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NAR Responds in DC- The MLS Committee to recommend Google policy change

cease and desist

 One Week To Change

UPDATED!

I’m sitting here in my room in Washington DC, after presenting my case to the MLS Commitee. The whirlwind of activity over the last week has my head spinning. I never expected to be whisked to DC and the online support has been incredible.

Jay and I addressed the committee and Jay is so much more at ease in front of a large audience; me, not so much. I expected to only address the committee, but there must have been about 400 people in the room. Be still butterflies!Nervous, who me – you bet!

Those who know me know I am a one on one type of person and large audiences, they petrify me, like roller coasters and looking down from top of the Grand Canyon. My only security came in knowing Jay was speaking behind me.

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Through previous conversations last night I knew the MLS Committee was aware of the issue and had read up on it. Yes, there was obviously some people who did not want to see change; I observed the reservation and overheard conversations. Change is always tough.

The MLS Committee has recommended a policy change which will go before the NAR Board for approval on Saturday.

It has been recommended the language of 15.2.2 of the MIBOR MLS Rules and Regulations be revised to state the following:

Participants must protect IDX information from unauthorized uses.  This requirement does not prohibit indexing of IDX sites by search engines.

The previous language is incorporated in many MLS boards, just numbered differently. The  was not without a lot of hard work and the support of many REALTORS® across the nation. Although this is a victory, we must see the changes implemented. I have maintained, as REALTORS® we have a vested interest in protecting the integrity of the MLS data and providing accurate data for the public.

I wish to thank everyone here and a special thank you to the National Association of Realtors for taking quick action on an outdated rule, the CRT tech guys at NAR,  MIBOR and the NAR board members at the conference who have been most professional in their response and willingness to incorporate the rule as soon as it is approved. 

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I spoke at length with Tom Renkert, MIBOR”s Information Services Director, after the committee meeting and gained a better understanding of the processes which forced them to uphold the ruling in the first place.

Oh and my room was fabulous, wish I could have stayed just to relax, but am glad to be home. Thank you NAR.

Now, back to work and a special thank you to …Benn, Lani, Jay, Mike Taylor (my broker), Jim Duncan, Michael Wurzer, Todd Carpenter and Cliff Niersbach, Morgan Carey (THE real estate webmaster); to Missy Caulk and everyone else who took the message public on their blogs and Todd Waller, whose sense of humor added comic relief to the discussion. ………

UPDATED: at 11:00 p.m – 5/14/2009

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Written By

Paula is team leader for The "Home to Indy" Team in Indianapolis . She is passionate about education and client care and believes an empowered client is better prepared to make good decisions for themselves. You'll find her online at Agent Genius,Twitter and sharing her insights about her local real estate market at Home To Indy.

60 Comments

60 Comments

  1. Ken Montville - The MD Suburbs of DC

    May 14, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Well, that’s a good sign.

  2. James Malanowski

    May 14, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Congratulations.

  3. Ken Brand

    May 14, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Action, Reaction, Resolution. I imagine it’s time for you to collapse. What a journey. Thanks!

  4. Robert Bryan Boova

    May 14, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Good stuff indeed.

    Thanks for the update.

  5. Benn w/AG

    May 14, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    @James just wanted to let you know, you’re comment number 24,000 here at AG, there’s no prize, but thanks!

  6. Brad Nix

    May 14, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    A crazy week for you no doubt. It’s good to see you (and everyone who supported you) make a difference!

  7. The Harriman Team

    May 14, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Great news, Paula! I know you and Jay were under a lot of pressure having to drop everything and go to DC to address this issue, but you did it with poise and professionalism. You guys are tops in our book and we wish there could be some kind of recognition for you guys. To just say, “Thanks for what you did” seems so insufficient…

    If (I mean, WHEN) this is fully resolved, every Realtor association should establish a “Henry/Thompson Award” and present it annually to the Realtor who best displays the courage, initiative and dedication to get involved in issues affecting Realtors and who help to bring about real, positive change that benefits not only other Realtors, but our clients as well. Now THAT would be an award well worth aspiring to…

    Oh, and in case I didn’t say it…”Thanks for all you did”!!

