Andrew Wetzel's Musings

October 22, 2019

New Bright MLS Listing Policy (October 2019)

This week Bright MLS announced a new policy regarding property listings that are “advertised”.  The policy begins with the following language:

“The MLS system encourages competition in the marketplace while also ensuring cooperation and compensation among real estate professionals.  Full participation in the MLS ensures the seller has the largest possible marketplace, and the buyer has the widest possible selection.  This policy will help provide transparency and access to information in the real estate marketplace”. 

The reaction on Facebook was as swift and voluminous as I have ever seen in my years of engaging in social media.  I called the response “nuclear”.  While many, including myself, agree with the thought behind the policy change, a majority found it objectionable, questioning the ability of the MLS to interfere with how they conduct their business.  Let me add some history and context to the situation.

Bright was formed in 2018 by the merger of multiple MLS systems.  It covers several mid-Atlantic states and serves almost 100,000 Real Estate licensees.  Before Bright, our local MLS was called Trend and it served about 30,000 agents.  Until this new policy, there was a “3-day rule” that stated that any change in the status of any property had to be reported to MLS membership within 3 business days.  It excluded weekends and national holidays and the date the change was made counted as the first day.  The changes included new listings taken, price reductions and status changes.  The rationale was transparency.  The rule still applies with the one exception covered by the new policy.

For sellers, it encouraged full-market exposure for their properties which should result in more competition and the sellers attaining the highest value.  For buyers, it meant they could access all property listings that matched what they were looking for so that they could make an offer knowing they had considered of all their options.  For agents and their clients it meant having the ability to evaluate the market for comparing and attaching values to properties offered for sale.  All that being said, allowing 3 business days created problems even when agents complied with the rule.  What could happen in 3 business days?

New listings could be shared with segments of the market before receiving full exposure.  Sellers might not get the benefit of full competition.  Buyers might put a house under contract without seeing all of the possibilities.  Agents might show houses that were already “under contract”.  Will any rule change any of these?  Probably not but trying to minimize the problems we have dealt with might add to market efficiency and effectiveness and enhance our image as professionals.  One can only hope!

In my various roles in addition to listing and selling houses, I have heard many complaints over the years from agents unable to get information about houses not yet uploaded to the MLS.  Their buyers saw “For Sale” signs and some information online and wondered why their agent was unable to provide additional information they needed to make an informed decision about property.  Even if the information is in the MLS, some listing agents are the point of contact for scheduling showing appointments and some do not respond to inquiries in a timely manner but that is a separate issue.  What good can come from keeping property information secret?  The general presumption is often that these listing agents do not want competition and that they are trying to sell their own listings.  That may or may not be fair but their actions create those feelings and those perceptions taint all agents.

Here is the new policy:   Within one business day of marketing a property to the public, the Participant must submit the listing to Bright MLS for cooperation with other Bright MLS Participants.”

Let’s break this down.  “One business day” apparently means 24 business hours.  I would prefer that it really meant a “business day” as that is easier to monitor.  “Marketing” should be easy to define but it apparently isn’t.  For example, putting up a “For Sale” sign or uploading property information to the Internet is considered marketing but, as was explained in a Bright MLS video intended to clarify the new policy, “marketing” in emails seems to be correlated with how many people are included in the communication which makes this awkward to say the least.  I like definitive rules and regulations.  Regardless, I believe the intent is good and, if followed, will allow agents to answer questions about price and features and should help the overall Real Estate experience.

I have followed the developing reactions online and have read a number of reasons why some agents seem to feel this new policy is wrong.  One specific concern that makes sense is that agents who use a third-party to install their “For Sale” signs may not know exactly when the sign has been installed.  The easy answer is to upload the listing to the MLS before placing the sign order.  Frankly, while I am certain that some agents have valid concerns that needed to be discussed and addressed, most of what I have read seems to be complaints that some listing agents will not be able to control activity which makes me wonder whose interest they are serving.  A number have mentioned wanting to restrict needless showings to minimize their clients’ inconvenience.  I wonder how they do that while complying with the various laws affecting Real Estate.  Frankly, I empathize with the thought but, as I have opined before, this is not a retail transaction:  showings are generally required to allow buyers and agents to assess Real Estate and they will be inconvenient but that  inconvenience will end once an agreement is signed.  Trying to manage showings and control the marketing might make people wonder who is being restricted from viewing a property and what the real intent might be.

I saw one interesting comment from a buyer’s agent:  they said they had a client who wanted to buy a house that had not been in the MLS or on the Internet to avoid any privacy issues after settlement.  Again I empathize:  listed properties stay online after the sale closes or after the house is taken off the market and anyone can see interior photos even if they reflect prior ownership.  The Internet has affected privacy and I am not sure how to change that.  In my opinion, only active and available properties should be online and properties that sell or come off the market should be removed.

Time will tell if this new policy works.  Will it be modified?  Will deviation be allowed?  What will happen to those who violate it?  There is a heavy fine proposed for non-compliance.

As an experienced, educated and knowledgeable professional, I embrace the efficiency of the MLS.  Prior to our having an MLS, trying to get property information out to the broad a market was tedious, time-consuming and expensive because it was so inefficient.  As someone who bought a personal residence prior to there being an MLS, I remember all too well the hardship we faced identifying every possibility to consider.

Buying and selling Real Estate are infrequent acts that typically involve our biggest asset so the processes deserve all the attention and respect we can give them.  Article 1 of our Code of Ethics requires us to promote and protect the best interest of our client above all else.  While some may think that that means keeping information off the MLS, my best guess is that an overwhelming majority benefit by getting information published as quickly as possible.  We need to make sure our clients fully understand the benefits of using the MLS and our services even if that means we lose a little control.  I certainly hope that it isn’t all about the commission!

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

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