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How Valuable Is MLS Content?

Jan 27, 2010 Michael Wurzer

The value of MLS content is one of the big questions facing MLSs today.  The Realtors Property Resource (RPR) from NAR is seeking to license content from MLSs in exchange for software (the RPR web site) and access to public records data.  Is that a good deal for MLSs?  The answer depends on how much the MLS content is worth.

Similarly, CALREDD (an offering from the California Association of REALTORS) offers Associations MLS software in exchange for ownership of the listing data.  Yes, that’s right, joining CALREDD means the local Association no longer owns the MLS compilation.  The CALREDD offer is particularly interesting because it conflicts dramatically with the typical MLS vendor/Association relationship.  Typically, contracts for MLS software are crystal clear that ownership of the MLS data (compilation) remains with the Association or MLS.  In CALREDD’s case, the MLS software vendor (CALREDD) also is an MLS and, as such, claims ownership of the data.

The importance of this change in ownership depends on the value of the data.  If the data is valuable, then the true cost to the local Association of the software provided by CALREDD is far greater than the fees CALREDD charges for the software they provide.  The NAR’s RPR business model — premised on selling analytics from MLS content — suggests that there is indeed some value in the data.  Importantly, early word on the license agreement with RPR is that the license is non-exclusive to RPR.  In other words, the MLS or local Association also can license it to others who may find value in it.   In stark contrast, striking up a deal with CALREDD means that whatever value is in the MLS content is now owned by CALREDD — in exchange for MLS software.

What do you think?  If you were an MLS or local Association considering using CALREDD as a vendor, would you add to the price tag anything for the value of the MLS content you’re surrendering to CALREDD?  How valuable is the MLS compilation?

Update: Brian Larson reviews the terms on which NAR’s RPR proposes to license MLS content.  Maybe MLS content isn’t worth very much after all?