VOW – Virtual Office Websites

Virtual Office Website (VOW) PDF Document

Section 19.1 VOW Defined:
  • A “Virtual Office Website” (VOW) is a participant’s Internet website, or a feature of a participant’s website, through which the participant   is capable of providing real estate brokerage services to consumers with whom the participant has first established a broker-consumer relationship (as defined by state law) where the consumer has the opportunity to search MLS listing information, subject to the participant’s oversight, supervision, and accountability A non-principal broker or sales licensee affiliated with a participant may, with his or her participant’s consent, operate a VOW. Any VOW of a non- principal broker or sales licensee is subject to the participant’s oversight, supervision, and accountability.
  • As used in Section 19 of these rules, the term” participant” includes a participant’s affiliated non-participant brokers and sales licensees – except when the term is used in the phrases “participant’s consent” and “participant’s oversight, supervision, and accountability”. References to ‘VOW’ and ‘VOWs” include all Virtual Office Websites, whether operated by a participant, by a non-principal broker or sales licensee, or by an “affiliated VOW Partner” (AVP) on behalf of a participant.
  • “Affiliated VOW Partner” (AVP) refers to an entity or person designated by a participant to operate a VOW on behalf of the participant, subject to the participant’s supervision, accountability, and compliance with the VOW No AVP has independent participation rights in the MLS by virtue of its right to receive information on behalf of a participant. No AVP has the right to use MLS listing information, except in connection with operation of a VOW on behalf of one or more participants. Access by an AVP to MLS listing information is derivative of the rights of the participant on whose behalf the AVP operates a VOW.
  • As used in Section 19 of these rules, the term “MLS listing information” refers to active listing information and sold data provided by participants to the MLS and aggregated and distributed by the MLS to participants.
Section 19.2
  • The right of a participant’s VOW to display MLS listing information is limited to that supplied by the MLS(s) in which the participant has participatory rights. However, a participant with offices participating in different MLSs may operate a master website with links to the VOWs of the other offices.
  • Subject to the provisions of the VOW policy and these rules, a participant’s VOW, including any VOW operated on behalf of a participant by an AVP, may provide other features, information, or functions, e.g., “Internet Data Exchange” (IDX).
  • Except as otherwise provided in the VOW policy or in these rules, a participant need not obtain separate permission from other MLS participants whose listings will be displayed on the participant’s VOW.
Section 19.3

a. Before permitting any consumer to search for or retrieve any MLS listing information on his or her VOW, the participant must take each of the following steps:

  i. The participant must first establish with that consumer a lawful broker-consumer relationship (as defined by state law), including completion of all actions required by state law in connection with providing real estate brokerage services to clients and customers (hereinafter, “Registrants”). Such actions shall include, but are not limited to, satisfying all applicable agency, non-agency, and other disclosure obligations, and execution of any required agreements.

   ii. The participant must obtain the name of and a valid e-mail address for each The participant must send an e-mail to the address provided by the Registrant confirming that the Registrant has agreed to the terms of use (described in Subsection d., below). The participant must verify that the e-mail address provided by the Registrant is valid and that the Registrant has agreed to the terms of use.

    iii. The participant must require each Registrant to have a user name and a password, the combination of which is different from those of all other Registrants on the VOW. The participant may, at his or her option, supply the user name and password or may allow the Registrant to establish its user name and password. The participant must also assure that any e-mail address is associated with only one user name and password.

b. The participant must assure that each Registrant’s password expires on date certain, but may provide for renewal of the password. The participant must at all times maintain a record of the name, e-mail address, user name, and current password of each Registrant. The participant must keep such records for not less than one hundred eighty (180) days after the expiration of the validity of the Registrant’s password.

c. If the MLS has reason to believe that a participant’s VOW has caused or permitted a breach in the security of MLS listing information or a violation of MLS rules, the participant shall, upon request of the MLS, provide the name, e-mail address, user name, and current password, of any Registrant suspected of involvement in the breach or The participant shall also, if requested by the MLS, provide an audit trail of activity by any such Registrant.

d. The participant shall require each Registrant to review and affirmatively to express agreement (by mouse click or otherwise) to a terms of use provision that provides at least the following:

i. that the Registrant acknowledges entering into a lawful consumer-broker relationship with the participant.

