Ever been surfing Craigslist or Hotpads and see a familiar listing with an unfamiliar name? Scraping or stealing listing information, is a problem that seems to ebb and flow with the market. Scraping seemed to fly under the radar over the past few years but has come back as the real estate market heated up over the last few months. I want to take a look at few components of scraping, why people do it, if it’s legal and what you can do about it.
Why would anyone want the data?
I wouldn’t be writing about this if the data didn’t have any value. The reason an agent or brokerage would scrap active listings would be to promote/market, make themselves seem more legitimate and/or get on the buy side of the transaction. Secondly I see listings that are off market and being advertised as for rent. These listings are typically undervalued for the market; the scam is to get someone to put up a deposit. Finally people selling homes are valuable to businesses that offer ancillary services. This kind of scraping isn’t visible and I’ve never heard anyone voice concern over this (please correct me if I’m wrong on this one).
Is it legal to scrap listing data?
Parts of listings are factual and not proprietary, so by rule scraping of all data isn’t necessarily prohibited. However courts have ruled in a case that pitted Regional Multiple Listing Service of Minnesota (Northstar MLS) vs. American Home Realty Network (NeighborCity.com) that photos and agent descriptions are proprietary. While this seems obvious, this was the first case that properly dealt with issue and it was only last November.
The issues I deal with on a day to day basis are scraping of individual listings. Not only is this a copyright violation but it also violates IDX rules as often the listing is not attributed back to the broker. This type of scraping is often worse for the agent’s that are victims as they have to spend valuable time trying to get the listing down or explaining to a past client why someone is knocking on their door to rent.
While the widespread theft of listing data seems to be less of a problem now, it still exists and nothing is going to stop all of it.
MLS’s and brokers have been proactive creating defenses to prevent scraping and have better agreements in place with partners that have created such a large network of channels that the value has been diminished.
There are no silver bullets to keep you listings from being scraped. Listing agents should be vigilant and set up alerts for all listings. Should anything pop up you should go to the offending site and flag the listing immediately to minimize any damage.
I would love to learn from you guys!
Have any of your listings ever been scraped?
Do you have any recommendations on how to fight it?