Open Source MLS

Sep 18, 2007 Michael Wurzer

Yesterday, a software developer from ActiveRain proposed on the Future of MLS Wiki that the open source software development model could be an effective model for the MLS. Here are my comments on his proposal:

At first blush, your choice of the term Open Source MLS might appear contrary to the traditional MLS model, but the details of your proposal are really not much different than what exists today. First, real estate agents have voluntarily cooperated with each and self-funded the creation of MLS systems in order to share data with each other and the public. Second, as you suggest, the seller is and always has been in control of how and where the sale of their property is advertised. Often, sellers exercise this control by hiring a broker, but other times they don’t. In either case, the seller remains in control and can direct the broker whether to put the listing in the MLS or not, and where to advertise the listing or not. So, the information is free already to the extent the question is control over where advertising occurs.

If what you’re suggesting is that sellers should be able to put their information into the MLS system without hiring a broker, I agree that such a model would help aggregate the data more comprehensively (joining both for sale by owner and broker listings together) but it only works to the extent the brokers continue to get paid in some fashion or the system will cease to exist. In other words, the question you raise isn’t whether the information is free (it is already) but whether the MLS system is free, which, by definition, it cannot be, because things like hardware, software, bandwidth, and people to manage it are not free. For the system to exist, those paying for it must make money for something, whether it is for advertising or services or whatever. So, how that is different than what exists already, I’m not sure.

I do think you’ve hit on some excellent points regarding “access control rights” and agree that “starting a page that outlines the MLS Data and it’s permission issues” is a great idea. The web is changing the environment in which the seller makes the decision about whether and what broker to hire and is changing how listings are advertised and shared. Defining what that environment should look like is exactly what this wiki is about.

What do you think? What information in the MLS should be kept private and what should be made public? What role should a seller have in the MLS? Is there a role for them in the MLS before they hire an agent? Comment here or, better yet, at the Future of MLS Wiki.