If the MLS is an advertisement…

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I’d like to continue Friday’s conversation about the re-listed house on Avondale.

Thanks to yet another reply by Ms. Reed as well as a series of replies from Ardell, it has finally gotten through my thick skull that “cancel and relist” is different from “let expire and relist.” Ms. Reed is guilty only of the latter, which is technically not a violation of NWMLS rules.

Although I now understand the difference, it seems to me like a trivial distinction. Ardell claims that a seller’s agent that uses a short listing agreement in order to be able to re-list an unsold property “takes the risk of being replaced as the seller’s agent by having short contracts.” However, it seems to me that once the benefits of re-listing (falsely appearing to be a “fresh” listing) are explained to the seller, they would be more than happy to keep the agent on board, knowing that this is an agent that is willing to pull whatever kind of tricks are necessary to sell their house.

In fact, Ardell had an awful lot to say on the matter. Here are a few quotes that I found most interesting:

The general public’s perception [of the MLS], the one most focused on here…is really the least of our concerns.I am sorry that no one wants to understand that the mls system is not meant for the public to use as a means for purchasing property without an agent.

The public’s view [of the MLS] is an “advertisement” for the most part, and not a “sharing of the agent tool”. … It is just a small view of the big picture and one to give the public an “idea” of what is out there…not the whole story.

If the publicly-accessible portion of the MLS is an “advertisement,” shouldn’t it be held to truth in advertising standards? When a property appears as “new on market” despite having languished non-stop on the market for months upon months, how is that not a deceptive practice? To simply brush off such concerns by saying that the MLS is “not meant for the public” seems a bit cavalier to me.

Ms. Reed’s tactic, which Ardell describes as both something that “we [agents] hate” and “an excellent job” appears to have paid off. As Ardell pointed out, the listing has gone to “subject to inspection,” presumably meaning a twenty-five to thirty-five thousand dollar payday is in the beleaguered Ms. Reed’s near future. When the transaction shows up in the public records, I’ll post the last update on this house.

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    S Crow says:

    Remember that one of the primary functions of listing information in the NWMLS is to SELL THE OTHER AGENTS on the merits of a property.

    If a buyer is being represented by an agent, then they should ask their agent about the listing history—which will inform them about days on the market among other things.

    If I were buying, I would be much more concerned about a property listed for under $500K (or around the median list price)that has been on the market quite a while vs. higher end or luxury market homes being on the market longer (which is not terribly abnormal).

  2. 2
    Richard says:

    Since the MLS is mostly a system for Realtors, it’s definitely a welcome move to see a company like Zillow creating a listing service that is more in line with what consumers need. I’m sure there will always need to be a “realtor-oriented” service, but it seems most non-realtors want an alternative. Hopefully Zillow will start listing not just the sales and for sale listings, but track the previous asking prices and dates.

  3. 3
    biliruben says:

    Zip tracks price drops.

  4. 4
    MisterBubble says:

    What a pile of horseshit.

    There’s absolutely no reason, technical or otherwise, that the MLS couldn’t be a “public” tool. It isn’t public, because Realtors (tm, pat. pend.) don’t want anyone to see the contortions of the little man behind the curtain.

    Fraudulent manipulations like these (however dubiously justified) are a strong argument for making the full MLS available to the public. As they say, daylight is the best disinfectant.

  5. 5
    Richard says:

    biliruben, can you link to an example of a listing price drop shown in Zillow?

    I’m looking at this Bubble poster child 947 n 103rd st which is listed at $280K currently – previously listed at $299K – all Zillow shows is that it was sold last June for $324K.

  6. 6
    Merger Dog says:

    From the realtors’ point of view, why should they make the process transparent? Advertisers don’t show you the behind-the-scene strategy sessions in coming up with these commercials you see on television. The retail industry don’t show you what that $100 pair of shoes actually cost them. Many people would be shocked and offended if they do.

  7. 7
    MisterBubble says:

    Why should I care about the Realtors’ point of view?

  8. 8
    biliruben says:

    Hey Richard –

    Not Zillow. ZipRealty.

    If you have an account, (which is free, but you have to fill out their form which is well worth it), log in and go to search for a home, click on the box which requests only homes with price reductions. You will get plenty of examples on the map.

    Click on one, and under the description it will tell you something like:
    Price Reduced: 08/04/06 — $429,995 to $425,000
    Price Reduced: 08/25/06 — $425,000 to $412,888
    Price Reduced: 12/20/06 — $412,888 to $406,000

    Days on Market: 192


  9. 9
    biliruben says:

    I should note that ZIP doesn’t make anything less opaque if the the listing agent has “done a Reed” and not been “lazy” – make it a 90 day listing (or perhaps even further a-field from the rules; we can’t know) and then re-listing, which appears to be what happened with your example on 103rd.

    12 days on the market, no reduction.