ii. that all information obtained by the Registrant from the VOW is intended only for the Registrant’s personal, non-commercial use

iii. that the Registrant has a bona fide interest in the purchase, sale, or lease of real estate of the type being offered through the VOW

iv. that the Registrant will not copy, redistribute, or retransmit any of the information provided, except in connection with the Registrant’s consideration of the purchase or sale of an individual property.

v. That the Registrant acknowledges the MLS’ ownership of and the validity of the MLS’ copyright in the MLS database

e. The terms of use agreement may not impose a financial obligation on the Registrant or create any representation agreement between the Registrant and the participant. Any agreement entered into at any time between the participant and Registrant imposing a financial obligation on the Registrant or creating representation of the Registrant by the participant must be established separately from the terms of use, must be prominently labeled as such, and may not be accepted solely by mouse click.

f. The terms of use agreement shall also expressly authorize the MLS and other MLS participants or their duly authorized representatives to access the VOW for the purposes of verifying compliance with MLS rules and monitoring display of participants’ listings by the VOW. The agreement may also include such other provisions as may be agreed to between the participant and the Registrant.

Section 19.4

A participant’s VOW must prominently display an e-mail address, telephone number, or specific identification of another mode of communication (e.g., live chat) by which a consumer can contact the participant to ask questions or get more information about any property displayed on the VOW. The participant or a non-principal broker or sales licensee licensed with the participant must be willing and able to respond knowledgeably to inquiries from Registrants about properties within the market area served by that participant and displayed on the VOW.

Section 19.5

A participant’s VOW must employ reasonable efforts to monitor for and prevent misappropriation, scraping, and other unauthorized uses of MLS listing information. A participant’s VOW shall utilize appropriate security protection such as firewalls as long as this requirement does not impose security obligations greater than those employed concurrently by the MLS.

Note: MLS’s may adopt rules requiring Participants to employ specific security measures, provided that any security measure required does not impose obligations greater than those employed by the MLS.

Section 19.6
  • A participant’s VOW shall not display the listings or property addresses of any seller who has affirmatively directed the listing broker to withhold the seller’s listing or property address from display on the internet. The listing broker shall communicate to the MLS that the seller has elected not to permit display of the listing or property address on the Internet. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a participant who operates a VOW may provide to consumers via other delivery mechanisms, such as e-mail, fax, or otherwise, the listings of sellers who have determined not to have the listing for their property displayed on the Internet.
  • A participant who lists a property for a seller who has elected not to have the property listing or the property address displayed on the Internet shall cause the seller to execute a document that includes the following (or a substantially similar) provision.
Seller Opt-Out Form

1. Check one

a. [ ] I have advised my broker or sales agent that I do not want the listed property to be displayed on the 

b. [ ] I have advised my broker or sales agent that I do not want the address of the listed property to be displayed on the

2. I understand and acknowledge that if I have selected Option a., consumers who conduct searches for listings on the Internet will not see information about he listed property in response to their searches.

Initials of Seller _______________________

c.The participant shall retain such forms for at lease one (1) years from the date they are signed or one (1) year from the date the listing goes off the market, whichever is greater.

Section 19.7

a. Subject to Subsection b., below, a participant’s VOW may allow third-parties:

i. to write comment or reviews about particular listings or display a hyperlink to such comments or reviews in immediate conjunction with particular listings, or

ii. to display an automated estimate of the market value of the listing (or hyperlink to such estimate) in immediate conjunction with the listing.

b. Notwithstanding the foregoing, at the request of a seller, the participant shall disable or discontinue either or both of those features described in Subsection a., as to any listing of the seller. The listing broker or agent shall communicate to the MLS that the seller has elected to have one or both of these features disabled or discontinued on all participants’ websites. Subject to the foregoing and to Section 19.8, a participant’s VOW may communicate the participant’s professional judgment concerning any listing. A participant’s   VOW may notify its customers that a particular feature has been disable at the request of the seller.

Section 19.8

A participant’s VOW shall maintain a means (e.g., e-mail address, telephone number) to receive comments from the listing broker about the accuracy of any information that is added by or on behalf of the participant beyond that supplied by the MLS and that relates to a specific property displayed on the VOW. The participant shall correct or remove any false information relating to a specific property within forty-eight (48) hours following receipt of a communication from the listing broker explaining why the data or information is false. The participant shall not, however, be obligated to correct or remove any data or information that simply reflects good faith opinion, advice, or professional judgment.

