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RSS Feeds & Real Estate Leads – Really…"Kiss Your 'RSS' Good-bye!"

When Eric Bryant wrote the original Kiss Your “RSS” Good-bye, he was referring to RSS feeds being a thing of the past as social networking sites like Twitter provided a filter for really good articles, “Kinda like a ‘Human Aggregator'”.

I thought this was a smart observation, but Eric’s post had to do with RSS feeds as they pertain to blogs and the reading of real estate articles. Today, I’m here to talk about RSS feeds as they relate to MLS data.

real estate rss feeds and leads

RSS Feeds + MLS Data = Leads & $$$

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a web feed format used to publish frequently updated content. Back when the original IDX policy was written, RSS technology existed, but how it applied to MLS data had not been discovered. If you’re not up to speed on RSS technology and how it works with MLS data, let me give you an example of how a brokerage or agent might use RSS to drive traffic and leads.

Let’s say I’m a real estate agent with an IDX feed and a Facebook account (this will work for Twitter too). I can Really Simply Syndicate all price reductions for any zip code covered by my local MLS, for instance Honolulu, and for any criteria that I desire, let’s say condos. I can then create a Facebook page called “Honolulu Condo Price Reductions” and attach my RSS feed to it. This new Facebook page will now display all price reductions for condos in Honolulu. Potential buyers interested in this niche can become a fan of this page and get price reduction updates displayed directly on their Facebook “Wall”.

Simple to setup (you can have a Facebook page like this up and running in minutes), and a very good way to build your fan base and social sphere. Which, in turn, generates more traffic, leads and money in your pocket.

So what’s the problem? When a real estate agent signs up for a MLS feed, the agreement is that they will display MLS listing on the URL specified in their contract for which other brokers have agreed to share their listings with (this does not include Facebook or Twitter). Let’s remember that advertising another broker’s listing (outside of the website specified in your MLS agreement) requires written consent from the listing broker.

Also, IDX policy does not speak to RSS feeds. And NAR rules and regulations say that if something isn’t specifically allowed within policy, then it is not allowed…period. So, for the time being, distributing MLS data through RSS is not OK.

The NAR does understand RSS is an issue, however, and during their last meeting (roughly 1.5 weeks ago) the board spoke on this topic and eventually voted to form a task group around RSS to provide a recommendation for NAR’s next November meeting.

Will RSS feeds be gone for good? It really does look that way, unless Realtors speak up.

It would be interesting to hear how Geek Estate Blog readers feel about this subject. Should RSS feeds be allowed? If so, how far should property syndication be taken before we’ve gone too far…or is there such a thing?

About Justin Britt

Justin Britt (justin@hawaiilife.com) is Head of Innovation and Co-Founder of a little Hawaii Real Estate company. Britt oversees user interface design, SEO, programming, public relations and social media for Hawaii's 6th largest and fastest growing real estate brokerage.

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  • It did not take long for the other shoe to drop on that one. I caught myself reading it and thinking Awesome ! that is how the data should be available, flexible, timely, accurate, and ubiquitous. But oh , BTW you can not do that. Maybe Zillow or Trulia or LPS or ListHub could provide that type of data stream with their non IDX content ?

    Realtor.com is about blowing smoke in the face of American Consumers and protecting Brokers. Agents are not even on their agenda.

    • Trulia and Zillow can provide RSS for their NON MLS data (IDX content).

  • It did not take long for the other shoe to drop on that one. I caught myself reading it and thinking Awesome ! that is how the data should be available, flexible, timely, accurate, and ubiquitous. But oh , BTW you can not do that. Maybe Zillow or Trulia or LPS or ListHub could provide that type of data stream with their non IDX content ?

    Realtor.com is about blowing smoke in the face of American Consumers and protecting Brokers. Agents are not even on their agenda.

  • blah

    I'm not for allowing it. Rss is an xml standard that allows these feeds to be pulled in by anyone. A realtor could put up a feed with the intention of it populating their facebook page and instead that feed could be pulled in by anyone else for any purpose. Basically, it makes screen-scrapping 100 times easier. I say no to rss. Websites and email updates are completely adequate and greatly help the data from being misused.