  10. 10
    Ardell DellaLoggia says:

    The mls in toto is not an advertisement. The portion of it that you see is an advertisement.

    We can see expired listings, cancelled listings, agent change outs, security alarms to people’s homes, security codes to gated communities. When the seller goes on vacation, if there are dogs and cats in the homes. There are many, many things in the mls, that are not part of the public view sites.

    I do not understand why the public thinks they are seeing “the mls” in full? Clearly their are agent communications within the mls system that are not available to the public.

    The question isn’t what aren’t you seeing, the question is why would you think that you would get to see everything in the mls system? Why should all of that be public knowledge?

  11. 11
    The Tim says:


    I don’t speak for other commenters here, but personally the point I’m making isn’t that the MLS should be completely open to the public, but rather that the “portion of it that [the general public] see” should at least be completely honest. As it is right now, it’s highly manipulated.

  12. 12
    Richard says:

    biliruben, you had me at Zi…

    Yeah, it’s on Zip with 12 DOM.

    Problem is, Zip doesn’t show it’s been on the market before, AS IS, never lived in since it was bought last June for $44K more than the list price. Redfin at least shows the Zillow results along with the listing. You still have to check with the county records to confirm that the last sales price was on the same house and not a since-subdivided lot.

    Anyway, I’ve seen this particular home, and it was actually sold NEW in June 2006. The neighborhood (Lichton Springs)has gone down hill a bit since it was built. Larry’s Market closed down and was replaced by some bargain Asian grocery, and the computer store next door was replaced with a porn shop.

  13. 13
    Ardell DellaLoggia says:

    The Tim,

    Yes I do think truth in advertising standards apply. That is why most sites do not show days on market.

    I think you will see the few that have this feature dropping it. And I think that most companies that have been around a very long time, major brokerages, do not have this feature.

  14. 14
    stuckinthecity says:

    Link to my blog about Chicago RE.

    Urban pioneers settle in, hoping their investment pays off

  15. 15
    MisterBubble says:

    The MLS should be public information because it would benefit the consumer. Period.

    Realtors don’t want it to be public because it would hurt their business (representing sellers). It has nothing to do with “agent communications” or how many dogs a seller owns — it has to do with keeping homebuyers in the dark, and forcing them to obtain their market knowledge through an insular priesthood of “professionals.”

    In other words, today’s real-estate market is just like the stock market before the advent of online brokerage houses. Remember how smug, self-satisfied, “professional” brokers were convinced that individuals could never manage their own money? Oops!

    Redfin and Zillow are the new E-Trade and TD Waterhouse; consumers are going to find out that Realtors ™ aren’t a necessity. If the MLS doesn’t become more open and honest, it won’t survive the change.

  16. 16
    MisterBubble says:

    “Yes I do think truth in advertising standards apply. That is why most sites do not show days on market.”

    Ardell, I have two questions for you:

    1) What are you smoking?
    2) Can I have some?

  17. 17
    biliruben says:

    There have got to be some Realtors out there who have the ability to see the obvious future that is coming; that will adapt and thrive.

    Until this recent exchange, I had thought you might be one, Ardell.

  18. 18
    Ardell DellaLoggia says:


    Sorry to disappoint. At least I don’t simply say what I know you want to hear :)

    Any buyer can clearly buy any house without an agent. What they can’t do is wish for the seller to not want an agent either. Clearly the seller is best off when he is represented and the buyer is not.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  19. 19
    Merger Dog says:

    misterbubble, why should you care about the realtors’ point of view? The realtors are asking the same question about you the consumer.

    If realtors still exist in Japan and Hong Kong after what their housing markets have gone through, they aren’t going to be phased out in America. The Asians love to save money but even they would rather pay someone to do the legals and paperwork.

  20. 20
    Nolaguy says:

    “The Asians love to save money but even they would rather pay someone to do the legals and paperwork.”

    I thought the paperwork/legals was done by the title company.

    Does an agent really get involved in this work? The only paperwork I thought an agent took care of was the offer.


  21. 21

    […] since I don’t have such access, I could be mistaken). As regular readers may recall, we had an ongoing discussion about pulling homes off the market and relisting them to appear “fresh” back in January […]

  22. 22

    […] second change is a welcome one, as it finally addresses the issue of false advertising that we have discussed here in the past. Previously, if a listing was taken off the market and re-listed, the “days on market” […]

  23. 23
    locksalish says:

    I know this is a little off-topic but this video is truly relevant to anyone in the civilized world who has money, a home or any form of business.employment:


    How has this information not come to light before? I hope the media gives this the attention it deserves!

  24. 24

    […] but if this feature were widely adopted, Zillow would effectively become an MLS (which is itself nothing more than a marketing platform for advertising listings). Since Zillow is not a brokerage, and therefore not a member of the MLS, they can release features […]

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