As we reported earlier, the San Francisco Association of Realtors plans to discontinue the public side of its website. However, you will always be able to search available listings FREE from the SFResidence website.
- Mick Orton
With REALTOR® members’ interests in mind and after thoughtful consideration, the board of directors of the San Francisco Association of REALTORS® (SFAR) has voted to remove public access to MLS listing information on the Association-operated website, www.sfarmls.com. The action is being taken to drive traffic now received by sfarmls.com to broker websites in an effort to establish REALTORS® as the first point of contact for consumers looking for real property in San Francisco and the Northern Peninsula. The action will become effective on January 1, 2007.
In the past several years there has been an alarming movement of consumers from broker websites to the public MLS site. To make the site less appealing to consumers but to preserve its usefulness as a source of listing information, the Association attempted to delay posting new listings to the site by one week. Unfortunately, Rapattoni Corporation, operator of the site, could not accommodate the request.
Leading firms in the city have reported that in surveys of buyers they have represented, an overwhelming majority found the property they ultimately purchased not on the firm’s website but on sfarmls.com.
Today, under the Association’s IDX (internet data exchange) policy, it is possible for any broker participating in SFARMLS to duplicate the listing information currently found on sfarmls.com on his or her own website. The policy is set forth in SFARMLS’ Rules and Regulations at Section 12.16.
The Association has approved several vendors that can set up an IDX site for any broker participating in SFARMLS. The cost is not significant. But if having a website with MLS information does not appeal to a broker, realtor.com, the site operated by the National Association of REALTORS®, will continue to display listing information from San Francisco and the Northern Peninsula, as well as other areas around the United States.
Set forth below are a set of questions and answers that members may find useful in understanding how the discontinuance of public access to sfarmls.com will affect them.
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Q: When did SFAR begin operating a public MLS website?
A: When SFAR launched Rapattoni MLS in July of 2002, a public MLS website was included in the package. Although many of the brokers in SFARMLS were already displaying MLS listing information on their websites under the Association’s IDX policy, many were not so the Association agreed to maintain a public site until there were a greater number of broker websites with listing information. Now that nearly all brokers in SFARMLS have their own IDX sites, there is no longer a need to provide this service.
Q: What is IDX?
A: IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange, and is a standard developed by NAR for brokers (and MLSs) to display listing information on their websites to the public. IDX is intended to be an advertising vehicle for brokers. IDX information includes only publicly-viewable fields, and does not include any “agent-only” information such as agent remarks, showing information, such as lockbox codes, days on market, or contact information. Not all listings in the MLS are available in IDX feeds.
Q: Why don’t we just keep the public MLS website up? My clients really like it!
A: There are two main reasons for discontinuing public access to sfarmls.com: First, there is the reason stated above. Second, there is the recognition that the listing information belongs to the broker, not to SFARMLS, and that many (if not most) brokers feel that the public site detracts from their efforts to attract consumers to their own sites. Every broker who uses IDX has the EXACT SAME INFORMATION on their site as SFARMLS currently has on its public site.
Q: I like the idea of a trusted, neutral source of information for the consumer. Where do I send my clients now?
A: There are strict rules preventing brokers from indiscriminately removing individual listings from the IDX feed they get for their websites. Familiarize yourself with the rules governing IDX display of listing information, and you can easily educate your clients. Your clients can receive all of the listings they have come to expect from your broker website. Alternatively, listing information is available at www.realtor.com.
Q: Where do my clients go now to see all of the listings in the MLS?
A: It is a common misconception that the public side of www.sfarmls.com contains all of the listings in SFARMLS. Your clients have never had access to all of the listings on SFARMLS’ publicly accessible website.
Some brokers have internet applications for their clients where, after logging onto a portal, the client has access to all of the listings. These applications are available from third-party vendors for brokers and agents who have not developed the internet applications themselves. To use these applications to access the full listing inventory, the consumer needs to have a relationship with the broker or agent using the application. Taking down the public access to www.sfarmls.com will not change this policy.
Q: I have the Rapattoni search framed on my broker or agent website. Will this be turned off, too?
A: No. The only thing that will change is the elimination of public access to www.sfarmls.com. The same search window will continue to be available as a framed solution for both brokers and agents.
Q: I’m a broker without a company website. What are my options for getting a site that displays IDX listing information?
A: See the attached list for the names of vendors who can provide brokers with a basic website that displays IDX listing information.
Q: What are some of the benefits of removing the public MLS site?
A: First, as mentioned above, the goal is to drive traffic that currently is going to www.sfarmls.com back to broker and agent websites. This will result in many more eyeballs on broker and agent brands and more exposure for them and the services they offer. SFARMLS’ public MLS site really does not do anything to serve brokers and agents other than to provide free access to the listing information that brokers and agents have worked so hard to procure.Second, the MLS (and the display of listing information) was not designed for the public. The purpose of the MLS is clearly stated in the MLS rules: “…a facility for the orderly correlation and dissemination of listing information among the participants so that they may better serve their clients, customers, and the public.” The connection with the public should come from broker and agent websites, which are designed to display the information in a consumer-friendly format. Remember, this is the same information that is currently available at sfarmls.com. There are no fewer listings on a broker’s site than there are currently on the public SFARMLS site.
Q: But the public site gave my listings additional exposure, no?
A: The public will continue to seek listing information on the internet, and the
consumer will still find a broker and agent’s listings no matter what broker or agent site they look at, provided they have marked “yes” in the IDX field when uploading the listing to SFARMLS.
Q: What do I tell my clients? Where can they search the MLS?
A: Just send them to your broker or agent website. And, if your broker site does not currently contain IDX listing information, contact (or have your broker contact, if you are an agent) one of the vendors already approved by the Association. Having IDX information on your site is not only a chance to connect with your clients, but a chance to build your brand by reminding your clients of the services you provide.
Q: When will the public MLS site be taken down?
A: By motion of the SFAR Board of Directors, the public site will come down on January 1, 2007.
Q: What will happen when a visitor clicks on www.sfarmls.com after January 1, 2007?
A: The user will see the following message:
“Technologies surrounding the management of listing information have made public access to the information through the Association obsolete. The information is now available on many of the websites operated by broker participants of SFARMLS.
“To find a site that suits your needs, go to www.sfrealtors.com and use the ‘Find a REALTOR®’ tool.”Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience that you may encounter in transitioning to these websites.”
- San Francisco Association of Realtors