    • Blah, you make a great point. I could think of multiple ways to use an RSS feed of MLS data to gain a competitive advantage against other brokers in my area. One, as you mentioned, would be to build scraper sites for each one of my 65 agents, each with their own niche. Then promote those in the search engines using 65 keyword rich domains. All the while, not having to pay for a single IDX feed while other brokers are paying and only have one site. This would not be fair.

      However, the RSS workgroup could suggest allowing RSS feeds for certain things and not for others. Essentially making scraper sites and other unfair usages against policy. But then who is going to police this, and where would the funds come from to do it?

      • “But then who is going to police this, and where would the funds come from to do it?”

        This is a huge issue. An association can make rules, but the enforcement of those rules is a whole 'nuther hairball to digest.

        So the NAR could say (for example) “RSS Feeds can be displayed on agent/brokerage sites, but can not be re-purposed for any reason”. That's all well and good, but it is unenforceable so it's effectively meaningless.

        At first glance, it would seem the RSS rule needs to be all-or-nothing. Either RSS feeds are allowed, consequences be damned, or they are forbidden all together, consequences be damned.

        It's a difficult problem…

      • You have a really great point here Justin, especially if the RSS feed contained a lot of detailed information about each listing.

        One way to avoid this potential pitfall would be to limit what data can be included in an RSS feed. For example, NAR could limit RSS feeds to only display the type of property, price, and maybe the number of bedrooms & baths, along with a link back to the originating website. This would make republishing the data in a useful way on another website impossible without sending visitors back to the originating broker website. However you would still retain most of the benefits of RSS.

        NAR could also create a limit on the number of listings that can be shown on any given RSS feed just as an extra precaution.

  • blah

    I'm not for allowing it. Rss is an xml standard that allows these feeds to be pulled in by anyone. A realtor could put up a feed with the intention of it populating their facebook page and instead that feed could be pulled in by anyone else for any purpose. Basically, it makes screen-scrapping 100 times easier. I say no to rss. Websites and email updates are completely adequate and greatly help the data from being misused.

  • Good post, Justin. I've been thinking of ways to feature special listings on my sites, and an RSS feed of recently discounted properties sounds like a great idea. Hopefully the NAR will figure out a positive way agents can use RSS to market homes.

  • Good post, Justin. I've been thinking of ways to feature special listings on my sites, and an RSS feed of recently discounted properties sounds like a great idea. Hopefully the NAR will figure out a positive way agents can use RSS to market homes.

  • I read your post and found it very thoughtful. Then I read the comments and had to rethink the issue. It is a dilemma between totally open information, which I agree NAR is not for, and how open information is used by many for purposes which are too often just for the bottom line. I am a RE broker in the Napa Valley and currently feel members of an MLS should have the right to use the data to promote their business.

  • I read your post and found it very thoughtful. Then I read the comments and had to rethink the issue. It is a dilemma between totally open information, which I agree NAR is not for, and how open information is used by many for purposes which are too often just for the bottom line. I am a RE broker in the Napa Valley and currently feel members of an MLS should have the right to use the data to promote their business.

  • If any agents wants to take one of my listings and advertise it on their site with an RSS feed to help sell it, first talk to my broker, but I am sure he will have the same view as me, please do! Isnt that our job, to sell our houses for our clients?

    • I agree with you completely Dean, advertise my listings all you want (within NAR rules which means no RSS at the moment). It only benefits the seller, and that's whose interests we're representing.

      My brokerage is currently drafting a letter to send to all brokers in our area giving them permission to advertise any of our listings.

    • You're 100% correct Dean, your broker has the same view. Published this over a year ago, it still stands… http://www.phoenixrealestateguy.com/you-have-fu

  • If any agents wants to take one of my listings and advertise it on their site with an RSS feed to help sell it, first talk to my broker, but I am sure he will have the same view as me, please do! Isnt that our job, to sell our houses for our clients?