  8. Arlington real estate guy

    May 14, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Paula, it was good meeting you today and I appreciated the opportunity to speak before the committee. I think I spoke 2x as long as anybody on the issue–haha

    From the proposed modification, I don’t think that stops MIBOR from disallowing indexing within their local if they so choose. It just makes them acknowledge that NAR does not require it all or condone it. So if they continue to disallow the IDX from being indexed and available the search engines they are doing so based on THEIR OWN IDEAS, PREDISPOSITIONS AND BIASES—not those of NAR. So now they own their own policy essentially.

    Hopefully after learning that other boards around the country including perhaps one of the largest–MRIS–allow brokers/homeowners to opt out of being included in the indexable IDX on the front end they will rewrite their policies to be more consumer and agent friendly. the default should be opt in inclusion in the IDX which is allowed to be indexed by search engines for efficiency in our 21st century world. If somebody such as the broker Mike Woods who filed a complaint against you who was on record trying to buy the same website/IDX solution as you for those same purposes for which he filed a complaint later–he could opt out with his listings. Utter hypocrisy and backstabbing of competition when he probably decided he did not want to pay up. I can’t wait to see some posts on that situation with keywords for him and his brokerage. Sellers should know about his stance should they not? As a consumer advocate I think so.

    Of course I’d like to be a fly on the wall for Mike Woods of msWoods Real Estate, LLC when he tells his sellers, “Don’t worry. I’ve filed a complaint against my competition so that as few people as possible will have this info on your home for sale and google will not index it making it incredibly easy for buyer to find. It’s the last I can do for, Mr. Seller. I put your needs first.”

    So let’s see what MIBOR does now that they have to own their discrimination against google indexing IDX info for Sellers to get more exposure. Let’s see if they can look at the issue freshly instead of making this about their egos and defending the old stance on an old NAR policy that is now reworded. This will take courage and humility–both of which are noble but difficult. I believe MIBOR will rise to the task though in the interests of its members and its national reputation. Otherwise this will grow bigger with them in the middle defending the old and indefensible that originated with a jealous broker….

  9. Bill Lublin

    May 14, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Paula;
    You and Jay did a wonderful job this morning at the MLS Policies Forum presenting your concerns.
    Congratulations to the leadership team at MIBOR, the staff at NAR, and the volunteer leadership at NAR who so quickly responded to this issue addressing and resolving it with alacrity and professionalism.

  10. Danilo Bogdanovic

    May 14, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    A crazy week to say the least – especially for you! This language change is the right thing to do for all Realtors and consumers and glad NAR is seeing that.

  11. jay thompson

    May 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Paula – it was an honor to stand beside you and address the MLS committee and audience.

  12. Greg Robertson

    May 14, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Bravo Paula! This is a perfect example of how social media can get things done!

    @Bennw/AG congrats to setting up a perfect forum for the RE.net to mark one in the win column!

  13. Paula Henry

    May 14, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Jay –

    Nice to meet you as well and thank you for your contribution to the presentation. I am not big on public speaking, so sincerely appreciate everyone who helped.

    I did have the opportunity to speak with Tom Renkert after the meeting this morning. Tom is the Information Services Director at MIBOR. He did tell me if this policy is adopted, MIBR will most assuredly adopt the policy. MIBOR’s policy is the same as NAR’s policy, which is why MIBOR asked NAR for verification of the policy.

    It really doesn’t matter who the perpretrator of the compalint was, I believe we all receive what we give to this life.

    So musch for philosphical waxing:) I have always maintained throughout this ordeal that REALTORS are the people who have the highest degree of vested interest in maintaning the integrity of the IDX data. We can not let the ball drop on our own responsibility to ensure we are able to keep the modofied ruling in place.

