MLS and RSS Feeds

Sep 23, 2007  |  Michael Wurzer

Mark Flavin has an interesting post today about the usefulness of wireless access to MLS systems.  We’re going to review some statistics regarding usage of flexmls wireless access, and will post on that analysis when we’re done.

In the meantime, the idea that demand can sometimes outstrip usefulness made me think about RSS feeds and the MLS system.  What are the best use cases you can think of for RSS feeds and the MLS system?  Hot sheets, perhaps?  An RSS reader doesn’t seem to be the best way to review new or changed listings.  A replacement for automatic e-mail updates?  Again, readers seem ill-suited to this purpose.  Anyway, what are your thoughts on how RSS could be made useful in MLS systems?

19 Responses to “MLS and RSS Feeds”

  1. Matt Cohen says:

    >thoughts on how RSS could be made useful in MLS systems?

    I think they could be very useful to create custom feeds for client prospecting updates – though typical readers are not perfectly suited, I’ve suggested (for a few years now…) that RSS could feed web or desktop Widgets (Yahoo, Google, whatever) that could be both far more aesthetic and functional.

    If image tags work on your WordPress, here’s a screenshot of two Widgets I put together a few years ago that ran off RSS – the top widget is agent oriented, the bottom one consumer oriented.:

  2. Matt Cohen says:

    Okay, images weren’t allowed. Here’s a URL:

  3. Matt, widgets are a great idea for using RSS feeds. After you mentioned widgets in your presentation in Las Vegas a year or so ago, we developed a couple to test it out but we got bogged down in the UI for how the user gets from the search back to the widget (if they want to change the search terms) and whether authentication should be required or not. I think we’ll get there in the next six months or (after our next release is out) and it will be interesting to see the uptake. Of the various widget platforms, do you have a favorite? Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft? Or some cross-platform approach?

  4. Matt Cohen says:

    > We got bogged down in the UI for how the user gets from the search back to the widget (if they want to change the search terms)

    Agent would provide a new widget and/or user can download new system-generated widget, prompted if they change their search online.

    > whether authentication should be required or not

    Only non-sensitive information should be shown, user authentication happening when the user goes for more detail online, if they are going for info that normally requires authentication.

    > it will be interesting to see the uptake

    It’s still a bit early in the game for Widgets – it will take education/marketing to get adoption, I think.

    > Do you have a favorite? Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft? Or some cross-platform approach?

    Yahoo was an early favorite because how easy it was to thoroughly customize the look (completely opposite to Google) – but they all are becoming more competitive. For now, I think multiple options are needed and cross-platform isn’t too feasible yet, so far as I can tell.

  5. The combination of trying to educate users about widgets and making it easy to use was what slowed us down. I think the Google dashboard and Facebook make the most sense right now. They have large user bases and require very little of the user and don’t require downloads, like Yahoo! or Vista.

  6. Mark Flavin says:

    Excellent post Michael and I think mobile MLS access is a great example of technology outpacing need.

    I have given a lot of thought to how RSS can be useful and the best use I can see for custom RSS feeds is to get around spam filters. One of our most frequent complaints is agents have a difficult time getting their automated search output to a clients inbox with spam filters becoming increasingly aggressive this problem seems to be on the rise.

    As to the widgets I used the yahoo widget engine and developed a feed widget about year and half ago for custom MLS search returns. What I found is that people will install it but more often then not end up either disabling or uninstalling the widget. When I tell agents about it they say that is cool but the combination of configuration and install limits the utility of the widget.

    I agree with your assesment Michael that if you are going to create a widget the best way to do it is integrate it within Google Dashboard or Facebook another site I would add to the list is the Microsoft liv

  7. Mark Flavin says:

    Sorry typing on my iPhone and I accidentally hit the submit button.

    … I would add Microsoft Live to the list it is farily easy to develop for and has a fairly large user base.

  8. I have given a lot of thought to how RSS can be useful and the best use I can see for custom RSS feeds is to get around spam filters.

    Yes, absolutely. This is especially true if tied to a client portal, where the client can manage their own searches for which they want to be updated. Generally, I think giving clients a portal and then providing them a widget for any and all updates to the portal, like Matt showed for the agent in his mockup (new listings, messages, etc.) could be really effective for consumers moving from the on-looker to more serious stage of the buying or selling process. In other words, the more they are ready to be engaged, the more likely they’ll be willing to install your widget.

