CRMLS Broker Report: January 2019

Welcome to the CRMLS Broker Report. At CRMLS, we pride ourselves on being broker-centric. We don’t forget who drives our MLS – our brokers. We work to give you the best service possible. That’s why, starting 2019, we’ll be sending you monthly updates on the latest news. We hope you find them helpful.

As always, feel free to reach out to us with any of your questions or concerns. Thank you.

– Art Carter, CEO

CRMLS 2019 Policy Updates

Prepared by CRMLS Compliance

The CRMLS Rules and Regulations and the CRMLS Citation Policy have been updated and published on the CRMLS website. The effective date of the CRMLS Rules and Regulations and the CRMLS Citation Policy was January 1, 2019.

To ensure you have the most recent and up-to-date documents, please use the following links:

We have also prepared a helpful guide to all 2019 CRMLS Rules and Regulations changes:

Compliance has made the following addition to the Knowledgebase for your viewing pleasure:

 Compliance has also made the following update to the CRMLS Exclusion Form:

  • The updated Exclusion Form clarifies the Seller options in this section, specifically option B and C. The functionality remains the same.

New Core Product: LionDesk

Prepared by CRMLS Marketing & Communications

LionDesk is here! The newest CRMLS core product is designed to help you keep track of all your contacts and easily get in touch. It’s available today at no additional cost to all CRMLS users.

What is LionDesk? LionDesk is a simple, integrated customer relationship management (CRM) tool designed for real estate professionals.

With LionDesk, you can manage all your contact data in one place. LionDesk is simple, yet highly configurable. Run your business the way you want.

Key LionDesk capabilities:

  • Collect, route, and follow up on leads
  • Automate follow-up reminders
  • Communicate with contacts, including email, text, and video

LionDesk is a hub that easily integrates with popular real estate technology tools, including CRMLS core products like Cloud CMA, ShowingTime, and Remine.

Click here to learn more about LionDesk, and click here for a detailed comparison of what you receive at no additional cost vs. other paid plans available.

Ready to get started? Click on the LionDesk icon on your dashboard or log into CRMLS Matrix or Paragon and click on LionDesk on the Links tab to activate your account.

The New CRMLS Photographer User Class: A Safe Alternative to Using Photographer-Created Licenses

Jeff Smetana, Director of Compliance and Data Licensing, CRMLS

In September 2018, a Desert-area real estate photographer filed a federal lawsuit against Zillow for copyright infringement. Over 500 images of various listings had made their way on to Zillow, and the photographer claimed Zillow had no right to use the photos. The photographer sought damages of – wait for it – 84 million dollars. Preposterous? Not so. In fact, the photographer was asking for $150,000 per unauthorized use as is provided for in the US Copyright Act.

The problem originated with the license entered by the photographer and the listing agents he worked with. The license in question (which was created by the photographer, which is our first red flag) was entirely insufficient for use in real estate practice and was wholly incompatible with the CRMLS Rules and Citation Policy. Specifically, the license placed drastic limitations on: (1) the permitted uses of the photos; (2) time of allowable use of the photos; and (3) transferability of rights in the photos. So, when the photos eventually wound up on Zillow, the photographer filed suit based on the rights he had retained in the license.

Ultimately, the case was dismissed. It is important to note what likely would have happened had it continued: Zillow would have most likely filed a lawsuit for indemnity against the MLS whose data fed the images to Zillow, and in turn, the MLS would have then filed a similar suit for indemnity against the brokers and agents who uploaded the photos. In other words, it would have been squarely on the agents to answer for the damages, whatever those might have been.

There are valuable lessons to be learned here.

First, always have a written license or agreement with your photographers. Second, don’t sign a license the photographer created unless it has been carefully reviewed by legal counsel or subjected to otherwise sufficient analysis. In fact, it is a good idea to have your own agreement drafted. At a minimum, CRMLS would suggest using the C.A.R. Property Images Agreement (“PIA”) form for photographer dealings.