  14. jay thompson

    May 14, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Ack, typing a comment on a phone is hard…

    A BIG shout out to Todd Carpenter and all at NAR who acted swiftly and graciously in getting Paula and me to DC.

    And to Cliff Niersbach with NAR, I’d like to publicly acknowledge that without your support in the MLS forum, this never would have happened. Thank you.

  15. James Malanowski

    May 14, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    WooHoo! I didn’t win something! 🙂

    I must say that watching this whole process has been fascinating. It almost leads me to believe that there is hope for representative republics yet!

  16. Doug Francis

    May 14, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Good to meet you Jay, and you presented an excellent summary. Since I was sitting behind the committee members, they all watched both you and Paula intensely. It really seemed to me that many of them had read the original post and comments, and were eager to hear you speak.

    It was also obvious that they had been working on the modified language since they whipped it up on the screens immediately without any debate.

    We all should tip our hat to the AG Mag forum too!
    -doug

  17. James Malanowski

    May 14, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Just realized that the Gravatar site must be case sensitive … I’ve been wondering why mine hasn’t been showing up.

  18. Louise Scoggins

    May 14, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Hi Paula, it’s been both fascinating and exciting to follow along with the happenings of the past week. Congrats to you and Jay for speaking on behalf of consumer-oriented Realtors nationwide. We all applaud you and your efforts!

  19. Cal Carter

    May 14, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks Jay and Paula.

    Also, thanks to Todd and Cliff – it is acknowledged that people have jobs to do and there was no personal animosity towards anything other than a broken policy.

    I also want to thank everyone else that commented. At times it feels very awkward taking a stance contrary to the organization you belong to. I often press the enter key hoping that what I have to say and am passionate about does not come out wrong or as a personal attack on anyone. I am sure you all feel the same way.

    Let’s get the recommendation voted on and approved and put this one behind us.

  20. Cal Carter

    May 14, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    By the way, is there a transcript? It would be interesting for those of us that have never been exposed to how these processes and committees operate.

  21. Missy Caulk

    May 14, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Whoo hoo, thanks to Jay and Paula for representing us all at the MLS Committee meeting.

    Thanks to AG for bringing this up and letting us vent and share.

    Thanks to Todd for moving it along and getting Paula and Jay there.

    “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

    Use this an an opportunity to get involved. Other issues will come up locally and state-wide and nationally.

  22. BawldGuy

    May 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Hey Bill — Did any of those in positions of leadership have red faces? I ask because this was akin to walking up to the plate holding the wrong end of the bat. Thanks

  23. Joe Loomer

    May 14, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    “All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing”

    – I’m adding “and women” to my version.

  24. Jason Sandquist

    May 14, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    haha, as Johnny Drama would say… “Victory”

    Big shout out to AG for providing a great springboard, @tcar, NAR, last but not least Jay and Paula for taking time out of schedules to make the trip.

    what can be changed next…

  25. Ryan Hartman

    May 14, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Guys…I’m sincerely happy that Paula (and a lot of others among us) seem to be getting a pragmatic solution to this particular problem.

    But…how are Participants supposed to “Protect IDX information from unauthorized uses?” Why are NAR and local boards deciding what should be done with the information? Where’s the consumer in all this? Can’t they be doing better things with our membership dues?

    Not trying to rain on some good news…but it just seems a lot more progress can be had out of this whole thing if we stay on task, pushing the discussion in an effort to address the more important underlying issues that got us here in the first place.

    Right on Jason…”what can be changed next?”

  26. Paula Henry

    May 15, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Ken – Yes it is!

    James – Thank you for your contribution to the dicussion! oh and congrats on being the 24,000th comment! There’s always hope:)

    Ken – Collapse is a good description!

    Robert – Good stuff indeed!

    Brad – A crazy week indeed – thank you!

    Bill – A highlight of this week was meeting you in real life. Thank You sir!