  • brian

    As a homeowner selling a house, I want my property information distributed as far and as wide as possible. Blog it, Tweet it, Facebook it, yes, even scrape it. The more places my property is listed, the higher the chance a buyer will find it, and the higher the chance I'll sell my home…which is, after all, the reason for all of this, right?

    • I see your point, but also consider when we as a brokerage look at how much traffic our listings get on Zillow, Trulia and social media sites, it's almost a non-factor compared to the traffic we generate through our own marketing efforts (we're talking a small percentage of a percent), and none of the deals we've done in 2008, 2009 or 2010 came from a lead off of Zillow or Trulia. So if all you're relying on (Brian, I'm not saying you're doing this, I'm just making a point to Realtors) is for other people to spread the news of your listing, then you're doing your sellers a disservice.

  • brian

    As a homeowner selling a house, I want my property information distributed as far and as wide as possible. Blog it, Tweet it, Facebook it, yes, even scrape it. The more places my property is listed, the higher the chance a buyer will find it, and the higher the chance I'll sell my home…which is, after all, the reason for all of this, right?

  • “Will RSS feeds be gone for good? It really does look that way…”

    I'm not sure where you're coming from on that statement Justin as you (correctly) point out that a work group made up of NAR Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee members is being formed to address the RSS issue. Until that group meets, and forwards recommendations to the entire committee for consideration at the annual meeting, there is no way to know if RSS feeds will be “gone for good”.

    I'm on NAR Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee, and have asked to be placed on the RSS work group. Whether that happens remains to be seen. Personally, I lean toward allowing RSS feeds of IDX listings. Since NAR has no control over non-members, then non-member sites such as Trulia, Zillow or whoever will use RSS feeds to their heart's content. Forbidding members to use them just puts Realtors at a competitive disadvantage.

    • Aloha Jay – my perception is (and I could be totally wrong on this) that the vulnerabilities mentioned by “blah” below:

      “that (RSS) feed could be pulled in by anyone else for any purpose”

      Would have the NAR strongly considering against RSS…unless, as I stated, “Realtors speak up.”

      Personally, I am not making an argument for or against RSS, I'm simply trying to begin a conversation so that the RSS workgroup has some input from the people they serve.

      Regarding your statement on “non-member sites” using “RSS feeds to their heart's content” and the “competitive disadvantage” Realtors will face…if we consider past precedence, we know that a company just lost Listhub's data feed because they were using RSS with the MLS data. So if Trulia and Zillow decided to do this, they would also lose their Listhub feed. So in my opinion, your argument here is a non-point.

      But, this raises an entirely different issue. Jay, if you truly are concerned about fairness for Realtors, should MLSs be providing data to companies like Listhub free of charge? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for spreading MLS data as far and wide as possible. However, you speak about “competitive disadvantage(s)”. How is the playing field level when Realtors have to pay for the MLS data to display on their website when companies like Zillow and Trulia are getting this same info for free?

      • Justin – Trulia and Zillow get listings from places other than ListHub (sometimes from brokerages themselves). I have no idea however, what percentage of their listing feeds come from what sources.

        They had listings before ListHub, so I suspect if it came down to it, they'd find a way to get listings without ListHub.

        They could, in theory, take listings they receive from brokerages and create an RSS feed of them, and there is nothing the NAR could do to stop them. Therein lies my concern — if the NAR were to say agents can not use RSS listing feeds, the T's and Z's and any other non-member aggregator still could, leaving the NAR member disadvantaged.

        Non-members have (in my opinion) in many cases a competitive advantage over NAR members. They don't have to play by the NAR rules and regs. The playing field isn't level, and (again in my opinion) the NAR *should* be serving their members interests, not handcuffing them.

        This is a great post, and as one who is trying to get on the RSS work group, I hope more people chime in!

        • Jay – You make a really good point. Allowing Realtors to use RSS would help to level the playing field. I vote for Jay to be on the RSS work group!

