About a year ago founders Kevin Lai and Travis Fielding unveiled the website housing123.com, a mash-up between the Canadian Real Estate Association’s Multiple Listings Service and Google Maps. Their service allowed website visitors to view housing sales on a map rather than having to sort through pages and pages of listings on the regular MLS site.
Lai and Fielding received a cease and desist letter from CREA’s legal counsel and decided to close the site effective June 15th. There is some indication on their blog that they may re-open the site with user contributed property listings.
A rational person might have predicted that MLS would have taken some lessons from these guys and implemented a similar Google Maps feature of their own. Or maybe they could have hired the duo to create it for them? But sadly, the Canadian Real Estate Association decided to take the legal road and fire off a cease and desist letter.
Additional discussion in the Globe and Mail (June 21, 2008):
…MLS has crushed upstarts before. Two Toronto-based sites, Realtysellers Ltd. and Realestateplus.ca, shut down in the past two years after run-ins with the Canadian Real Estate Association, which owns the MLS trademark. Housing123.com is accused of using its information without permission.
But some industry watchers say MLS may be losing this online turf war, as what’s happening in the United States may soon happen here: Sites such as Redfin, Zillow and Yahoo Real Estate now carry the lion’s share of new listings, while MLS is losing ground.
They say the MLS business model – giving people only a taste of a house and directing them to an agent for more – won’t stand up against competitors that will give you every detail about a house and its surroundings, including local crime stats, school reviews and previous purchase prices, along with 360 tours and a break on the commission.