    Pat and Wayne – Oh MY! Thank you, but really this was an effort of the masses. Yes, I wrote the post, but if the response was not as overwhelmingly affirmative, I would have spent the last two days at home wishing I could do something to make a difference. It was the involvement of REALTORS who rose up to address the issue.

    Danilo – It is about the consumer In this age of transparency, we have risen to meet the challenge of giving the consumer what they want. The very best place for them to receive accurate information and data is from REALTORS who work in their market everyday. It was a pleasure to meet you!

    Doug – It was a very rapid and prepared response, which shows the power of social media. I think the most intimidating part of presenting was when every member of the Committee turned to look at me as if they had read every word we had written.

    Greg – Power to the Social Media of the future!

    Cal – Yes – an affirmative vote on Saturday and the new revision in print at the loacl board level will feel good. As far as what to expect, Jay and I had no idea until we got there. Maybe, one of us can write about that. I’m not sure there is a transcript.

    You have no idea how many times I rewrote the original post and wondered as I pushed publish what the rmifications may be.

    Louise – Thank you! It has been an exhilirating week and I am honored to have been invited to DC to represent “consumer centric” fellow agents who are in the field everyday.

    Missy – We must always be vigilant! When you’re passionate about what you are fighting for, the victory is in the opportunity. There will be many more issues and we must be involved if we are to make a difference. Thank You!

    BawldGuy – I expected bats aimed directly at me, but didn’t see any 🙂 It was an outdated rule which needed ammended.

    Joe – Working together we have accomplised much!

    Jason – Sweet Victory and yes, what can be changed next! We have definitely seen the power of social media to enact change.

    Ryan – One thing at a time 🙂 All we can be responsible for is our own use of the data. Obviously, it has been proven the data can be scraped and we have no control over that. If I allow unauthorized use, I am at fault – if I see unathorized use, I have an affirmative responsibilty to help protect the data for consumer use.

  27. Paula Henry

    May 15, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Jay – A special thank you – first, for your active involvement in the discussion, then for your commitment to make the trip to DC and finally, for having my back at the presentation. Jay Rocks!

  28. Paula Henry

    May 15, 2009 at 12:11 am

    Benn and Lani – This has been a week! Thank you for supporting me and giving me the Agent Genius platform from which to speak.

  29. Matt Stigliano

    May 15, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Paula – I’m sure you were beat when you wrote this, since you had quite a day. I’d like to thank you for a) bringing the news to us when it happened, b) staying with the issue (you personal email to me was a big deal in my book), c) encouraging many to support the issue, and d) disrupting your daily life for us.

    You did an amazing job by all accounts and I’m proud to know you and be a fellow AgentGenius writer alongside of you.

    Cheers also to Jay Thompson.

    And of course, Lani and Benn. I’m so glad I found this site. I probably would have had no idea what was going on. I asked around the office and no one knew what the hell I was talking about. I doubted I would get a response, but I was still saddened to know that no one had heard. I learned a lot from this experience and I look forward to the next issue that pops up (although I’d rather they didn’t have to).

  30. Matthew Rathbun

    May 15, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Hat/Tip to Jay, Paula and Bill who appeared professionally and spoke professionally to get this issue recognized and resolved. Also to Todd and other staffers who worked in the background to show that NAR is listening and to see how the system should work.

  31. Jim Cronin

    May 15, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Mini Hijack: We are doing a live interview with Paula Henry and Jay Thompson on Tomato Radio, Tues the 19th at 3pm PST. We will be talking all about their experience at NAR Midyear. Come listen to the show – we will be taking your calls!
    https://www.blogtalkradio.com/RETomato/2009/05/19/Is-It-Ethical-To-Let-Google-Spider-MLS-Content-On-Your-Real-Estate-Website

  32. Paula Henry

    May 15, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Matt – It was a fight worth fighting and I had so much support. As technology changes our industry, there will always be issues. Sadly, many do not know what just happened at NAR and many more will go through the next five years and still not know what happened.