Alternatively, CRMLS has created a new user class in Matrix: the “PH” designation. This new user class allows photographers to access Matrix to upload photos into listings when authorized by agents, protecting both CRMLS and the agents from copyright issues or related liability by way of requiring the photographers to sign a specific license created by CRMLS. In exchange, CRMLS-approved photographers are provided with a logo promotion on our website and receive direct attribution in all listings where their images are used.

Thus far, CRMLS has already approved over 100 individual photographers under the new user class. If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, please go to our dedicated webpage: https://go.crmls.org/photographer-list/.

For more information on other MLS photo related issues, check out our new Compliance FAQ located here: https://go.crmls.org/crmls-compliance-faq/.

CRMLS Customer Care Department Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Recognition from BenchmarkPortal

Prepared by CRMLS Marketing & Communications

CHINO HILLS, CA – January 16, 2019 – CRMLS is proud to announce that the CRMLS Customer Care Department has been certified as a Center of Excellence by BenchmarkPortal. The Center of Excellence recognition is one of the most prestigious awards in the customer service and support industry.

“We’re committed to providing all our users with top-of-the-line support,” said CRMLS CEO Art Carter. “Thanks to the dedicated work of Customer Care Manager Sal Calderon and his team, we’ve made significant progress towards that goal.”

“This recognition is well-deserved,” Carter added.

Contact Centers achieve the Center of Excellence distinction based on best-practice metrics drawn from the world’s largest database of objective and quantitative data that is audited and validated by researchers from BenchmarkPortal.

BenchmarkPortal awards the “Center of Excellence” designation to customer service contact centers that rank in the top ten percent of the contact centers surveyed. They are judged against a Balanced Scorecard of metrics for efficiency and effectiveness. Those contact centers that demonstrate superior performance on both cost-related metrics and quality-related metrics compared with their industry peers earn the award.

“We certified CRMLS’s customer care operations as a Center of Excellence after evaluating the company’s effectiveness and efficiency in interacting with their customers,” said BenchmarkPortal CEO Bruce Belfiore. “We applaud their commitment to superior customer service.”

About California Regional Multiple Listing Service (CRMLS)
California Regional MLS is the nation’s largest and most recognized subscriber-based MLS, dedicated to servicing 96,000 real estate professionals from 34 Associations, 3 Boards of REALTORS® and 1 MLS. CRMLS is the industry powerhouse and thrives on providing the most relevant products and services to its subscribers. For more information on CRMLS visit www.crmls.org.

About Center of Excellence Certification
Contact centers and their managers who wish to implement best practices and attain world-class performance in their industry have a unique opportunity to certify their contact centers. BenchmarkPortal’s rigorous certification process has the advantage of referencing all performance goals to their best practice database of thousands of contact centers. Thus, contact centers will be held to performance levels that will improve their competitive position, not just force them to adhere to an arbitrary standard. Discover what the steps to certification are and how they will improve your center’s performance. www.BenchmarkPortal.com/contact-centercertification/

About BenchmarkPortal
From its origins in 1995, BenchmarkPortal has become a global leader in the contact center industry, providing benchmarking, certification, training, consulting and industry reports. The BenchmarkPortal team of professionals has gained international recognition for its innovative approach to best practices for the contact center industry. BenchmarkPortal hosts the world’s largest database of contact center metrics, which is constantly being refreshed with new data. BenchmarkPortal’s mission is to provide contact center managers with the tools and information that will help them optimize their efficiency and effectiveness in their customer communications.

For more information on BenchmarkPortal please call 1-800-214-8929 or visit www.BenchmarkPortal.com.

When Farming Goes Too Far: Expired Listings and CRMLS Rule 12.11

Edward Zorn, Vice President and General Counsel, CRMLS

I was sitting in Graziano’s pizzeria for a birthday celebration for my father-in-law when my sister-in-law barreled into the restaurant and went into a tirade about agents that kept calling her. She received over a dozen telephone calls, the vast majority being robo callers, since her property had expired from the MLS earlier that morning. The few telephone calls that she’d decided to answer resulted in awkward conversations with agents who clearly knew nothing about her property, and in her opinion did not know what they were doing. (She was a REALTOR® about 10 years ago.)

Unfortunately, her experience is very typical for a homeowner that has a listing either expire or cancel from the MLS.

