Open Letter to Metrolist MLS re: Diverse Solutions IDX fiasco

Att: Melissa Olson, Jim Wanzeck, Ed Hardey, Kate Jones, and anyone else who may be in a position of responsibility at Metrolist, Inc.

According to your website: “Metrolist is the only real estate Multiple Listing Service (MLS) serving the metro Denver area. We provide a broad database of real property listings for real estate brokers to better serve buyers and sellers. Founded in 1984, Metrolist was one of the first regional MLS’ in the nation and is considered to be an industry leader.”

In short, Metrolist has the monopoly on MLS data that is submitted to them by some 14,000 members.

Your recent decision to pull Diverse Solutions IDX from your vendors list has put a very small portion of your members in a quandary, scrambling to find a suitable replacement and facing the likelihood of spending untold amounts of money and time to make this a seamless transition.  Sometimes, such decisions are unavoidable, when say a service provider goes out of business, or changes the terms of the agreement, or if the product or service become lacking.  In this case, it appears the decision was based simply on the fact that Diverse Solutions is under new ownership, Zillow, since nothing else has really changed.

Metrolist, Inc’s official response that you were simply trying to streamline the vendor list and trim it to a manageable number does not hold much water.

Your IDX vendor list contains 74 companies.  At even a cursory glance, 27 of those have absolutely nothing to do with providing IDX services of any kind.  Some of them are real estate agents or companies, photography service providers, mobile tech companies etc.  The 27 that definitely should NOT be on that list are provided for you below, for your convenience.

www.digitalmagicpro.com – photography

www.thecsgroup.net – DB design /intranet

www.adwriter.com – ad writer/landing pages

www.barcoderealty.com – mobile and qr code design

www.brianpetrelli.com – a real estate agent/or company

http://design.im-agine.com – website design company/not IDX

www.com-stock.com – mortgage solutions

grtinternational.com – can’t find site

www.goomzee.com – mobile marketing solutions

www.homeguidecolorado.com – under construction

www.pureluckmedia.com – parked domain at godaddy

http://www.lwolf.com/rms – appears to be more back end and accounting management at first glance

www.luxurywebdesign.com – luxury real estate directory by invitation only; no IDX whatsoever

www.soarsolutions.com – parked at godaddy domain

http://www.mobilerealestateid.com/ – mobile marketing platform design

http://www.neonrain.com/ – website design company

http://www.pixoinc.com – website design company

www.promarketinggroupinc.com – website design company/other design

www.re-acquisitions.com – parked domain at godaddy

www.rhythmiq.com – consulting and point of sale solutions design (according to very limited info provided on their site)

www.smarteragent.com – mobile real estate search

www.vioicepad.com – lead generation tools for call capture

www.denverhomesearcher.com – website of a real estate agent.

www.vailpromedia.com – web design, wedding photography, print ads etc.

www.vast.com – a network based service that deals with cars and real estate

www.weichert.com – yep, that’s on the list.  I’ll take a guess that they are a real estate franchise, not an IDX provider

http://www.yourfuturehome.com/ – no idea what they do as there is nothing but the company logo on their site

Of the remaining 47 vendors, I recognized less than a dozen names of IDX providers.  Plenty of web template solutions or some other full service offerings with IDX as part of it, but not IDX services per se except for very few: IDX Broker, REW, iHouse, 1ParkPlace,  Wolfnet and maybe a few others.  That’s it.

So if your decision was indeed based on the simple need to trim the fat, it could have been easily accomplished by removing all the above-mentioned providers and anyone else that does not offer a standalone IDX product.  That would have left you with maybe 20 some odd companies to contend with.

As it stands right now, you removed one, Diverse Solutions.  It happens to be one of the better known products out there and it also happens to be one of the few that work seamlessly with any WordPress site, come with their own mobile search version, provide indexable (SEO-friendly) pages, and have the financial and tech backing to keep improving their products into the future.

You claim that you are recognized as “an industry leader”.  Leadership requires understanding all the ramifications of any decision that may affect your members, no matter if it’s 12,000 or between 40-50.  In this case, you have clearly not done your due diligence.  Your flippant commentary and various offers of help for a seamless transition to a new approved vendor leave no room for doubt that those who made the decision do not understand how IDX integration into a website actually works.

Given that we build custom wordpress real estate sites for a living and quite a few of our clients are using Diverse Solutions for their IDX, I thought it might be useful for you to have at least a few basics.

On average, we spend 20 hours on customizing and integrating IDX into a client’s website.  This consists of keyword research, creation of custom search and results pages, xml map generation for each key area of a clients business, creating unique listing drops for each segment of the market and much more.  Our time runs our clients $125.00 an hour.

Once we are done, the clients that diligently work their sites will invest additional hundreds of hours into creating new links and searches for their clients and prospects and into creating context around listings data.  Each link generated via IDX gets exposure via client’s social media efforts, newsletters and posts, where undoubtedly their prospective buyers and sellers bookmark those links for future use.

