A few questions about SourceMLS

The post entitled What is a Listing? that went online 9/17 both on my blog and on Notorious R.O.B. drew a few public comments and more than a few private email messages.  Most of the email started off with variations of, “Don’t use my name or even mention you received this message, but . . .”  It seems there are a lot of people out there who have comments and ideas on this topic, but are afraid to voice them in a public forum.  Gosh, I wonder why.SourceMLS Logo

However one brave soul allowed me to use his letter so long as I didn’t identify the source.  I think I cleansed it enough to erase any trace back info.  Here it is.

I want to comment on SourceMLS. I’m relatively new and uninformed on many of these topics especially when compared to the veterans of CMLS, so to say I had to read and reread this multiple times to grasp the concepts is an understatement; which I found ironic itself, understanding the confusion. It is very possible I’m missing something which will make what I’m about to say sound very stupid but since this isn’t a public forum I’m going to risk embarrassment.

My question doesn’t actually pertain to the details and definition you discussed but rather what doesn’t make any sense to me is how this program/badge and initiative is going to be a catalyst for change and awareness for stale data and outdated listings? My understanding is if a site WANTS (perceived incentives to follow) to display this badge they need to, among other things, make adjustments to how they display and update listing data to try and comply with the terms of the program, some of which sound seemingly arbitrary. At this point, as you stated, CMLS decides if the website in question is “reasonably acceptable” to join the program. After going through that process, congratulations, you can display the (rather uninspiring) SourceMLS badge? The description of which (as it appears on the WAV Group site) is

“In effect, the SourceMLS initiative will act similarly to the way that the IDX disclaimer works today on your broker website. The principal difference is that your participation will play a role in supporting the industry with developing a professional real estate branded seal that consumers will grow to recognize and trust. Moreover, third party websites will not be able to display the seal unless they conform to the Terms of Use for participation.”

They compare it to IDX disclaimers displayed on websites. I’m just guessing now but I would be shocked if you asked 100 people who have looked at real estate online if they have read or even noticed the IDX disclaimer. It appears to me that the success of this program rests on websites applying to this program and updating their websites. The incentive for doing this, aside from having a better functioning website, is to be able to display a badge to users on your site, presumably you can also advertise that your site now has the badge and is compliant to this program vowing to only show fresh listings to attract more users to your site. Will the average user ever notice, care, or even understand what the badge means enough to dissuade them from using sites that don’t display it? Is this badge more meant to be symbolic like a yellow “live strong” braceletLivestrongBracelet that raises money and awareness for cancer, in this case brokerage websites standing together raise awareness and hopefully abolish stale listing data? I don’t see how this will help brokerage and MLS sites become more competitive? This is confusing on so many levels but I don’t want to start rambling in my email, hopefully I haven’t done that yet and my confusion/question is coming across clearly.

Apologies for the long email but I figured I would share the thoughts your blog posts elicit. (end)

Sue Adler and Rob Hahn created the event series Hear it Direct which stages panel discussions with consumers to give “real estate industry professionals stunning insight into the mind of their clients.”  If you haven’t been to one, I’d highly recommend it.  Often we “insiders” spend so much time talking to each other that we forget there’s a whole world of “outsiders” who often have the clarity of thought to pose tough questions we totally overlooked by being so deep in the weeds we can’t get out of the swamp.  This email was a prime example.  The author is not an MLS CEO, not a broker, or agent, or mortgage officer.  The author is engaged with all of those types of people and is a keen observer of the industry into which he has cast his fate.

So, to the planners of the project and authors of the rules of the program, I paraphrase the following questions from a member of your observing public:

  1. What is the real purpose of SourceMLS?
  2. How this will help brokerage and MLS sites become more competitive?
  3. Is SourceMLS more symbolic than literal?
  4. If you achieve the mission of creating a “branded seal that consumers will grow to recognize and trust” what do you expect the consumer to trust that brand to mean?
  5. And the $64,000 question, do the MLSs promoting SourceMLS really expect the badge will achieve enough notoriety and reach hallmark status so as to dissuade consumers from using sites that don’t display it?
  6. And if the answer to 5 is yes, what’s the budget and the anticipated schedule for that promotion? (More than $$64,000 I suspect.)

If there are no solid answers for these questions, perhaps someone should send them to Sue Adler and ask her to query her next panel for their thoughts.  I look forward to hearing those answers.

For this post:
Cause: 
Inquiring minds want to know
Effect: 
Out of the mouths of babes

About Bob Bemis

Founder, Procuring Cause Advisors -- consulting with leading MLSs, Associations, Brokers, Agents on strategic issues facing the real estate community.

• Formerly VP Partner Relations – Zillow (February 2012 to July 2013)
• Named by Inman News as "100 Most Influential Leaders in Real Estate" for 2011 and 2013
• CEO - Arizona Regional MLS, Tempe, AZ (October 2007 to February 2012)
• Representative on the NAR’s MLS Issues and Policy Committee; served on Presidential Advisory Group studying IDX use in Social Media
• Formerly a Director on the board of the Council of Multiple Listing Services, a national association of MLSs
• Formerly Interim president of the MLS Domains Association, an organization seeking to acquire the Dot.MLS top level domain for exclusive use by MLS systems
• Vice President of Customer Care for MRIS, in Washington DC/Baltimore (2001-2007)

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One Response to A few questions about SourceMLS

  1. 7. Is the infrastructure that powers the Source MLS verification platform robust enough to quickly load those badges on a site that page load times are unaffected?

    Maybe it’s a dumb question, but unless that “branded seal that consumers will grow to recognize and trust” is really important to consumers, why would a publisher of listing data want to add this complexity to their own platform?