Redfin releases a genuinely interesting update!

According to their press release, they are now commingling MLS, FSBO and Foreclosure listings on one map… and this has me scratching my head!

Are they allowed to do this? Isn’t this type of commingling of listings against MLS rules?

redfin search in woodland hills

Notice the purple and pink icons… Those are REO (foreclosures) and FSBOs, respectively (green icons are MLS listings).

I have four ideas about how they are able to get away with this:

  1. They found a loophole in MLS agreements that let’s them commingle listings (but I would find this hard to believe).
  2. They got buy-off from all their local MLS organizations (but I would find this hard to believe)
  3. They have reason to believe they can win this battle in the courts… (maybe a DOJ brief in support of this or something similar?)
  4. They just don’t care about the rules and believe that consumer support for this feature will be so great that they’ll risk MLS fines.

None of these scenarios seem likely to me. What am I missing?

With that said, I REALLY like how they are approaching the foreclosure data. I’ve received a few press releases recently from real estate search sites that “announce” they are now publishing foreclosures on their site. However, inevitably, when I tested out the feature, the sites were just regurgitating RealtyTrac data that required consumers to pay a fee to get the actual address of the property. Redfin is providing the address.

Also interesting, someone from Redfin let me know that they are going to phase in a flat-fee buying option in order to accommodate these new listings types.

I want to send my congrats out to the Redfin team for pushing the boundaries yet again. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re working pretty darn hard to deliver features and tools that they think will do a better job serving their customers.

UPDATE:

There’s some debate in the comments about whether there are local MLS rules against commingling of data, with some people claiming it’s just a misunderstanding that the data can’t be commingled.  However, someone (who wished to remain anonymous) send me the following email which demonstrates that for at least one MLS where Redfin is commingling data, the rules are pretty clear:

Check it out:   http://www.imrmls.com/centsite/idx_policy.htm

“4.13. Listings obtained through IDX must be displayed separately from listings obtained from other sources, not including information provided by other MLSs.”

What that says to ME (having experience with MLS rules) is that MRMLS doesn’t allow FSBO properties side-by-side with MLS listings.

It’s great to see so much progress being made on…

…the listing standards front.   While it will definitely help the big boys lower their aggregation costs, it should also help make the online listing search space even more competitive as I think (hope?) it will help lower the bar to creating a viable national presence for new startups.

Trulia headed for success, while Zillow going to flop? The Industry Standard…

thinks so.

On Zillow’s failings:

“Zillow is so 2006. The business model is based on advertising CPMs, and now that the real estate bubble has burst, it’s much less fun to track the (sinking) value of your home. There’s more competition as well, including Trulia and Redfin.”

On Trulia’s success:

“If location, location and location are what real estate is all about, then business plan, business plan and business plan are why Trulia is rising to the top.”

(h/t Trulia blog)

Inbox: How much is too much around your client’s listing?

I recently received this long, but interesting email from an MLS committee member on the role of consumer content around listings that I found interesting enough to share with my readers:

“I have been catching up to the “ClueTrain Manifest” dialogue as a result of your reposting of Rob’s comments. I find it very timely. Without going into too much disclosure or detail I am serving on a recently formed MLS committee to examine the MLS roles and policy regarding online/web display of the MLS data. This week we spent considerable time discussing the topic of “social interaction” of the listings we display and redisplay on brokers websites through IDX policy.

So as you can imagine, the unspoken desires of some of the group is to create social discussion (without regard to the content) about listings. The motivation is more about driving traffic to their web site and therefore gaining market share in the R.E. business arena. The spoken fear as legally responsible brokers should we open up our own client’s property to potentially damaging comments by others within the rules of the MLS? Now the understanding by the group is that we cannot control what anyone who is a non-member of our MLS does or says about these properties and outside interests probably will make comment. However, members of the MLS can control comment through membership to the MLS what is said by the members themselves. (I don’t know if this is legally true and a whole other line of thought).

This conversation issue is not driven by the word “control” but rather by the “agency relationship” created to the client to “market” their property for highest and best sales price. The conversation is also with consideration that at the MLS it is a cooperative membership to assist the process of buying and selling property. It could be devastating to the industry to get caught up in a war of words about the value of any one property. Why would I list my home with an agency if when the listing is posted online It gets poor (or worse –slanderous) reviews by MLS members or public on the very same site that is suppose to market the property for sale?

So back to the idea that broker members of the MLS recognize the value of an open, interactive dialogue with the consumers to grow their web presence at their individual web sites. However they are reluctant to allow this dialogue with opinion of the competing brokers/agents (which may be an opinion rooted in competition and not fact) or the potential “sensationalism” that can be created through “negative news” allowed to be expressed by the public or within the MLS membership.

So in context of the ClueTrain and with the legal regard for agency relationship in mind my questions to you are; 1) what would your opinion of the MLS discussion be and how would you advise the MLS to proceed with this line of thought. And 2) If you were an individual owner of a real estate company, how far would you go (or allow to go) on your company/agent’s websites to allow what may be disparaging comment on a competitor’s listing or your own company listings?”

I let this reader know that I honestly didn’t have a good answer, but he raises some interesting points…  It’s really a tricky issue because if brokers don’t allow a conversation around their listings, it bodes well for sites that will allow a relatively uncontrolled conversations around listings (Zillow, for example, seems more than happy to fulfill this role…).

I haven’t read the ClueTrain manifesto in a while, and I don’t think this analogy will speak to the theory behind that book, but one could think of any given MLS organization like a big tent.   I think at some point the savvy MLS powers-that-be will realize that they would rather have the consumers inside of the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.

Joel’s waiting for a listings shakedown, while…

consumers continue to get more places to see listings:

The Zillow story has to be the more interesting of the two… because, unless Zillow is doing something funny on their backend, this is the first example that I’m aware of where a large MLS has agreed to commingle their MLS data with FSBO data.

In other words, if you’re a consumer searching for listings in the area covered by the New England MLS, then you’ll be able to use the single map interface (Zillow’s) to see both MLS and FSBO listings.

That’s HUGE…

The only catch, at least as far as I can tell, is that the system is opt-in for the agents of  MLS PIN, which means that Zillow is not likely to get true comprehensive listings as the deal currently stands.