All in all, ripping an existing IDX from under your members’ feet will cost them thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of labor, and maybe even more importantly, credibility and trust lost with their consumers, those very buyers and sellers that they are supposed to serve.  They will need to apologize for broken links.  They will need to teach their prospects to use tools that will be new to them.  They will have to restructure their marketing and SEO efforts around a new product that may or may not play well with their existing website.

I would very much like to know how you can justify putting YOUR PAYING MEMBERS into a situation where they have to consider all of the above?

Will Metrolist provide each of the 40-50 members affected by this with a free assistant for the duration of the transition, free training in learning the new IDX of their choice, and whatever amount of money it will cost the members to integrate the new product properly?  Will Metrolist also provide each of these members with a letter of apology to their buyer and seller prospects that will help them save face and not lose whatever measure of trust they worked very hard to gain?

That would be the least you should be offering, considering the situation.

Or, a much more palatable alternative, would seem to be to re write the terms of the DS agreement with the new owner and make any corrections to that agreement that you need to feel that your data is safe.  I am sure the cost of your attorney would be far less than the amount any ONE of your members who is currently using Diverse Solutions would spend because of the vendor change.

I am not naive enough to expect a response to this, but I do hope that there is one person on your board who has the courage and brain required to actually lead, and do what is best for your clients.  Last I checked, your clients are the very members whose lives you are turning upside down for what appears to be no viable reason.

Thank you for reading.

For anyone who wants to jump in the conversation, feel free to comment here, or jump into any of the discussions on the subject:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/agentsupport/301888986536041/ (thread on the subject in the tech support for real estate Facebook group)

https://www.facebook.com/MetroList/posts/10150566601599585 – (a thread on Metrolist’s Facebook wall. Note that they appear to delete all comments that aren’t from members of that mls).

UPDATE: Here is the link to the actual letter I sent and a list of email address at Metrolist and participating associations of realtors that I sent it to: http://teamhardison.com/reputation-management/formal-letter-members-of-metrolist-board-assoc-reps/  Feel free to use anything in either piece to help spread the word and hopefully inspire Metrolist to rethink their decision.

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15 Responses to Open Letter to Metrolist MLS re: Diverse Solutions IDX fiasco
  1. Owen Borseth
    May 14, 2013 | 5:17 pm

    I'm a software engineer building my wife's real estate site. I've implemented countless APIs and custom search functionality against a multitude of data sets. All of the IDX vendors Metrolist lists are sub par and apparently their solutions were built a decade ago. It's frustrating. I want to build my own custom search and it's basically impossible to do so.

  2. Sharon Paxson
    February 15, 2012 | 1:17 am

    I would hope that this gets reconsidered and a new agreement gets signed with Diverse Solutions. I am also a DS customer and have spent many hours utilizing their product to reach my customers. I would not want to this to be a precedent.

  3. TheRECoach
    February 9, 2012 | 12:29 pm

    Inna, not only a well written piece, but a well researched one as well!
    In my dealings with ANY MLS, and Metrolist epitomizes this characterization, you will find a “Good Ole Boy” running the show. Typically self centered, often lacking diverse thoughts, and in many cases a Baby Boomer lacking the general understanding of today’s Online Real Estate efforts. So with that in mind, I wish you well, and I can say that if DS were not a part of our MLS, it would be tragic!

    TheRECoach

  4. Victor Lund
    February 9, 2012 | 12:50 am

    P.S.

    1ParkPlace has an IDX solution that works easily with WordPress – check out http://www.goodlifeteam.com/

    Also, Wolfnet also has an IDX and VOW solution that works with WordPress – check out http://c21home.com

    I am a huge DS fan – they were the leader in this type of evolution – no doubt. But they are not alone today. I could go through the whole IDX list, but I am tired. Good Night.

    • Inna Hardison
      February 9, 2012 | 7:52 pm

      Victor – I mentioned actual IDX providers in my post. They are all listed in there somewhere. It doesn’t change a thing though. Switching to 1ParkPlace or WolfNet or any of the others will still COST the members money, time and unfortunately the trust of those who registered on their previous IDX. Never mind the broken links issue, which isn’t fixable.

  5. Victor Lund
    February 9, 2012 | 12:40 am

    Inna – I hope these efforts will create some headway. Sometimes the wheels of industry, contract law, agreements between parties, etc. are hard to overcome.

    It will be interesting to see if Zillow will agree to the terms and conditions of the IDX agreement. Clearly Diverse Solutions was comfortable with it – but Diverse Solutions is gone now – and the new IDX agreement will be with Zillow, who probably will, but may not agree to the terms.

    This is a tricky situation. Metrolist has never been concerned with an IDX vendors’ use of data before – but now they are (and it is their duty to be). There is no reason to doubt Zillow’s use of IDX data strictly for the purpose of IDX services. I know the Zillow folks, and they are not a nefarious group. I am sure that they have the division between church (IDX) and state (publisher) as they claim. I have never seen Zillow misuse data, so there is no reason to expect they will. I think that this issue is more about protecting the people who are less ethical than Zillow.