What many agents don’t realize is that contacting a seller because their listing has either expired or canceled in the MLS is a violation of CRMLS Rule 12.11 (emphasis added):

12.11 Use of MLS Information. In recognition that the purpose of the MLS is to market properties and offer compensation to other Broker Participants and R.E. Subscribers for the sole purpose of selling the property, and that sellers of properties filed with the MLS have not given permission to disseminate the information for any other purpose, Participants and Subscribers are expressly prohibited from using MLS information for any purpose other than to market property to bona fide prospective buyers or to support market evaluations or appraisals as specifically allowed by Sections 12.14, 12.15 and 12.16. MLS information may also be used to develop Statistics, Market Condition Reports, and Broker or Agent Metrics. Any use of MLS information inconsistent with these sections is expressly prohibited. Nothing in this section, however, shall limit the MLS from entering into licensing agreements with MLS Participants and Subscribers or other third parties for use of the MLS information.”

Trolling expired or canceled listings in an effort to secure a new listing clearly falls outside of the permitted uses of MLS information pursuant to rule 12.11. My sister-in-law did not agree to have her property listed in the MLS so that it would be easier for an agent to get new business. She placed her home in the MLS in an effort to secure a buyer that might be represented by a different agent than hers.

Agents, or worse, computers, that call her are not gaining an upper hand in securing her business. What they are very successful in doing is angering her as a seller, and greatly diminishing her respect of the REALTOR® community.

At the California Association of REALTORS® spring conference in 2018, Elizabeth Miller-Bougdanos, the C.A.R. staff attorney to the MLS community, provided a legal update at the MLS Committee. She mentioned in passing that agents soliciting for new business could not use expired listings. The room instantly was abuzz with conversation. Many of the agents in the room appeared to be in shock. Elizabeth pointed out that this has always been the rule and is very obvious from the clear language of the rule. She was surprised that a room full of skilled, experienced REALTORS® who were in C.A.R. leadership found such an obvious statement to be controversial.

As a result of the confusion generated at the spring meetings, CRMLS convened a task force to investigate the issue to consider alternatives to this well-established rule.

The CRMLS task force, made up entirely of active and working agents and brokers, sought input from each of their local Association MLS committees and Boards of Directors. They brought these comments and insights back to a number of task force meetings exploring if any of the language in the rules should be modified.

After an evaluation of some truly appalling stories of actions taken by agents attempting to secure a new listing, and after weighing those negative impressions against the somewhat common practice of marketing directly to expired listings, the task force concluded that there was no need to modify or change the existing rule as written.

The task force decided that the language within rule 12.11 does prohibit agents from marketing to expired listings. However, they directed the CRMLS Compliance Department not to issue Citations for any alleged violations for that practice. They determined that marketing to expired listings is a very fact-sensitive allegation and would most appropriately be addressed by either the seller or their prior listing agent reporting those solicitations to their local Association for a disciplinary hearing.

By proceeding in this manner, a local Association’s Professional Standards hearing panel would have the ability to fine up to $15,000 for any violation of Rule 12.11.

The CRMLS Compliance Department still routinely receives complaints and reports of agents soliciting sellers as a result of their homes going to an expired or canceled status. CRMLS recommends in each of those instances that the reporting party immediately file a complaint with the local REALTOR® Association or Board of the violating member.

Additionally, I have personally fielded numerous calls from sellers who have contacted the MLS complaining about the aggressive behavior and invasion of their privacy and personal space from agents soliciting their expired listing. A number of these sellers have even threatened lawsuits. Many expressed their frustration and open regret of ever having listed their property in the MLS.

These activities, and the increased aggression in going after expired listings, has resulted in a very negative impact and the lowering of the reputation of the overall real estate community in our area.

Soliciting expired listings is a violation of the rule, and the practice needs to be stopped.

Please remember that the MLS exists to help brokers cooperate with one another in assisting established clients in buying and selling properties. The MLS does not exist as a shortcut or method for you to obtain a new client.

