downloaded that I have put up on Real Estate Industry Watch, unedited.)
Imagine my surprise when I read the following in this document:
IV. TYPES OF IDX:
A. Broker IDX: Broker IDX is IDX made available to all IDX Brokers for the limited electronic display of IDX
B. Agent IDX: Agent IDX is IDX made available to Agents of an IDX Broker (an IDX Agent) with that
Broker’s permission, subject to the requirements stated in Section V.A.4 below. Each IDX Broker is
responsible to ensure IDX Agent compliance with the IDX Business Rules.
which by its self is weird but still within bounds. You CAN have a BROKER package that costs one thing and an AGENT package that costs something different. I get that. But in the next part RVAR takes away the RIGHT for the agent to even choose at all what site that they have (other than a couple of vendors). And that is the kicker:
4. Agent IDX is available under the following terms:
a. The IDX Agent is authorized to have an Agent IDX electronic display unless prohibited by the IDX
Broker. IDX Brokers may choose to prohibit Agent IDX for any or all of their agents. To do so, the
IDX Broker must provide to the RVAR office an official statement prohibiting Agent IDX, to include a
list of the agents’ names.
b. The IDX Agent is prohibited from gaining access to the Raw IDX Data.
(emphasis added in RED to the above text)
What this means in ENGLISH is that Brokers can use ANYONE that they want to build them a website and provide the data. Further research into this showed that RVAR LIMITS AGENTS TO ONLY A COUPLE OF CHOICES in the WEBSITES that they have – in other words they cannot use MANY of today’s current website providers.
Brokers – They can have whatever they want. And if they choose a vendor, they can opt to have agent websites using the SAME PROVIDER that they have, but no one else.
Here’s an additional piece of irony. RVAR has no problem sending the raw data to syndicators — who then manipulate the data and use it on their sites with NONE of the restrictions that REALTORS that are party to their MLS agreements have to abide by. That is fine? And yet somehow they CANNOT trust the agents with access to the RAW data to build the website that they wish? Or even have the opportunity to get permission from their broker to do so (as most other MLSs have in their regulations)? The AGENTS can only choose between 2 vendors while they a) abide by the regulations b) follow NAR’s rules and c) PAY THE DUES? Good grief. This makes NO SENSE.
So here are my questions for NAR and RVAR:
1) Is this ethical? I would LOVE for someone from NAR’s legal department to chime in here. Or at least have them talk to RVAR. Is it ethical to FORBID due paying agents the opportunity to have the same websites that a broker is allowed to have?
2) Is this simply an oversight? (I personally don’t think so, but will leave you room to do the right thing and change it.)
3) What is the basis for crafting your IDX agreement this way? Why not give agents the same options as brokers in terms of websites. ALMOST EVERY OTHER MLS DOES. Sure, they require the brokers permission, so that if the broker wants his agents to be stuck in the 1990’s then they can go elsewhere. BUT, this makes it so that they cannot.
4) You obviously are proud of what you have created, you put it online and allowed Google to index it. Can you help us understand why it was created this way (other than to keep agents under the control of brokers?)
I will be happy to give you equal time on this site to defend your position, and will append your remarks to this post within reason, but I CANNOT right now understand the logic here. Such a HIGH percentage of MLSs require broker approval but allow agents the right to have IDX websites given that they get that permission.
For AGENTS reading this post:
- Does your MLS have weird regulations that make it difficult for you to do business?
- Are they abiding by the standards that NAR has set for IDX rules?
- Would you like to know how YOUR MLSs rules compare to other MLSs around the country?
Simply post a comment and we will be glad to investigate. It is time that the practices of MLSs were much more unified and fair to the Agents who actually pay the dues. That’s just my opinion. What is yours?