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The National Association of REALTORS® is considering the controversial MLS Clear Cooperation Policy proposal this week, which aims to bolster cooperation in the industry, centering on exclusive listings, including “Coming Soon” and “pocket” listings.

If approved, the policy—also known as MLS Statement 8.0—would require brokers to enter listings into the MLS within one business day of marketing the property publicly. As NAR outlines:

“Within one business day of marketing a property to the public, the listing broker must submit the listing to the MLS for cooperation with other MLS participants. Public marketing includes, but is not limited to, flyers displayed in windows, yard signs, digital marketing on public facing websites, brokerage website displays (including IDX and VOW), digital communications marketing (email blasts), multi-brokerage listing sharing networks, and applications available to the general public.”

“MLSs have asked for more clarity on broker cooperation for many years, particularly around off-MLS pocket listings,” explains Sam DeBord, CEO of the Real Estate Standards Organization and NAR’s Liaison for MLS and Data Management. “Brokers have also asked NAR for more consistency in policy across markets and a more orderly marketplace for listings.”

According to NAR, without additional cooperation within the MLS, buyers have less options, decreasing exposure for listings—a concern for sellers, as well.

In the proposal, NAR excludes in-house listings—those advertised within the brokerage’s office(s) only—but includes listings marketed to outside parties in “private listing networks,” who constitute “the general public.”

Through in-house listings, brokers can continue to offer privacy, according to policymakers—as well as capitalize on the “Coming Soon” label, but at the discretion of their local MLS, which has the authority to define its own policies, such as when days on market officially start.

Additionally, brokers can choose to distribute homes in the IDX and to public websites, or prevent syndication. However, if they choose not to syndicate, but the listing is otherwise promoted publicly, the policy rule stands, ensuring distribution to MLS participants.

“The proposal doesn’t require or prohibit ‘Coming Soon’ listings,” DeBord says. “Local MLSs make those determinations. If the policy passes, many MLSs will want to consider their local policies as to delayed showing forms, delayed showing statuses, or ‘Coming Soon’ statuses and policies. The proposal still allows for private, office exclusive listings. It requires all publicly marketed listings of MLS broker participants to be shared with the MLSs other participants for cooperation.”

A handful of local MLSs have implemented their own policies, including Chicago’s Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED) and Northwest MLS. More recently, Bright MLS adopted a policy similar to NAR’s, attracting considerable scrutiny. (In the past week, Assist-2-Sell and Compass disapproved of the organization’s policy; in the case of Compass, Bright MLS CEO Brian Donnellan responded in writing.)

“We’re resolute in what it is we’re doing, and the entire board is behind the decision on this,” Donnellan says. “Bright is always looking at its policies to make sure they’re up-to-date and still serving our mission. The world changes, and we need to stay on top of it and ensure that everything we have is contemporary and meets the needs of the market today.”

Donnellan adds, “When you really boil this down, this is about pocket listings, and how pocket listings aren’t good for the consumer, not good for brokers and agents and the whole ecosystem in general. Pocket listings have huge implications on fair housing, as well.”

Bright MLS is one of the largest MLSs in the U.S., with 95,000 members in the Mid-Atlantic region.

In the broader brokerage community, the question remains: What benefits consumers? Is the NAR policy the solution?

“This is problematic for our sellers who are not ready to be in the formal MLS but are behind the market as it transitions and they are trying to catch up,” Chris Suarez, CEO and founder of Keller Williams Xperience Real Estate Network, says. “We are making a policy for all sellers to take care of all buyers. I don’t think that there is a solution for everybody.”

There are logistics to sort through, as well, according to Jim Fite, president and CEO of CENTURY 21 Judge Fite Company.

“I am not in favor of this policy because of the time it takes to take professional photos and the reality of human behavior,” Fite says. “For photos, when an agent/company submits their listing to MLS, it goes to thousands of websites—the first impression is the lasting impression. Then, preparing all the accurate data for a listing, along with the demands of a real estate professional, many times will take more than one day to prepare professionally.”

According to Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin, however, it is “a crucial protection for consumers.”

“The only way we can build a marketplace that everyone can access, regardless of which agent she hires or which website she uses, is by agreeing industry-wide that we all show a home for sale or none of us do,” Kelman wrote this week. “The clear-cooperation policy aims to do that. There is no other measure the National Association of Realtors is likely to consider over the next decade that will do more to give everyone in America equal access to real estate information. Let this policy pass.”

In a similar vein, Craig Beggins—broker/owner of CENTURY 21 Beggins Enterprises—believes consumers ultimately win.

“I can see both sides of the situation, but in the best interest of the client, I can’t make a case that it’s in the seller’s best interest to withhold a listing from the competitive bidding environment that the MLS offers,” Beggins says. “While the listing agent/brokerage may in fact double-side an off-market listing and the seller may be happy with the price, we won’t ever know what the competitive bidding environment may have done.”

“I am definitely in favor of this policy, as it targets pocket listings which are detrimental to the consumer, to competition in the marketplace and to the spirit of cooperation between professionals that serves as the foundation of our industry,” Scott MacDonald, broker/owner and president of RE/MAX Gateway, says. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding what the policy does and does not do. Agents need to understand the policy versus reading speculation on Facebook pages and other sites. Exceptions can be made when privacy is required for a listing. Also, listings absolutely can be marketed as ‘Coming Soon’ as long as they’re entered into the MLS. The bottom line is just play fair, put the listing in the MLS and make it available in a level, open and ethical playing field.”

NAR’s MLS Issues and Policies Committee is considering the proposal at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo on Saturday. If cleared by the Committee, NAR’s Executive Committee must weigh in, as well as the Board of Directors. If both greenlight the policy, it will become effective Jan. 1, 2020, with a March 1 deadline for implementation.

This story has been updated.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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