    Matthew – thanks you! So happy to have met you in D.C.

  33. Cal Carter

    May 16, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Quote from Paula’s post above – “I wish to thank everyone here and a special thank you to the National Association of Realtors for taking quick action on an outdated rule, the CRT tech guys at NAR, MIBOR and the NAR board members at the conference who have been most professional in their response and willingness to incorporate the rule as soon as it is approved.”

    What happened to – MIBOR “willingness to incorporate the rule as soon as it is approved”?

    Initial dispatches indicate that MIBOR referred it back to committee:

    “brokerkathy: RT @tcar: @indyagent @phxreguy the MLS/IDX “scraping” amendment was referred back to committee. MIBOR proposed the amendment to refer. ”

    Proposed language seemed right on and simple enough to understand and interpret!

  34. Linda Davis

    May 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

    You did just fine making the case in a room mostly of strangers!! It was my pleasure to meet you.

  35. Paula Henry

    May 16, 2009 at 11:52 am

    This is where I feel like a failure – to have such great support and response and know the REALTORS voice was not heard.

  36. Paula Henry

    May 16, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Linda – Thank you – it was apleasure to meet you, as well!

  37. Jay Thompson

    May 16, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Ugh. MIBOR proposed an amendment to the NAR Board of Directors that they refer this issue back to the Committee. And that was passed.

    My understanding (and I could be wrong on this) is now the next opportunity for passage will be in November at the NAR annual convention.

  38. Paula Henry

    May 16, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Jay – You are right! I just spoke to @tcar; he said someone from MIBOR – he’s not sure who, stood and asked the policy be referred back to the MLS Committee because it was decied too quickly. The board members voted and there was just enough votes to send it back to the committee in November.

    As I told @tcar – the decision to “brand” Google or any search engine a “scraper” sight was made in less than an hour and two emails.

    No where in the policy, as it is written, does it say Google is a scraper, it was always the interpretation. To say now you must wait for a new vote because someone based their decision on an interpretation which can not be reinterpreted is to assume we are all idiots.

    The solution – put pressure on my local board, which is like running in circles and getting nowhere. We tried at the local level, they deferred to NAR and now NAR defers me back to my local board – I’m going nowhere fast.

    Still, I am grateful for everyone’s support. We must continue to educate those who are willing to learn.

  39. Cal Carter

    May 16, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    I just find it troubling that it is communicated to you that MIBOR has “willingness to incorporate the rule as soon as it is approved”, and then becomes the wedge in the gears to keep it from getting approved.

    Who is pulling who’s string in Indiana?

    This kind of of logic reminds me of the federal government following antiquated policies and programs put into place and kept in place by politicians that are counting votes and looking no further than the next election.

  40. Paula Henry

    May 16, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Cal – There is no logic! As far as whose pulling the strings in Indy – apparently some REALTOR who has nothing better to do than turn people in when they get too close to him in the searches.

    I find it rather ironic this started with one agent from Indianapolis who knew exactly what he was doing and ended with an Indianapolis Board Member who obviously supports malicious behaviour from their members, but doesn’t know the difference between malicious scraping and Google indexing.

  41. Bob Crain

    May 16, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Paula,

    If your local board, and NAR will not protect the rights of it’s members maybe the only solution is to Contact the Department of Justice?

    This is clearly a one sided ruling that threatens to weaken online brokerages and only benefits Traditional Brick and Mortar Brokerages.

    Email for DOJ real estate anti-competition matters: RealEstateCompetition@usdoj.gov

    I would suggest that everyone send the DOJ your thoughts on this matter.

  42. Paula Henry

    May 16, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Bob – I have had several people suggest the same option in the past few weeks. It seemed to be a moot point on Thursday and I felt the NAR had heard and understood the issues, and my local board seemed to be willing to abide by the new language.