  9. Craig Mische says:

    Having a feed for the Hot Sheet would be very useful to me. I am a Google Reader user/fan and just as I ‘star’ posts to save, I could see myself starring new listings or price changes. Or, using the ‘share’ feature to send to a new listing or price change to a contact.

  10. Hi Michael,

    I, too, have given RSS a lot of thought over the years, particularly as a replacement for automated email updates & drip email campaigns.

    We’ve never deployed it because the policies surrounding the publication of listings essentially prohibit the transmission of meaningful listing data (without listing broker info) without authentication… which RSS doesn’t have an elegant solution for just yet.

    MLSPropertyFinder has a desktop/systray app that uses HTTP calls to fetch “search alert” properties, but that’s unfortunately very proprietary. I think going that way with a Widget is the right thing to do, although personally I’d favor the Vista Widget approach since that OS’ adoption is fairly inevitable. That being said, since they’re all HTML & JavaScript based XML parsers, there’s limited additional development effort to make a cross-widget-platform app for Yahoo! (Konfabulator) widgets, Google Gadgets, etc.


  11. Jim Duncan says:

    Put my vote in the camp for RSS feeds of new listings. I would love to replace my email notifications to myself and my clients with RSS. This would also enable a better, sticky solution for clients’ to visit. One place to see all their searches, etc.

    Unsubscribing would be easier, too, as all they (and I) would have to do is delete the feed. Widgetizing the feeds would be great, too.

  12. Jim Duncan says:

    Sorry for not closing my formatting.

  13. Craig and Jim:

    What information would you feel would be most useful in the feed for new listings? One of the challenges with the feed is that the user will have to click out for more details, which, if the feed includes several new listings in an update, could be a pain.

  14. Robbie says:

    For my IDX solutions, I’ve had RSS feeds of searches for the past 18 months or so. (Ironically, I’m currently implementing e-mail notification features).

    Here’s an example RSS feed of Homes in Redmond, WA over $2 Million.

    Each <item> in the RSS feed refers to a single property, and each item links back to the broker’s propety details page for more information. I usually just include the first photo, a map, bed, bath, sqft, year built, MLS #, street address and remarks of the listing in the RSS feed.

    I currently limit feeds to 100 active items, so people won’t try to download the entire MLS at once. Although, I love the feature, the majority of folks out there still use e-mail instead of RSS.

  15. Hey Robbie —

    Where’s the broker reciprocity info if that’s an IDX feed? These are the policy problems we ran into… you either have to show the listing broker info (per IDX policy) or require authentication (per VOW policy).


  16. […] As promised, we’ve mined our MLS usage statistics for wireless access.  The following chart speaks for itself: […]

  17. Robbie says:


    Good point, I should add/fix it before my MLS catches it…


  18. I founded a company that enhances transparency and liquidity by with internet marketing for commercial real estate brokers and I’d very much like to incorporate an RSS and Desktop Widget but I want something that’s like ths Southwest Airlines Ding and how it allows customers to set their preferences/or criteria of which cities they like and be notified or alerted whenever they’re offering special fares to those specific cities. We’d then be able to deliver the buyers/investors only their favorite cities for the properties that we’re emailing at the present time. Can anyone provide me with the best recommendation to implement a Desktop Widget and RSS combination. I’ve got web developers that work at my office but I don’t think this is their speciality so I’d rather just outsource this functionality to whomever really knows the in’s and out’s, or I’d apprecicate any specific recommendations or advice anyone has. While we email the buyers and investors exactly what they’ve asked for, you’re post is right that with the more agressive spam filters the people that would like to see these properties don’t even realize that their own network administrator has inadvetantly cut them off from their deal flow.
    Thanks for your advice,
    Steve Alter
    Chris Babcock at is my head of IT and currently reviewing our options with the desktop widget and RSS. Any advice is very appreciated.

  19. Please contact Chris Babcock at or at 760-602-5080 if you can provide a solution that would provide our firm with the right DESKTOP Widget that we’d like to deploy for our customers in commercial real estate, or if you just have any advice.

    Thanks so much, Steve Alter CEO