    I believe that the issue may be that the MLS agreement has never contemplated the potential misuse of data that the conspiracy theorists are worried about. I am sure that in time, broker owners who want their agents to use DS will be able to enter into the third party agreement and that it will all work out just fine. But Metrolist and other MLSs need to revise their agreements to protect the broker data from misuse by publishers. These protections do not exist today, explicitly. Nor do the IDX agreements have explicit provisions for data misuse.

    Don’t forget – only broker participants in the MLS can authorize the use of IDX data by its agent brokers in Metrolist. In Colorado, all agents are called brokers, but, using our traditional understanding of agents, they are Subscribers to the Metrolist, not Participants. Only Participants, or a traditional broker, may authorize the publishing of IDX listings on IDX websites. It is a three party agreement between the MLS, the Participant, and the vendor.

    I think that Zillow’s purchase of DS has created a paradigm shift in our industry. New considerations have been contemplated that were not considered by the early writers of IDX policy, rules, regulations, and contracts. It is causing MLSs to redraft policies to write in contingencies for new concerns. This is not a condemnation of DS or of Zillow – but a recognition that MLSs need to do the job of being a good custodian of the Participant data.

    I think that many MLSs were caught off guard by the DS acquisition, and they now understand that the terms and conditions of their IDX agreements need to be updated to prevent potential data abuse. This is not a condemnation of Zillow at all – but moreover, a consideration of how to protect Participant from bad actors. The MLS IDX agreement needs to evolve – and I would expect that Metrolist will lead the way in that evolution. It is their history, and I suspect it will be their future.

    Disclosure: a few years ago, WAV Group performed a member satisfaction survey of Metrolist members. They rank among the top MLSs in the nation for customer satisfaction.

    I am sure that this issue will be resolved. One thing that I can say for sure is that nobody likes being attacked. It puts them on defense. As altruistic as your effort may be, it hurts the Metrolist employees who are doing their job as directed by their leadership and board of directors. These people have served these agents and brokers for years with excellence.

    I would ask that our industry give a little consideration to that, and let the Metrolist constituants and leadership work this out. They will undoubtedly find a reasonable and sensible resolution. Your concerns and support are awesome, but be considerate that perhaps the incendiary nature may be more harmful than good. Just a thought.

    • Ricardo Bueno - Diverse Solutions
      February 9, 2012 | 2:03 pm

      Ricardo here from Diverse Solutions…

      To be clear we were prepared to sign the same IDX agreement that Diverse Solutions had before and every other IDX provider signs. In the agreement it has provisions about misuse of data. We’d be more than happy to put together something stronger if they would just have an open diaologe with us about their concerns.

      • Jeffrey Douglass
        February 9, 2012 | 2:11 pm

        Sounds as if this needs to be pulled out into the light of the day. An MLS that makes groundless accusations against a vendor should certainly have a better reason than they are owned by Zillow, IMHO.

      • TheRECoach
        February 9, 2012 | 2:37 pm

        Gee Ricardo, I’m struggling with the thought of any Metrolist misrepresenting things! Hard to believe they are full of crap! NOT … Wishing you the best … The product is fantastic!

        TheRECoach

    • Inna Hardison
      February 9, 2012 | 7:50 pm

      Victor, but in all fairness, the agreement didn’t change, the name would have. Additionally, as Ricardo pointed out, Zillow would have been more than happy to engage in dialogue with Metrolist to consider any additional verbiage that Metrolist might have felt necessary to include.

      As far as your certainty that this issue will be resolved, I am sorry that I don’t share that belief. So far everyone who said anything on this subject has either been deleted from Metrolist’s wall or given a canned response. No actual answers have been forthcoming.

      Lastly, pre-empting a future potential wrong doing just doesn’t sit right with me. The mls either has rules that IDX vendors have to follow and that it is in the position to enforce or it doesn’t. I can’t quite fathom a world where they can pick an choose vendors that their membership has to rely on for provision of service arbitrarily, especially given the ramifications of such decisions.

  6. Jeffrey Douglass
    February 9, 2012 | 12:05 am

    Let’s pick the IDX solution that offers the best solution for our members including mobil search and eliminate them, really?

  7. Suzanne Stephens
    February 9, 2012 | 12:03 am

    Can anyone tell me if Myrsol is included on Metrolist’s list of IDX providers? Thanks!

  8. Marta Walsh
    February 8, 2012 | 11:25 pm

    I’m a Diverse Solutions customer and I would be beyond angry if my MLS stopped their relationship with such weak and limited reasons of explanation.

  9. Inna Hardison
    February 8, 2012 | 10:40 pm

    Miriam – I plan on sending this with a shorter explanation of what the affected brokers and agents will have to content with tomorrow. Here is to hoping it helps:-)

  10. Miriam Bernstein
    February 8, 2012 | 6:08 pm

    Great piece Inna, I hope sends this to all of the individuals who made this decision.

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