Screech, Screech, Screech…The Sound of Listings Being Scraped

Scraping Listings Guest blogger: Derek Light, Manager, E-Marketing 

Derek Light

Derek Light

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.

Fighting Scrapers

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?

One thought on “Screech, Screech, Screech…The Sound of Listings Being Scraped

  1. Great post Derek! It is not an everyday occurence, but it happens all to often. It is usually a listing that has been “hijacked” and our seller clients have unepected renters rambling through their front lawn, unannounced. I have noticed from time to time that other Real Estate agents are the point of contact on these fictious lease listings. Realtors are a self policing group–what “we” need to do is to turn in any Realtors doing this to our local Boards for Ethics violations, and weed them out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s