There has been a brouhaha in the real estate industry regarding the use of the moniker "MLS" on agent websites. In fact, it started a new ethics section created by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). Basically, it states that REALTORS are not allowed to use the term "MLS" (multiple listing service) in their website domain names, even though they do not have it trademarked.
However, they are now going against recommendations given by one of their own authors/instructors, Mr. Internet. Years ago, Mr. Internet wrote an article on good domain names for the real estate industry. Using "MLS" was even suggested. You can bet some agents went out and purchased domain names with those initials. A so-called NAR spokesperson suggested doing this, now NAR disallows it.
There's no Grandfather clause
Marc Rasmussen, a REALTOR from Sarasota, Florida, has held the #1 position in Google and other websites with his wonderful website that was called thesarasotamls dot com. He had tried getting other domains but the good ones were taken so this was the best he could find at the time.
He spent a lot of money and blood, sweat and tears getting his site to top search engine position. Sarasota doesn't have a huge population (around 55,000 residents), yet Marc's great website garnered around 700 visitors a day! Those are staggering numbers. I realize that Sarasota, FL is going to generate more interest than, say, Orland Park real estate, since Florida is a popular area for 2nd homes, investors and retirees.
The Sarasota MLS filed an ethics claim!
Marc is a dues paying member of his board, MLS and NAR. Yet they used the new ethics code to try to get Marc to stop using his domain name. They lost.
Then they tried ICANN and actually won! So now Marc is using a redirected domain name for his Sarasota real estate website. But he might not be allowed to keep the redirect. Once that is taken away, Marc's site will begin falling in the search engines and it will take a long time to get it back.
What's the big deal?
Most people would wonder why can't an agent have "MLS" in their domain name? The reasoning is that by stating that anywhere on your website, you are telling prospects that you are the MLS and are giving them full access to the MLS, just as if they were licensed agents.
In fact, I do offer every single active listing on my Chicago suburbs MLS search. But I was contacted by my board and forced to remove links like "MLS Search" from my site. Now I can only use terms like "Search Listings." However, I believe that "Search All Active MLS Listings" should be acceptable and will be using that soon. That tells my website visitors that they will only be getting active listings and not sold and closed listings or any other status.
This will only affect paying NAR and local board and MLS members
That's right! It only affects those of us that actually list and sell properties. It will not affect real estate vendors such as lead generating companies like Home Gain who gather leads and sell them back to real estate agents at hefty fees. They can now use MLS as much as they want! Since they are not members, they cannot be forced to follow the rules. They can misrepresent potential buyers and sellers into thinking that their sites are the MLS and that visitors will be viewing the entire MLS system in whatever area they're searching in. Yes, non-members can do this, but we paying members cannot.
How did this happen?
Those of us who have websites and utilize them to the fullest believe that the rule makers do not. They don't have websites and don't understand about search engine positioning and how real estate agents are spending a lot of time and money battling lead vendors and other real estate portals who try to take our clients first so they can sell them back to us or at the least sift them to us once they've reached their sites first.
These are large real estate portals such as Trulia or Homes.com and the like. They are not local websites, they do not know the local market. But many real estate web surfers don't understand this. They start with one of these sites that sit at the top of search engines and some stick with the site while others do leave to try to find a site owned and run by a local agent/broker.
Every potential buyer and seller should stick with local sites. Every state has different real estate laws and methods. A nationwide portal cannot offer what a local site can. Yet our own boards attack us, either out of ignorance or envy. You would think they'd want their members to be successful, but I guess when one member seems to be too successful, a witch hunt is started to bring that member down. This is what I believe happened to Marc Rasmussen, a top Sarasota real estate agent.