9 comments

  • If you really think it needs to be stopped then do it. Here is the simple easy solution that will stop all soliciting of expired listings: Delete or eliminate the expired and cancelled listing categories so that when a listing expires it just disappears from the system. What is the purpose of keeping the expired or cancelled listings in the system? Does it serve a purpose to the seller or buyer? No. Does it serve a purpose toward valuations? No. Appraisers never rely on expired listings to arrive at a value.
    There is no purpose for expired listings to remain in the database except to aid real estate agents in soliciting them so technically, CRMLS is aiding and enabling the solicitation of expired listings.

    • While CRMLS appreciates your opinion on valuation methodologies, there are many other agents and brokers that do not share your thoughts. While an appraiser may not use an expired listing to appraise a property, it is very routine for expired listings to be used in the development of a CMA. An argument can be made that a listing that has been exposed to buyers using the MLS for a normal marketing period, but has Expired, may be overpriced. This information can be used to develop the top end of the fair market value range.
      Additionally, as a broker evaluating the performance of individual listing agents, the number of expired listings and the differential between the list prices of the expired listings and those sold may be an indication of the valuation skills of a potential listing agent. Information contained within expired listings does serve some legitimate purposes and needs to remain within the MLS.

  • This happened to my poor clients yesterday.
    I received a call from their attorney.
    The amount of calls received were simply overwhelming.

    Thanks for addressing

  • Why would the task force direct the CRMLS Compliance Department NOT to issue Citations for any alleged violations for marketing to expired listings?

    • The C.A.R. Disciplinary Guidelines state: “5. Citations (a) The MLS Committee, subject to approval of the Association’s Board of Directors, may implement a schedule of fines or “citations” for MLS rules violations. Under a citation system, the Association or MLS staff issues citations for those violations brought to the attention of the Association or MLS that have been approved for citation under the system. Usually citation systems are developed for mechanical and routine MLS rules violations that staff can easily determine, such as failure to submit a listing or failure to change the status of a listing.” (Emphasis added.)
      The CRMLS Citation Policy, and therefore the Compliance Department, does not enforce every rule and regulation. The Compliance Department only enforces those rules that are specifically identified on the Citation Policy, which are those that are more mechanical in nature and do not require an intense amount of investigation and fact finding.
      Marketing to Expired listings is a very fact-intensive violation which requires evidence not contained within the MLS database. The task force determined that it was more appropriate for a complaining party to present their evidence in front of a Professional Standards Hearing Panel, rather than having compliance analysts interview sellers and soliciting agents to determine the facts.

  • Valerie Maxwell

    Thank you for reaffirming the facts. Truly hope that Realtors honor the Rules and our profession by, staying in compliance.

  • Kay E. Gibson, Broker

    This has happened to my Seller clients as well. I think this report should be posted in the monthly newsletter that the MLS sends out. The brokers of offices out there have a weekly Cold Call night for their agents to call “Expired” listings. The sales agents are going by what their Brokers are telling them.

  • My client is on the Day Not Call list. The listing expired and he has now received HUNDREDS of calls to his cell phone after the listing expired. It is disrupting his family and worse, his business This has got to stop. His attorney sent cease and desist letters and he reminded each caller he is on the Do Not Call list. Guess what? After all that, several have called AGAIN. One broker’s lawyer responded that it was simply “an oversight”. No it’s not. These are knowing violations. I looked up many of the callers … All Realtors. This conduct is despicable. Action is required.

  • While I wholeheartedly agree with this article, I do not agree with the new enforcement policy to report to local Associations for a disciplinary hearing. A Professional Standards hearing process takes months. It can take even longer if it goes to a Review Panel. I recall Rene Galicia speaking about this rule during training. He said the CRMLS staff have the ability to see if members are specifically searching for expired or cancelled listings. This particular rule is very hard to prove and I feel this new policy will be a deterrent for most sellers and prior listing agents to report potential violations. I feel the task force needs to reconvene and come up with a better solution to hold the agents in violation accountable. I completely agree the fine should be no less than $15,000 and hope Associations will set this precedent. This is an unethical business practice fueled by greed and is a detriment to the REALTOR® community. Additionally, I would like to see C.A.R. come up with some type of advisory/clause on this issue to educate sellers, similar to the “Benefits of using the MLS” in our listing agreements.

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