Advisory Board Proposes MLS Policy to Fuel Broker Cooperation

Give your feedback on a potential rule change requiring brokers to share listings with other brokers in the MLS.​​​​​​​

September 27, 2019

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Read the full text of the Clear Cooperation policy proposal.

The National Association of REALTORS® is considering a change in the association's MLS policy aimed at creating greater cooperation between brokerages within MLSs. The “Clear Cooperation Policy“ proposal is straightforward: Brokers who are MLS participants must share listings with other brokers in the MLS if those listings are being publicly marketed. NAR is seeking member feedback on the policy before the association's Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee addresses it at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco this November (see FAQ accompanying this article).

In the absence of explicit guidelines surrounding some limited-exposure practices and “coming soon” listings, the National Association of REALTORS® had received requests from MLSs and broker members across the country  seeking clarity. The association’s MLS Technology and Emerging Issues Advisory Board, a group made up of brokers and MLS executives, developed the proposal in consultation with brokerage and MLS leaders across the industry.

The thesis of the advisory board's proposal is that when the benefits of broad listing exposure are in the best interest of clients, so is cooperation among MLS participants to share the listings. Creativity and competition fuel real estate innovation, and while the proposed rule doesn’t seek to restrict that, there is a need to codify the responsibilities that real estate licensees have undertaken through their commitments to license duties, a Code of Ethics, cooperation, and most importantly, the consumers they’ve contracted with to provide professional services.

Proposal Addresses Privacy Concerns

Though the policy change would require brokers to share publicly marketed listings with the MLS, these listings are not required to be advertised in the MLS’s IDX feed or any public syndication sites. They simply must be available in the MLS so that other participant brokers have access to them and can bring potential buyers to the listing broker for cooperation.

Even clients whose circumstances override the benefits of increased exposure, such as celebrity status or difficult life situations, can be accommodated within the proposed policy’s guidelines. If the client has privacy concerns, office-exclusive listings are an option within the proposal. These listings are shared between brokers and agents within a single brokerage and their clients. But if the listing is marketed to the public in any way, the need for an exclusion based on privacy is removed, according to the proposal. The listing then must be shared with other broker participants in the MLS within 24 hours.

You Can Still Tease a Listing

“Coming soon” has become a popular marketing tactic for sellers whose properties aren’t truly ready to be shown. It can help build anticipation for a new listing before showings are available. These listings can also be accommodated in the Clear Cooperation Policy.

If a “coming soon” listing is advertised publicly, it also must be shared with the MLS’s participants for cooperation. MLSs can employ rules allowing a broker to list a property within the MLS and have a time period where showings are restricted until the property is ready to become “active.” Whether this is an official “coming soon” status in the MLS or a set of policies defining options for this restricted showing period, the “coming soon” tactic can be employed while simultaneously reinforcing the responsibilities of participants to one another and consumers.

‘Private Listing Networks’

The proposal says listings shared outside the listing brokerage are, by definition, not office exclusives. While these listings may be omitted from internet advertising such as IDX, VOW, and public syndication sites, the sharing of the listing outside the brokerage exposes the listing to a broader audience than is intended in an office-exclusive policy. If the broker is an MLS participant, these listings must be shared with the MLS for cooperation within the MLS.

Reinforcing the responsibilities of MLS participants strengthens the value that real estate professionals can deliver to consumers on a daily basis. In the current legal and regulatory environment, codifying a greater commitment to the consumer benefit of cooperation is both strategic and necessary.

NAR will continue to release information about the policy and engage in conversation with industry participants as to the policy’s effects and potential implementation questions.

— Sam DeBord, Bellevue, Wash., NAR's president's liaison for MLS & Data Management.