RECAP: Council of Multiple Listing Services Conference 2019

This year Incoming President Cindi Peters-Tanner and Sr. Director of Operations, Rhonda Ricketts, traveled to Salt Lake City to attend the Council of Multiple Listing Services Conference.

Topics covered ranged from MLS functionality and its impact on consumers and brokers, copyright infringement, privacy, and changing markets, and optimizing your MLS for consumer search. (scroll down for a session-by-session breakdown) 

Cindi took part in a panel discussion on the topic of “The Door to Online Consumers,” alongside Brad Bjelke from Utah Real Estate and Steve Barnes, co-founder of The panel delved into how generating leads and business opportunities for MLS members is paramount to their success.

Rhonda recounted a key comment from Cindi during the panel discussion:

"When I’m showing homes to my clients, I need to be the most knowledgeable person in the room.  My MLS provides me with the tools I need to support me and my business. One of the tools is Homesnap.  Now I have all of the information I need to do my job."
Cindi Peters-Tanner
2019 HAAR President

Rhonda further shared, “Walking away from the conference, one thing is clear: Data integrity and cooperation are both essential to the health of our industry. The moment is now for the MLSs to make the market work. It’s crucial for the MLS to strengthen its role as the platform of clear cooperation and accurate data while delivering the best agent and consumer experience.”

CMLS 2019 Session Takeaways


The conference kicked off with the CMLS legal seminar, which was facilitate by attorney, Mitch Skinner. Session Outlines include:

Session I:  NAR attorney Katie Johnson gave an update on the Class Action Antitrust Lawsuit.

NAR continues to feel they have a solid case and will continue to provide updates as the case progresses.

Session II:  Publication of the Buy-Side Commission, presented by Justin Haag, NWMLS General Counsel. Kelly Lennox, Redfin Sr Manager -Legal and Paxton Guymon, York Howell and Guymon.

During this session, discussion was held on the publication of the offer of compensation offered by the seller/listing broker to the buyer’s broker.

NWMLS recently revised its rules to allow members to publish the selling office commission on IDX and VOW websites. The selling office commission is also displayed on client reports and in the client portal in the MLS system. Redfin also recently announced that it would begin publishing the commission offered to the buyer’s agent for homes that a Redfin agent is hired on, as well as on all listings in the NWMLS service area.

NWMLS is not a REALTOR Owned Association/MLS.  It was also mentioned that the unintended consequences of this would be the elimination of the buyer agency agreement.

Session III: Does the MLS system functionality impact interbroker competition? Does it impact consumers?

Presented by Brian Schneider with Arent Fox LLP and Ed Zorn with CRMLS.

This session included questions raised by the federal government and media about MLS functionality related to offers of compensation.

An extensive survey was done in California regarding the potential antitrust implementations of what is (and isn’t) known today.

Q: Are agents using the MLS to filter searches using the compensation field in order to steer clients to higher-comp listings? 

A:  The results of the survey found that homes with lower offers of compensation actually saw lower DOM and lower prices. The conclusion being that there is very strong rebuttal (backed up by data) that shows there is no steering based on the buyer’s agent compensation.

Session IV:  Broker/Agent Copyright Infringement presented by Mitch Skinner and Jade Holman with Larson Skinner PLLC.

Mitch presented a recent case that was settled where two agents used a copyrighted photo on their listing. Agent 1 used an online “Free WIFI” type photo when marketing a new development.  Agent 1 lost the listing and when Agent 2 picked up the listing, he/she also used the same copyrighted photo.  The agent(s) were contacted but did not respond.  The MLS was unaware of the notifications of copyright infringement until they were named in the Lawsuit.  The case was settled and Mitch reports that the MLS did everything correctly in this case by having very strong Participant/Subscriber agreements in place and by having a DMCA safe harbor in place.

Session V:  Privacy Initiatives and MLS Implications

The Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) has gained a lot of attention and a number of other states are now considering or have already passed privacy legislation that in some cases imposes significant obligations on businesses to provide consumers control of their personal data. During this session, there was discussion about the potential implications such laws may have on the MLS business. 

There is A Call to Action to 1) Get involved 2) Talk to your Gads 3) Spread the Word and have a State Comprehensive Privacy Law.

Session VI: MLS Cooperation Proposal (MLS Technology and Emerging Issues Advisory Board)

CMLS has taken an affirmative position in favor of policy 8.0 being adopted.  We cannot go back. There is too much to lose.

The proposed policy states:

“Within 24 hours of marketing a property to the public, the listing broker must submit the listing to the MLS for cooperation with other MLS participants. Public Marketing includes, but is not limited to, flyers displayed in windows, yard signs, digital marketing on public facing websites, brokerage website displays (including IDX and VOW) digital communications marketing (email blasts) multi-brokerage listing sharing networks, and applications available to the general public.

A full Q&A was distributed.  The rationale for this policy is MLS participant has concluded that cooperation with other MLS participants is in their client’s interests. This policy is intended to bolster cooperation and advance the positive, procompetitive impacts that cooperation fosters for consumers.


The day began with key-note speaker Ross Shafer who discussed “Why Change is Good”. Ross tells everyone that today’s industry of real estate is like the TV game show Survivor! Very true but working together is better. Ross also said that he doesn’t sell optimism, I sell tactics. “Show extreme interest in other people – it will change your life”.

Other topics of the day were:

  • Legally Yours, which was a summary/highlight of discussions from the legal sessions.
  • What Now? What Next?
  • Changing Communities, Changing Markets: Changing infrastructure, sustainability, energy efficiency, health and safety are all elements of the future of real estate.

Key Take-aways from these panels were:

  • 34% of MLSs have changed their governance process in the past five years to become more nimble and make smart, informed decisions.
  • Collaboration, Cooperation, and Community – Key words for CMLS – “go it alone MLS” is a thing of the past. No one entity is the entire marketplace.
  • CMLS has gone from trying to get its voice heard to having people want to be heard by CMLS.
  • The heart of the MLS is cooperation. MLSs need to cooperate with each other.
  • There are 25,000,000,000 agents that sign in to the MLS every month.


OJO Labs presented, Making Searching Sexy by John Berkowitz, Co-founder and CEO.

OJO uses AI + People to create a really unique search experience. In one of the examples used was showing how a consumer could do a “siri” type search by asking questions like: OJO show me all homes with a white kitchen.  Or, OJO show me all homes that are close to my work.

These types of searches would create a need for different fields for agents to enter listings into the MLS by labeling their photos or expanding the listing details so that consumers can truly get results that they are looking for. OJO is a conversational real estate assistant that guides you to sell with authority using accurate, real-time data.

The highlight to end the conference was a panel discussion facilitated by Marilyn Wilson.  The topic was: “THE DOOR TO ONLINE CONSUMERS”:

Panelists included Brad Bjelke from Utah Real Estate, Cindi Peters-Tanner, ValleyMLS.Com and Steve Barnes, co-founder of

Marilyn looked at all MLS website traffic around the country and MLS websites are #6 ranked websites in the country when searching for homes. 

Generating leads and business opportunities for your members is paramount to their success.

Brad said that he hired outside influencers to promote his site. They also have billboards, google, facebook and instagram. “We’ve gotten over the hurdle of “you’re trying to compete with us- from agents and brokers”.

Marilyn described Cindi as the epitome of what a highly engaged volunteer leader looks like.