    Truly – this is not something I wish to pursue through the DOJ. While the DOJ and NAR get their attorneys involved, we could wait five years for an answer, I bet NAR and MIBOR would love the option of waiting for five years without having to provide an interpretation.

    OTOH – I’m certain many will use the option. Thanks for the email address.

  43. Missy Caulk

    May 16, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    This is terrible, join your local MLS Committee and win folks over. Sounds like folks just don’t get it. How utterly disappointing.

  44. Paula Henry

    May 16, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Missy – I would join my MLS Committee, except their too bent in their own ways to hear anything other than what they want to hear.

    Right now, I couldn’t stomach being next to any of them They shake your hand and tell you they will accept the changes – as soon as you leave they fight you. Not the type of people I choose to associate with, and yet, here I am stuck in the middle of their “power” trip.

  45. Kent Simpson

    May 16, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    I’m wondering if NAR’s backsliding on this very important issue opens the door to the birth of a new organization that is more responsive to its membership & fair play?

    Seriously considering the thought of bringing my “Boooooo!” shirt when I attend the November convention.

  46. Ron Goodman

    May 17, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    The interpretations of NAR and MIBOR aside, I think the main thing that DOJ will be interested in, and that will get their attention and action, will be a focus on the effect on the public interests, for both buyers and sellers. For that reason, I have sent the following email to DOJ’s Antitrust Division:

    “This situation needs to resolve in favor of allowing Google to index individual real estate listings, regardless of whether they are on the listing broker / agent’s website of a buyer agency website like mine.

    Here is why:

    I just went under contract as the buyer agent for buyers on a property that they found by entering the MLS number in Yahoo, came to my website as a result, and they requested a showing using the “Listing Inquiry” form. I responded immediately, within an hour of the request, did the showing 2 days later, and wrote the offer for them the same day. During the initial showing, they said that they would NEVER have considered use a seller’s listing agent since the buyer was an attorney and was well aware of the potential conflict of interest that could have engendered. They also said they had requested showings using the”Request Showing” form at two other real estate websites that the property address came up for, and I was the first to respond to their request. One of the agents never responded to their request, and the other agent did not respond until the following day, so I got their business.

    So, there are two critical points to be made regarding this situation and the outcome:

    1) The buyers were better served because they found a buyer agent, which was their preference for representation, and not the listing agent. They were also better served because they had a choice of multiple buyer agents, and went with the one that was able to respond immediately and provide faster / better service, in this case, myself.

    2) The first agent to respond to and meet the consumer’s immediate needs not only has a better change of getting their business, but also serves the public’s needs better.

    In my opinion, DOJ Antitrust Division needs to get quickly get pro-actively involved with this situation before NAR and MIBOR, the association that has instigated and prolonged this conflict between anti-competition interests within their membership and the interests of the public. In this case, I would like to see DOJ get an emergency temporary restraining order against MIBOR and NAR from enforcing any interpretation that search engine indexing constitutes “scraping” and is therefore a violation of NAR’s IDX “anti-scraping” policy.”

    I would add to this that the sellers best interests were also well served, because we were able to move more quickly than their listing agent would have been able to do. It turns out that he was unavailable to do the showing on the buyer’s schedule due to prior vacation plans. Fortunately, he was also technologically well equipped, and was able to respond to our offer and communicate with myself and his seller client via wireless internet and cell phone technologies. So, at least in this case, the consumers on both sides of the transaction were well served, by their respective agents, and by the technology of the Internet, embraced by both agents.

  47. Margaret Woda

    May 19, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I commented on the NAR blog that any interference by NAR in the indexing of MLS data probably violates their own Code of Ethics. I can’t believe they would consider hampering the exposure of consumers who list their properties with REALTORS… but it probably boils down to ignorance of all things technology. I think Ron has taken a good approach by referring it to DOJ who probably won’t be happy to see this conversation taking place. ‘Looking forward to hearing you later on Blog Radio.

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