Section 19.9

A participant shall cause the MLS listing information available on its VOW to be refreshed at least once every three (3) days.

Section 19.10

Except as provided in these rules, in the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® VOW policy, or in any other applicable MLS rules or policies, no participant shall distribute, provide, or make accessible any portion of the MLS listing information to any person or entity.

Section 19.11

A participant’s VOW must display the participant’s privacy policy informing Registrants of all of the ways in which information that they provide may be used.

Section 19.12

A participant’s VOW may include listings from display based only on objective criteria, including, but not limited to, factors such as geography, list price, type of property, cooperative compensation offered by listing broker, and whether the listing broker is a REALTOR®.

Section 19.13

A participant who intends to operate a VOW to display MLS listing information must notify the MLS of its intention to establish a VOW and must make the VOW readily accessible to the MLS and to all MLS participants for purposes of verifying compliance with these rules, the VOW policy, and any other applicable MLS rules and policies.

Section 19.14

A participant may operate more than one VOW himself or herself or through an AVP. A participant who operates his or her own VOW may contract with an AVP to have the AVP operate other VOWs on his or her behalf. However, any VOW operated on behalf of a participant by an AVP is subject to the supervision and accountability of the participant.

Section 19.15

A participant’s VOW may not make available for search by or display to Registrants any of the following information:

  1. The seller’s and occupant’s name(s), phone number(s), or e-mail addresses.
  2. Instructions or remarks intended for cooperating brokers only, such as those regarding showings or security of listed property.
Section 19.16

A participant’s VOW may not make available for search by or display to Registrants any of the following information:

  • expired and withdrawn listings

(Due to the 2015 changes in IDX policy and the requirement that participants be permitted to make MLS listing information available to Registrants of VOW sites where such information may be made available via other delivery mechanisms, MLS’s can no longer prohibit the display of pending (“under contract”) listings on VOW sites.

  • the compensation offered to other MLS participants
  • the type of listing agreement, i.e. exclusive right to sell or exclusive agency
  • the sellers and occupant’s name(s), phone number(s), or email address(es)
Section 19.17

A participant shall cause to be placed on his or her VOW a notice indicating that the MLS listing information displayed on the VOW is deemed reliable, but is not guaranteed accurate by the MLS. A participant’s VOW may include other appropriate disclaimers necessary to protect the participant and/or the MLS from liability.

Section 19.18

A participant shall cause any listing that is displayed on her VOW to identify the name of the listing firm and the listing broker or agent in a readily visible color, in a reasonably prominent location, and in typeface not smaller than the median typeface used in the display of listing data.

Section 19.19

A participant shall limit the number of listings that a Registrant may view, retrieve, or download to not more than 500 (five hundred) current listings and not more than 500 (five hundred) sold listings in response to any inquiry.

Section 19.20

A participant shall require that Registrants’ passwords be reconfirmed or changed every 90 (ninety) days.

Section 19.21

A participant may display advertising and the identification of other entities (“co-branding”) on any VOW the participant operates or that is operated on his or her behalf. However, a participant may not display on any such VOW deceptive or misleading advertising or co-branding. For purposes of this section, co-branding will be presumed not to be deceptive or misleading if the participant’s logo and contact information (or that of at least one participant, in the case of a VOW established and operated on behalf of more than one participant) is displayed in immediate conjunction with that of every other party, and the logo and contact information of all participants displayed on the VOW  is as large as the logo of the AVP and larger than that of any third party.

Section 19.22

A participant shall cause any listing displayed on his or her VOW obtained from other sources, including from another MLS or from a broker not participating in the MLS, to identify the source of the listing.

Section 19.23

A participant shall cause any listing displayed on his or her VOW obtained from other sources, including from another MLS or from a broker not participating in the MLS, to be searched separately from listings in the MLS.

 

Section 19.24

Participants and the AVPs operating VOWs on their behalf must execute the license agreement required by the MLS.

 

Section 19.25

Where a seller affirmatively directs his or her listing broker to withhold either the seller’s listing or the address of the sellers’ listing from display on the Internet, a copy of the seller’s affirmative direction shall be provided to the MLS within forty-eight (48) hours.