In response to a new National Association of REALTORS policy for MLSs, the real estate industry needs to move quickly to define the creation and distribution of listing broker contact information for listing displays. A summit of leaders is needed to find consensus on a single best practice for implementation. While that meeting takes shape, this is an informal call to arms.
Of the many new MLS policy updates coming out of NAR in 2021, one seemingly straightforward change has surfaced a lot of questions. CMLS and RESO are discussing ways to create best practices or standards for ensuring these changes roll out efficiently from MLSs to brokers and their technology partners.
Require that participants’ IDX displays must identify the listing firm and an email or phone number provided by listing participant in a reasonably prominent location and in a readily visible color and typeface not smaller than the median used in the display of listing data. The same standard would also apply to VOWs but is optional.
Listing Broker Contact Information on IDX/VOW Displays
I’m hearing many different interpretations of this new policy in the industry. The following is what was spoken in the NAR MLS Issues and Policy Committee meeting, the board of directors meeting, and from NAR policy staff.
- IDX vs VOW: This contact information is required to be displayed in IDX. It is only required in VOW displays if local MLSs have decided to enforce an optional rule and require it in VOW.
- The broker participant chooses: This email or phone number to be displayed is selected by the participant. If the participant wants its brokerage email address displayed, the IDX participants must display that. If the broker participant wants the listing agent’s phone number displayed, that’s the requirement.
- This contact information can change from listing to listing: This point seems to have been missed by many, but it was crystal clear in the board meeting debate and staff/leadership explanation before the vote. The broker may have teams, new agents, seasoned veterans, or an in-office leads team which give the broker different incentives as to whom should answer consumer inquiries about each individual listing. The broker participant can choose different contact information to be displayed for each listing.
- Implementation is due March 1, 2022: New NAR MLS policies are effective January 1 of the following year, and must be implemented by March 1, by default. No revisions to these dates were offered in the passage of this policy.
Finding One Solution for Efficiency
It’s clear that the industry will be better off if a single, consistent method of delivery is implemented across MLSs so that brokers can display the information accurately and consistently. What’s needed in the short term is a powwow between MLSs, vendors, and brokers/data consumers to find the best practice for creation and delivery. This isn’t rocket science, but it could be a launch failure if good planning doesn’t happen upfront.
Two Parts to the Solution: Creation and Distribution
To be clear, the following is not a recommendation for a solution, but a framing of current conversations and questions that need to be addressed.
Creation of this listing broker contact information could be done through a picklist. A broker creating a listing would have a dropdown menu within which they could choose which piece of contact information they want displayed on an IDX website next to their listing. RESO standard fields would make sense. Their common descriptions are well known:
- Listing brokerage preferred phone number
- Listing brokerage email address
- Listing agent preferred phone number
- Listing agent email address
There are additional contact fields within MLSs, and this list could potentially expand to a dozen choices. But this general point is that this is a fairly straightforward choice for an MLS software provider to implement as a single-selectable list on a listing input form.
Freeform text fields and other solutions have been suggested, but those could lead to things being input like Facebook lead gen pages, recruiting website URLs, marketing remarks, etc. Sticking to standard contact fields keeps the process efficient. MLS operators don’t need a new compliance hassle.
Distribution of this information creates additional questions. Most conversations thus far have centered on what “signal” the MLS data producer will send to the broker/vendor data consumer to tell them what to display on the website.
Two options discussed thus far:
- The MLS could implement a new field called something such as ListingBrokerContactDisplay. It sounds like this may be conceptually similar to what has already been implemented by CA Regional MLS, which has a similar policy already in place (more detailed investigation needed). Within that field, the MLS could deliver one of two things:
- The name of the field to be displayed (ex: ListAgentPreferredPhone or ListOfficeEmail)
- The actual data that resides in the field that the listing broker selected (ex: 206.555.1212 or firstname.lastname@example.org, possibly easier for a data consumer to display with less logic needed)
- The MLS sends some other signal or flag regarding current fields in the listing record without having to create a new field. Technical discussion is needed here, but the software development principle of DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) was the impetus for this consideration from RESO’s CTO, Joshua Darnell. If we already have the fields we need, we may not need a new one to repeat another.
The important point, today, is that whether these or other solutions are viable or best, they need to be discussed ASAP with all stakeholders to get the process of coming to a best practice under way.
If your organizations are already discussing how to align on an efficient cross-market solution, please reach out. If you’re not, we’ll be reaching out to you soon. March 1 will be here before we know it.