Where Real Estate Gets Its Dirt

The Ad Supported Vendor

Something else is brewing in the desert. Here’s the scenario….

Your contract is up. The MLS decides to go to RFP. 6 months later you are replaced by a competitor. What do you do? Traditionally you would pack up and leave and live to fight another day. Your time will come again, every one knows this business is cyclical.

But iMapp is not your traditional vendor per se. When iMapp lost their ARMLS contract to Corelogic’s Realist they decided to set up shop and give user access to their system for free.

Free you say? Yup, Free.

How are they doing it? The simple answer is ads. Turns out that they can make as much money with 4 big advertisers sponsoring their site/app as they did on a per member, per month basis from ARMLS


The other hook is that these ads can be very contextual. Imagine being a vendor who sells a CMA product. The real estate agents who use iMapp to search for for public record data on a Subject Property could be presented an ad that asks them if they would like to create a free CMA for that home? Or maybe click and and get quote on a home warranty, etc….

So far they have over 8,000 sign ups. It’s the same iMapp so ARMLS users who don’t want to switch to Realist have the option to keep using it. They even created a browser extension so you could access their data inside the MLS system.

Of course what iMapp is doing is just switching patrons. Before they would serve the MLS, now it’s their 4 ad sponsors. And to keep them happy its all about traffic. They must be pretty happy now. I’m told by people at iMapp that when Realist suffered an outage at one point they were tracking up to 4 signups per minute. I can also extrapolate that those 8,000 users are most likely the power users, aka an advertiser’s “dream clients”.

Could an ad supported MLS system be that far in the future? Maybe.

I’m very curious to see how well this goes for iMapp. I think new revenue models in the MLS space are needed. For instance on the above mentioned “ad sponsored MLS system” could the model include a way for members to pay a small monthly fee to remove the ads from the system? Lots of possibilities.

  1. With a combination of advertising and non-dues revenue generated from non-core products and data licensing – it is possible to invision offering core MLS services with sponsorships.

    However, I doubt that the Associations of REALTORS who are the shareholders of the MLS are driving their business in that direction. The MLS is the heart of the revenue that powers Association dues. There is also another tradeoff that is somewhat hidden.

    Today, agents are reacting negatively to the “Hunting License” that many MLSs offer to companies offering freemium services. It creates a spamming and telemarketing engine. Agents do not want their MLS to share agent and broker contact information (which is mostly contained in the RETS feed).

    In the long run, the sponsors could “overrun” the MLS system with noise if it goes too far – it will be interesting to see where the balance is achieved.

    Remember the olden days when agents paid for MLS services by the minute? Interestingly enough – that was not such a bad model either.

  2. The advertising model sounds great – except that the iMAPP users have lost the integration with their main MLS system. A browser extension does not translate into integration.

    The one question I would ask is what was the compelling reason to switch vendors in the first place?

  3. ARMLS has a very independent Board of Directors, and the four local Associatons of REALTORS who own ARMLS do not drive the organization in any direction. Over its 30 year existence, ARMLS has always budgeted to provide the best services possible to the subscribers — and has never had a goal of generating revenues to the shareholders, who do not require mls revenues to fund their operations.

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