It was inevitable. First this, and now word from the Seattle Post Intelligencer is that the NWMLS is fining Redfin $50,000 because its “Sweet Digs” property review blog apparently breaks “rule 190″ — you know, the one that says you can’t “advertise” another agent’s listing without their express permission.
It was only a matter of time before the old guard found something else with which to get back at Redfin. The timing of this announcement, coming on the heels of Redfin’s 60 Minutes coup, may be coincidental — though we’ll never know for sure. I’m sure the NWMLS has been on Redfin’s case for a while, but it’s not hard to imagine some cigar-chomping good ol’ boys from the Realtor association getting together right after the 60 Minutes segment and chortling to themselves, “Ok, enough is enough. Let’s see…how about rule 190?”
And we wonder why the real estate biz has such a bad rap? How about because instead of competing with different business models in the open marketplace, we try to shut them down with stunts like this?
Defenders of the NWMLS’s action will say, “But they were putting inaccurate information up! They were advertising others’ listings! They were panning some homes!”
But here’s the real point: many of the ridiculous MLS rules are based on what you might call the mushroom theory of consumers: the notion that it’s best for us in the industry if we keep ‘em in the dark and feed ‘em crap. Rule 190 is no exception. Another common ridiculous rule — which apparently has also led to Redfin wrist-slap — is the prohibition on displaying “Days on Market” figures. The only possible reason for that rule is to maintain Realtor hegemony over critical pieces of data.
The irony is that public Realtor-affiliated sites themselves sometimes break these rules as well, but with no consequence. Example: well before our local MLS finally allowed displaying sold listings on web sites, Realtor.com was doing exactly that. I called our MLS to “report” Realtor.com and was basically told “Well, they’re not in violation because they get their sold data from a non-MLS source, so they’re not really displaying sold listings, they’re displaying sold homes!” Huh?
So what options does Redfin now have? I see several:
- Continue with Sweet Digs in its current form, but explicitly ask each agent for permission to showcase their listing. This probably won’t work, as 99% of agents probably won’t give permission.
- Change Sweet Digs into a subscription-only model.
- Set up a separate entity to host the content, with very little reference to Redfin.
This raises some issue for this blog as well, since I often do property reviews. I do typically — but not 100% of the time — get permission from the listing agent before mentioning a home, and I’m careful to attribute the listing agent, and provide a link to the property’s web site and/or the MLS listing.
To agents here in Silicon Valley: If I’ve mentioned one of your listings without your permission on this blog, please let me know and I’ll modify the offending article. I completely understand that you don’t want your listing exposed to as many potential buyers as possible.
- Greg Swann, a Libertarian’s Libertarian, starts by assuring us that he still despises Redfin, but sees this move by the NWMLS as classic Rotarian Socialism. (Question: could this be the beginning of another Damascus Road experience for the Bloodhound? His former antagonism towards Zillow melted around the time they got in trouble with the NRCC).
- San Jose Mercury News’ Real Estate Blog
- Roberta Murphy at Luxury Home Digest
Tags: Real estate, Redfin
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