MLS Closes Down Real Estate Mash-Up Site

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.

housing123.com screen shot

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.

Blog TO’s analysis (June 16, 2008):

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.

By contrast, the similar mash-up service housingmaps.com pulls together listings from Craigslist with Google Maps. Craigslist apparently makes its data available for this type of use.

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Comments

  1. I wonder if there are any plans to mash the same concept into the MLS offering? No way to know, but that would make sense for the C&D.

  2. Not necessarily. CREA is extremely protective of its listings and it seems would really prefer people go through real estate agents for their information. This sort of thing changes the model to allow people to search for themselves, thereby reducing the need for an agent.

  3. Has anyone seen the updated MLS site online with something called Microsoft maps…. ” MICROSOFT MAPS ” who knew that microsoft was into maps… just another thing that they can screw up. God knows why MLS didn’t go with googlemaps… only the industry standard at the moment. At any rate the new MLS site sucks big time.. hard to use… maps don’t work.. hard to search etc etc etc…. good old mls… yuck !

  4. John, I disagree. I found the new MLS.ca site with their internal mashup to be quite functional and not too difficult to use. It seems fairly accurate too.

    As Steve hinted, if a company is going to send C&D letters, the reasonable thing to do is include equivalent functionality on their own site. The MLS site has always had a click through Terms of Use and better eyes than mine might see the mashup site as outside the terms.

    I do applaud the founders of the original mashup site for ‘encouraging’ the folks at MLS to remake their site with functional improvements. Too bad you can’t copyright great ideas.