Agents scramble as cyberattack freezes MLSs nationwide
MLS system provider Rapattoni has been down since midweek, leaving tens of thousands of agents unable to add listings and update information.
- Rapattoni serves about 5% of MLSs in the United States.
- “I don’t know what I’d do if I had a new listing,” Coldwell Banker agent Bill Johnson said.
- Rapattoni provides association membership management software, leading to concerns about access to credit card data.
A cyberattack on MLS system provider Rapattoni has taken down MLSs across the nation since midweek, with no ETA yet for a fix.
The attack has left tens of thousands of agents who subscribe to the affected MLSs unable to add new listings or update listings with price changes or open houses.
Rapattoni serves about 5% of U.S. MLSs, with its primary focus on organizations under 10,000 subscribers, according to a report by T3 Sixty. (Note: T3 Sixty and Real Estate News share a founder, Stefan Swanepoel.)
Rapattoni did not respond to multiple requests for information, but several MLSs said their best hope was to have the issue resolved by early next week.
Agents turning to alternative ways to market their listings
"We have to scramble and get them promoted through other websites," said Bill Johnson, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Greenbrae, California. "Zillow for one, but that's very difficult to navigate. And Realtor.com."
Johnson said his first clue there was a problem came Wednesday. "I had a broker's open, and nobody showed up."
Not being able to advertise open houses and price changes is one thing — but the inability to get a listing posted in the first place means missing out on potential buyers. "I don't know what I'd do if I had a new listing," Johnson said.
In addition to promoting his listings directly through portals, Johnson said he's also using networking groups like his county's top agent network. "That's 250 agents or so," he said. "But there are 1,300 agents in the county."
Johnson is a member of BAREIS MLS, which serves Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano and Mendocino counties in Northern California. But even agents in MLSs not served by Rapattoni have dealt with the fallout. BAREIS did not respond to an interview request.
Bay East Association of Realtors is part of the NorCal MLS alliance that allows agents in seven MLSs to seamlessly share data. "The impact to us right now is we are unable to receive or send out any of the MLS information to those partners," CEO Trica Thomas said.
Anne Uchtman, president of the Realtor Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, said members there have created a Facebook group to share listings and information. "We can search inside groups and use some of our other programs, but nothing syndicates out to the other sites."
Uchtman noted that her association has been in the process of switching MLS providers from Rapattoni to Perchwell. "We're about 90% ready, but we can't just pull the plug on Rapattoni and switch," she said. "No one's had training."
Rapattoni hack may put personal information at risk
In addition to providing an MLS platform, Rapattoni provides association membership management software, leading to concerns about access to credit card data.
Bryan Hutchinson, CEO of Monmouth Ocean Regional Realtors, produced a video message to inform and reassure members — but also to remind them to take steps to protect their privacy.
The association does not keep or track things like credit card or Social Security numbers, Hutchinson said. "But we do know that some of our members do store that data inside of their member or their participant records," Hutchinson said in the video. "If you're one of those people who does store sensitive information inside your member record, you should monitor that. Take a look at your credit card statement and make sure there are no charges that look peculiar to you."
In an interview, Hutchinson said his association, which is among the larger ones served by Rapattoni, quickly isolated its points of connectivity and tapped into redundant systems to keep serving members.
"We're prepared for this," he said. "We have risk mitigation and business disruption plans in place."
Hutchinson said his association has redundant systems that have kept the MLS functional. "It hasn't stopped any of our members from being able to do business," he said.
Still, he acknowledged, the Rapattoni outage and data breach "affects every single one" of the association's 27,000 combined members and subscribers.
Hutchinson said most of the systems that can help associations manage through the Rapattoni outage are widely available. "It's mostly just knowing how to access them and use them," he said. To that end, he's been busy helping colleagues across the country.
"I have had no shortage of telephone calls," he said with a chuckle. "Which is good. The Realtor family supports one another. We jump in and we help out. … We are a family at the end of the day. Just a really big one."