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The Great Debate

casting a vote

photo source: Mike Hippie

No, not those debates between donkeys and elephants in red and blue states. The great debate in the Phoenix real estate market, and likely in others, is whether our MLS – the Arizona Regional MLS – should have a public home search available.

The Houston association has become the standard for such things and in time has become the category killer for Houston Real Estate. Other cities’ MLS systems also offer a site where the general public can search for homes.Not so in Phoenix. And according to Bob Bemis, the CEO of ARMLS who on Friday spoke at the monthly luncheon for the Arizona Real Estate Educators Association, there’s an even split on the subject within the MLS.

Those in favor of a public search site see the opportunity for ARMLS to become the category killer for Phoenix real estate, supplanting some of the third-party sites that take brokers’ listings, generate leads and then sell the leads back to the brokers. If successful, ARMLS can generate the leads and send them back to the brokers without the charges from the middle man.

Those against a public search site see ARMLS as attempting to compete against agent sites that already carry an IDX feed, as well as those individual agent sites that already are at the top of the search engines for Phoenix real estate.

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Personally, I’d prefer to see the public site if only because ARMLS theoretically has the resources to push the Zillows, Trulias and Roosts to the sidelines. Could it impact my own site’s search? Possibly. But I’m realistic enough to know where my site ranks and what the actual impact might be. I can’t compete with the third-party vendors; if ARMLS wants to step in on my (and everyone else’s) behalf, go for it.

Besides, as we move forward the idea of protecting listing data is becoming increasingly obsolete. Every week brings another real estate search sits relying on data with varying degrees of completeness. The trend is for an increase propagation of the data, not a decline. If ARMLS doesn’t enter the fray, 37 other third-party firms will.

Since “none of the above” (or even Bill the Cat) isn’t an option on this ballot, I’d have to vote with ARMLS.

Written By

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.



  1. Larry Yatkowsky

    February 2, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    This is all good but wouldn’t it be great if the worker bees got a little honey on a click per view basis? After all, everybody else is filling their pot from the hive.

  2. Kelley Koehler

    February 2, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    ARMLS is just weird (like the rest of Phoenix). It’s silly that they don’t provide data feeds to agents, and more silly that there’s no public interface. It all seems very backwards to me. I figure if I’m a member of the MLS, I should get that data in whatever form I want it. It’s mine, and I pay for it. Gimme. Or is my borderline Y-ness showing? The TARMLS public interface is all rather basic. I wouldn’t call it a category-killer in any sense of the word, but I don’t think they’re really trying at that. In my market, the public MLS face exists, but no big whoop. But then, we can all have our own data and make whatever we want of it, we don’t have to deal with “approved providers” of an IDX framed search.

  3. Benn Rosales

    February 2, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    I think I’m with you on this one, not because it sidelines anyone, but we have the public search here in Austin and I’ve found clients can confirm information they get from other sites on it. Just last week a client sent me a list of 12 homes she found online at various search sites- 11 were either sold or pending and one withdrawn, that left the one she actually said in the same email that she hated but fit the criteria- go figure. I pointed her to and austin home search, but I ended up sending her a list that fit and wrote a contract the next day.

  4. Jonathan Dalton

    February 3, 2008 at 11:46 am

    We do get data feeds, Kelley … the IDX feed is part of our membership. But I prefer the packaged version better.

  5. Kelley Koehler

    February 3, 2008 at 11:53 am

    not IDX, raw unpackaged data with ftp access. You get raw data? I’m told only brokers do, and that they can’t let their agents use the raw feeds.

  6. Jay Thompson

    February 4, 2008 at 12:26 am

    No raw data feed from ARMLS, unless you are a broker.

  7. Sue

    June 3, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    What do you mean by raw data feeds? In NJ the public has access to all the listings via the public gsmls…no addresses, but the agency phone number.

  8. Kelley Koehler

    June 4, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Sue – the raw data feeds are usually something like an XML file of all the listings, made available only to agents, so that they can create their own framework of the data. It would be entirely separate from the public interface of an MLS.

  9. Susan

    June 4, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Thanks for the clarification Kelley. I’ve never seen that type of info.

  10. James Boyer

    June 18, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Hmmm, our MLS system has had a public website where people could go and look at what is in the MLS all they wanted. The site does not rank well for much of anything though. In order for it to rank for much they would have to work at it a bit and i don’t think most MLS’s will be willing to do that.

  11. Eugene Oregon Real Estate

    August 30, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    In Oregon, RMLS has a public site that I don’t worry about because I’m confident I offer a more personal experience to consumers. In Oregon every agent is a broker and to obtain the raw data feed you need your principal broker to agree to allow you access to it. Of course you wouldn’t affiliate yourself with a principal broker that wouldn’t allow it would you? 😉

    I don’t know that the public site affects the 3rd party sites what so ever. There are plenty of people searching online that as long as you rank well you will get leads whether there is a public site and 3rd party sites, you just have to set yourself apart.

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