  • “Will RSS feeds be gone for good? It really does look that way…”

    I'm not sure where you're coming from on that statement Justin as you (correctly) point out that a work group made up of NAR Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee members is being formed to address the RSS issue. Until that group meets, and forwards recommendations to the entire committee for consideration at the annual meeting, there is no way to know if RSS feeds will be “gone for good”.

    I'm on NAR Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee, and have asked to be placed on the RSS work group. Whether that happens remains to be seen. Personally, I lean toward allowing RSS feeds of IDX listings. Since NAR has no control over non-members, then non-member sites such as Trulia, Zillow or whoever will use RSS feeds to their heart's content. Forbidding members to use them just puts Realtors at a competitive disadvantage.

  • Aloha Jay – my perception is (and I could be totally wrong on this) that the vulnerabilities mentioned by “blah” below:

    “that (RSS) feed could be pulled in by anyone else for any purpose”

    Would have the NAR strongly considering against RSS…unless, as I stated, “Realtors speak up.”

    Personally, I am not making an argument for or against RSS, I'm simply trying to begin a conversation so that the RSS workgroup has some input from the people they serve.

    Regarding your statement on “non-member sites” using “RSS feeds to their heart's content” and the “competitive disadvantage” Realtors will face…if we consider past precedence, we know that a company just lost Listhub's data feed because they were using RSS with the MLS data. So if Trulia and Zillow decided to do this, they would also lose their Listhub feed. So in my opinion, your argument here is a non-point.

    But, this raises an entirely different issue. Jay, if you truly are concerned about fairness for Realtors, should MLSs be providing data to companies like Listhub free of charge? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for spreading MLS data as far and wide as possible. However, you speak about “competitive disadvantage(s)”. How is the playing field level when Realtors have to pay for the MLS data to display on their website when companies like Zillow and Trulia are getting this same info for free?

  • Trulia and Zillow can provide RSS for their NON MLS data (IDX content).

  • I agree with you completely Dean, advertise my listings all you want (within NAR rules which means no RSS at the moment). It only benefits the seller, and that's whose interests we're representing.

    My brokerage is currently drafting a letter to send to all brokers in our area giving them permission to advertise any of our listings.

  • I see your point, but also consider when we as a brokerage look at how much traffic our listings get on Zillow, Trulia and social media sites, it's almost a non-factor compared to the traffic we generate through our own marketing efforts (we're talking a small percentage of a percent), and none of the deals we've done in 2008, 2009 or 2010 came from a lead off of Zillow or Trulia. So if all you're relying on (Brian, I'm not saying you're doing this, I'm just making a point to Realtors) is for other people to spread the news of your listing, then you're doing your sellers a disservice.

  • Blah, you make a great point. I could think of multiple ways to use an RSS feed of MLS data to gain a competitive advantage against other brokers in my area. One, as you mentioned, would be to build scraper sites for each one of my 65 agents, each with their own niche. Then promote those in the search engines using 65 keyword rich domains. All the while, not having to pay for a single IDX feed while other brokers are paying and only have one site. This would not be fair.

    However, the RSS workgroup could suggest allowing RSS feeds for certain things and not for others. Essentially making scraper sites and other unfair usages against policy. But then who is going to police this, and where would the funds come from to do it?

  • You're 100% correct Dean, your broker has the same view. Published this over a year ago, it still stands… http://www.phoenixrealestateguy.com/you-have-fu

  • Justin – Trulia and Zillow get listings from places other than ListHub (sometimes from brokerages themselves). I have no idea however, what percentage of their listing feeds come from what sources.

    They had listings before ListHub, so I suspect if it came down to it, they'd find a way to get listings without ListHub.

    They could, in theory, take listings they receive from brokerages and create an RSS feed of them, and there is nothing the NAR could do to stop them. Therein lies my concern — if the NAR were to say agents can not use RSS listing feeds, the T's and Z's and any other non-member aggregator still could, leaving the NAR member disadvantaged.

