Hamlet said the question is “to be or not to be”.
Yeah, well forget Hamlet. To require MLS/IDX registration or not: THAT is the question!
At last count, there are over 3.2 bazillion real estate web sites out there. Most have an IDX feed to their MLS that allows visitors to search homes on the local MLS. (And those that don’t have it, should).
Some sites require visitors to “register” prior to getting access to the MLS search, some don’t.
On my web site, ThompsonsRealty.com, no registration is required. I’ve tried it with and without registration and I’ve found that my visitor count drops off dramatically when I require registration. And given the names I get with registrations, those that do register all seem to be related to Disney characters. I must have a dozen different email addresses for Mickey Mouse and his friends. Some guy named Ben Dover registers a lot too.
I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years about requiring MLS registration and gotten a plethora of opinions.
Proponents of MLS/IDX registration say things like:
- Don’t give everything away for free
- Serious buyers will register
- What’s the point in having a website if you don’t capture visitor information
- You can’t convert visitors to clients if you don’t know who they are
Opponents of MLS/IDX registration argue:
- If you require registration, people will just go to the next site that doesn’t
- You get too many bogus registrations
- Internet buyers tend to be a long way off from buying and want to remain anonymous in the beginning
- There are other ways to capture visitor information
- If you provide great service, the serious buyers will identify themselves
I get visitors to my site every single day that find us using search terms like “Phoenix MLS search no registration”, “Arizona MLS no registration”, or even plain old generic "no registration MLS". We rank #1 and #2 in Google for “Phoenix MLS search no registration”. When I required registration, not one single visitor arrived by searching for a site that requires registration. I don’t believe people inherently WANT to register on any web site. I hate registering on web sites, which is the main reason I have a hard time asking people to do it on my site.
It’s really quite a dilemma and one that everyone with a real estate website should ponder deeply. Seriously! The ideal solution, in my humble opinion, is to have a “hybrid” setup that allows some MLS data to be viewed “for free” and requires minimal registration to see additional information. There is an IDX provider out there, 1ParkPlace.com, that offers the ideal solution for some MLS’s. Unfortunately they don’t work with mine, yet. Using their system, visitors can see one photo and some basic info on any MLS listing. If they register, they can see additional photos, an address, virtual tours, etc. And they can save searches and get new listings emailed to them if they register. Other IDX solutions allow people to see full info on the first X number of listings, then require registration to see additional listings. These solutions offer the best of both worlds. But these IDX solution providers don’t work with all MLS’s.
So to paraphrase my good friend Hamlet, "To require MLS registration or not? That is the question!" Do you or don't you? Why or why not?