For brokers or agents who want to integrate their websites with local Multiple Listing Services in lieu of a canned IDX product, the landscape can be challenging for a number of reasons.
Here are some of areas of concern to consider:
- Number of different Multiple Listing Services: to give you an idea of the confusion, most people don’t even agree on the number of MLSs in the country. In January 2018, according to the latest figures from the National Association of Realtors, there were 1,165 associations and roughly 650 MLSs.
- Different Formats: we point out this large number of associations because many have Multiple Listing Services with different IDX (Internet Data Exchange) policies and formats. There is one called RETS (Real Estate Transaction Service) that is the most common for integrating the raw listing data, but it does have advantages and disadvantages. Other MLSs might use XML, SOAP, FTP or other protocols. All of those need to be integrated using an effective MLS API (Application Programming Interface) which is basically the software that will import their data onto your website.
- Compliance issues: every MLS also has their own set of compliance requirements to follow on how their information can be displayed. There are copyright statements and legal disclaimers that must be included. Some require specific logos or icons. There may be markets where you are required to specify the name of the office representing that listing.
- All those compliance issues must be imported and match all that property data such as property types, Single Family, Duplexes, and attributes, number of bedrooms, baths, etc.
- Not all data is included: here’s another consideration, since many MLSs are different, so is the data they display. For example, the MLS in Greater Cincinnati does not show homes sizes. These different fields need to be taken into account.
- Boundaries: some MLS markets allow their members to include listings from anywhere. For example, the Sandicor MLS – now called SDMLS in San Diego displays listings from several states. CARETS, also in California, shows listings from 46 different states.
- Take a large metropolitan area such as New York or San Francisco. Those areas may have several different MLSs within one city or surrounding markets. Conversely, the Bright MLS covers all of Philadelphia.
- Competing MLSs: then there is the situation where different associations overlap and compete with each other. Untangling those listings and displaying them correctly presents a challenge.
- Regional attributes: depending on location, other factors to watch for when importing data are geographic attributes that need to be included in the correct fields. That might include ocean or mountain views, an attribute you might see in California, but not in Kansas.
- Adding more than one MLS: here’s a major obstacle. A broker or agent might cover a territory that crosses over more than one MLS boundary. So one format for the data transfer might be different than another. These all need to be integrated and standardized on an agent’s website.
- Updates: be sure to check on real times updates. Consumers on the hunt for a home obviously want current information. When a home hits the market, they want to know. When a price changes, they really want to know. Right now. Be sure to work with a MLS API that uploads fresh data at least every two hours several times a day.
- Speed: which brings us to an accompanying factor, speed. You will want a MLS API that is coded correctly so it can update quickly.
- Uptime: MLSs listings represent money to brokers and agents. Ask about reliability. Be sure your MLS API provider has a strong track record with close to a 99.9% uptime. You certainly don’t want those listings crashing when someone is on your site looking at million dollar properties.
- SEO Value: some formats feed an agent’s website with listings but that information is hosted on their servers, not the agents. For those familiar with Google and Bing search rankings, a website is judged by the local content they display. You should prefer to have that content on your website. This way the search bots can index it and determine your pages have relevant content to a specific market, and use that data to increase your rankings on the search engines. An organic Page One ranking for target keywords that an agent is farming is golden.
- Related Data: in this digital day and age, consumers know there is a vast amount of helpful information out there related to purchasing a home. That information could include Recent Property Sales, Market Trends, School Data, Neighborhood Demographics, Municipal Boundaries, Crime Statistics, etc. An agent would be smart to include that data alongside those MLS listings so they can truly be the local resource for home shoppers. Consumers will seek that information.
That opens up a great lead generation opportunity. Make sure they can find what they need on your website.
Bottom line: implementing the right MLS API can be daunting. It might be best not to delegate that project to a small web agency or techies who are not familiar with the labyrinth that is involved.
There are serious compliance issues that need to be addressed correctly. There is a massive amount of data, text and images, that needs to be imported and organized properly. And that data needs to be updated in a timely fashion. For real estate professionals, it’s unfortunate there are so many MLSs out there with different formats. Fortunately, there are data technology companies a broker or agent can use that have experience navigating through those differences and standardizing listing data for their website.
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