    Non-members have (in my opinion) in many cases a competitive advantage over NAR members. They don't have to play by the NAR rules and regs. The playing field isn't level, and (again in my opinion) the NAR *should* be serving their members interests, not handcuffing them.

    This is a great post, and as one who is trying to get on the RSS work group, I hope more people chime in!

  • “But then who is going to police this, and where would the funds come from to do it?”

    This is a huge issue. An association can make rules, but the enforcement of those rules is a whole 'nuther hairball to digest.

    So the NAR could say (for example) “RSS Feeds can be displayed on agent/brokerage sites, but can not be re-purposed for any reason”. That's all well and good, but it is unenforceable so it's effectively meaningless.

    At first glance, it would seem the RSS rule needs to be all-or-nothing. Either RSS feeds are allowed, consequences be damned, or they are forbidden all together, consequences be damned.

    It's a difficult problem…

  • Wait. I have a question. If we have an agreement with our MLS to use IDX on a specific agent website, does that mean we can use RSS on that website too? I understand that we can't use it on Facebook and the like, but can we use it on our own site?

    It's also possible to use MLS data on Facebook in a different way. I post MLS reports weekly to my local FB foreclosure fan page. Of course, these posts are not automatic; I must generate a report and post it myself. I haven't gotten many fans yet, but I continue on…

  • Wait. I have a question. If we have an agreement with our MLS to use IDX on a specific agent website, does that mean we can use RSS on that website too? I understand that we can't use it on Facebook and the like, but can we use it on our own site?

    It's also possible to use MLS data on Facebook in a different way. I post MLS reports weekly to my local FB foreclosure fan page. Of course, these posts are not automatic; I must generate a report and post it myself. I haven't gotten many fans yet, but I continue on…

  • Jay – You make a really good point. Allowing Realtors to use RSS would help to level the playing field. I vote for Jay to be on the RSS work group!

  • I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  • I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  • RSS feeds are a great use of technology. I use several RSS feeds on my websites. They are good for SEO as google sees it as new content and it is effortless once it is set up. Lets home they are here to stay.

  • RSS feeds are a great use of technology. I use several RSS feeds on my websites. They are good for SEO as google sees it as new content and it is effortless once it is set up. Lets home they are here to stay.

  • The data is out there whether NAR or MLS committees like it or not. It will be an uphill battle to control the data as I'm certain technology will continue to evolve in new ways that will keep challenging how data is used. The only thing that NAR can regulate is it's members – consumers will decide what technology they find helpful and many will just bypass agent sites for ones that offer better user experience – banning RSS feeds is just one way that non agent sites can gain a competitive advantage. I hope the work group will consider the consequences of this when they meet.

  • The data is out there whether NAR or MLS committees like it or not. It will be an uphill battle to control the data as I'm certain technology will continue to evolve in new ways that will keep challenging how data is used. The only thing that NAR can regulate is it's members – consumers will decide what technology they find helpful and many will just bypass agent sites for ones that offer better user experience – banning RSS feeds is just one way that non agent sites can gain a competitive advantage. I hope the work group will consider the consequences of this when they meet.

  • You have a really great point here Justin, especially if the RSS feed contained a lot of detailed information about each listing.

    One way to avoid this potential pitfall would be to limit what data can be included in an RSS feed. For example, NAR could limit RSS feeds to only display the type of property, price, and maybe the number of bedrooms & baths, along with a link back to the originating website. This would make republishing the data in a useful way on another website impossible without sending visitors back to the originating broker website. However you would still retain most of the benefits of RSS.

    NAR could also create a limit on the number of listings that can be shown on any given RSS feed just as an extra precaution.

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  • RSS Feeds are a great way to find new clients. I think that the best way to view this subject is that technology changes everything. I still pay for post cards and flyers to be mailed out to prospects but I get more traffic and close more deals by having people go to my web site search for a home on the mls then register as a clients online. They do most the searches themselfs and they call me when they are ready to do a walk though. The fact of the matter is that every tool that you can use is one way to capture another lead.

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