On September 1st, 2021, we at CRMLS will officially update our rules regarding Internet Data Exchange (IDX) websites to benefit both real estate professionals and consumers. Here, we’ll explain what the changes are, how they came about, and why we’re making them.
For a quick introduction to this initiative, check out this video from our CEO Art Carter:
What is the IDX Transparency Initiative?
An IDX feed connects agent and broker websites to the MLS, allowing visitors to those websites to search MLS data. Starting September 1st, IDX sites using CRMLS data will give consumers a much clearer picture of the listing agent’s relationship with listings.
The newly updated rule, number 12.16.5 in the CRMLS Rules and Regulations, will read as follows:
“12.16.5 Listing Credit. All Listing Brokers grant permission for any Advertising Broker to display any listings submitted to the service by the Listing Broker only if the listing display or advertisement is clear so that a reasonable real estate consumer understands:
a) Who is the Listing Agent & Broker,
b) Who is the Advertising Broker and
c) How to contact that Listing Agent or Broker.”
Describing the updated rule, our CEO Art Carter said, “It shouldn’t take a consumer more than a few seconds of looking at a listing to determine who the Listing Agent, Listing Broker, and Advertising Broker are.” IDX feeds already currently include the listing side’s information, but often in a small, barely noticeable display. The new rule will make sure that this contact information is presented more prominently and stands out from the advertising agent or broker’s information.
Where did this rule come from?
This rule came through the CRMLS Rules Committee, composed of active real estate professional CRMLS users. The desire and need for this rule came to the committee’s attention through feedback from members of CRMLS’s participating Associations, Boards, and MLSs. The CRMLS Board of Directors, who are also working real estate professionals, reviewed and approved the rule.
“CRMLS leadership has been discussing this subject, and this proposed solution, for years now,” said Carter. “Now that we have approval to update the rule, we’re beyond excited to help increase transparency and reduce friction for consumers, brokers, and agents.”
It is important to note that this rule change only affects IDX websites, not any other form of marketing. It does not apply to communications between real estate professionals and their clients.
Who benefits from this rule and how?
Quick answer: the listing agent, the listing broker, and the advertising agent do – along with consumers.
Our Vice President and General Counsel Edward Zorn explained the pitfalls of the old system, and how the new rule will benefit all parties, like this:
“Under the old rules, a consumer with a question on a listing they see on an IDX website would contact the advertising agent, the most prominently displayed agent. Too often, they’d find that the agent had no relationship with the listing and didn’t know the answer to certain questions. The frustrated consumer would break off their contact, including any potential future contact, with the advertising agent. Then they would leave the website that the agent paid to advertise on, look up the listing agent online, and contact the listing agent directly – or give up on that listing completely.”
“However, under the new rules, when a consumer sees a listing on an IDX website, they’ll know within a matter of seconds who the advertising agent and the listing agent are. If they have a question about the property, they can contact the listing agent directly without needing to leave the advertising agent’s site. If they’re interested in exploring a relationship with the advertising agent, they can go into the relationship with a full understanding of the advertising agent’s role.”
Zorn also explained that the rule may also increase the lead quality of the consumers that contact the advertising broker. Those consumers will now know who is the listing agent and who is the advertising agent, making them more equipped to decide who they want to speak with.
The CRMLS Marketing and Communications team has developed several resources for CRMLS users to understand and become familiar with the updated rule, including videos, written guides and FAQs, emails, MLS system pop-up notices, social media, blog posts, and training sessions.
“Equipping consumers with more information and added transparency will benefit all of us,” said Carter. “We look forward to continuing our work on behalf of our community of real estate professionals.”
How do I participate in this initiative?
Here’s a video guide on how to update your IDX listing credit settings from CRMLS Director of Compliance and Data Licensing, Jeff Smetana:
We’ve also reproduced a few of the relevant portions in written form below.
To start, log into your MLS dashboard and click on the new icon named “Listing Toolbox”.
From there, click on Member/Office Settings
If you’re a broker, you’ll be able to edit both Member settings and Office settings. Member settings apply to individuals in your brokerage, including yourself. Office settings will apply across your entire office If you’re a main office broker with multiple sub-offices, you can search for the office whose settings you want to control. Your main office will display by default.
Follow the same steps as brokers do to access your Listing Toolbox. Log into your MLS dashboard as you ordinarily do, click on the new “Listing Toolbox” icon, then click on Member/Office Settings.
You will be able to access your Member Settings, but not your Office Settings. You may only edit your own contact information, and you can only do this if your broker elects to allow you to do so. If your broker has selected your contact information for you, a red “lock” icon will appear next to the settings field.
If your broker has allowed for you to choose the contact information you want to display on your listings, then choose it and hit “Save” when you’re done. It’s as simple as that!
Here is an example of what Listing Credit Attribution looks like today (the “Before”) and what it will look like as of 9/1/2021 (the “After”)
New IDX Standards of Practice as of March 2022
Attribution must be directly adjacent to either: Price, Bed/Bath, sq. ft. or Photo.
- If Property Description is truncated to a reasonable size, AND it is directly adjacent to the Price, Bed/Bath, sq. ft. or Photo, then Attribution may be under the Property Description.
- Attribution Font size no smaller than Property Description.
- Attribution Font no lighter in color than Property Description.
- Must clearly label as Listing Broker, Listing Office and Listing Agent. No use of “Courtesy of” and some other unclear language.
- Any Call to Action button, box or link must specify which agent will be responding. Use of the word “Agent” alone is not compliant. There must be some clear indication that the contact information being provided is NOT going to the Listing Agent if applicable. This standard also applies to “Tour” home link or button.
We also have explanations of these rules in simple language:
- Location of listing credit (attribution) on displays: The part of the IDX page that shows consumers the source of a listing must appear next to the listing fields that consumers are most likely to check. These fields include the property’s price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, or the main property photo. If the property description section next to a listing is short (as in, your IDX display automatically shortens descriptions) and next to one of those fields, you may display the listing credit information next to the property description instead.
- Legibility: The font your site uses to give the listing broker credit must be easy to read and hard to miss. In general, your IDX display should not look for ways to conceal listing credit information from consumers. Specifically, the font for listing credit must be the same size as (or bigger than) the font for property descriptions. The listing credit font must also be as dark as (or darker than) the property description font.
- Clarity: The listing attribution text must clearly label the property’s Listing Broker, Listing Office, and/or Listing Agent. One of the most common examples of “credit” that does not comply with CRMLS policy is the phrase “Courtesy of…” This is ambiguous and does not clearly inform consumers of the relationship between the listing side and the property.
- Calls to action: Any call-to-action buttons, boxes, or links, including a “Tour home” link or button, must specify which agent will respond. Using a word like “Agent” or “Broker” instead of the agent or broker’s name does not give consumers enough information. If the contact information a consumer sees does not direct them to the Listing Agent, the display must clearly indicate this.