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Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

After backlash, Bing is removing MLS listings 

Industry leaders began sounding the alarm last week after seeing unlicensed data on a portal-like section of Microsoft’s search engine.

Updated June 10, 2024
3 minutes

Key points:

  • MLS leaders and others took to social media to call out and its use of MLS data.
  • The listing details appeared to come from Redfin and Zillow, but both companies said they did not have data agreements with Microsoft and asked Bing to remove the listings.
  • The dispute comes at an already-charged moment for MLSs as they work to meet the NAR settlement deadline and reinforce their value.

A dispute over home listings on the search engine Bing appears to be winding down after industry leaders voiced their objections on social media and elsewhere this past week.

Microsoft's very much has the look of a portal, displaying homes for sale or rent in a searchable neighborhood format. The listings appear to come from MLS data and include typical listing information — prices, square footage and building details.

This caught the attention of Sam DeBord, CEO of the Real Estate Standards Organization, better known as RESO. DeBord got the conversation going on X last week, noting that is functioning as a real estate portal but is not a member of any MLS — and shouldn't be posting information derived from MLS listings. 

"IDX data isn't sublicensed to non-participants of MLSs," DeBord posted on X.

That led to some outrage over why MLS data was showing up on a search engine and calls for Microsoft to stop this practice, with industry consultant Victor Lund calling it "a declaration of war." The campaign appears to have worked: began removing data from its site in major markets on Friday, Jun 7.

"Great job, good outcome, let's get back to work," DeBord said on X.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Microsoft said the company had nothing to share at this time.

Why it matters

For a search engine or other site to display MLS listings publicly is not only a potential violation of copyright laws, it also undermines the value of multiple listing services during a crucial period. 

Realtor-owned MLSs are already dealing with challenges following the commissions lawsuits. The organizations are facing an August 17 deadline to update their platforms to comply with the new rules mandated by the $418 million NAR settlement, and some are also scrambling to provide subscriber education and training.

"Brokers spend time, money, and expertise creating listing information and media," DeBord said in an email. "The MLS aggregation of listings makes this data even more valuable, and that's proven when the world's most valuable company wants to monetize it." 

DeBord added that brokers own that value — and have the right to control where their listings can be redistributed and displayed.

"They use it to help their clients, and to build their businesses. It's critical that the licenses that brokers and their MLSs create to share this value are respected. Enforcing the licenses today can reduce future incentives for others to misuse the data," DeBord said.

Where Zillow and Redfin come into play

One aspect of this controversy involved two of the leading home search portals. On the website, many of the listings had links directing users to the property listings on Zillow and Redfin.

Both Zillow and Redfin reached out to Microsoft asking the company to stop posting the listing data on the Bing website. In a company statement, Zillow said there was no license agreement with Microsoft and that its content, including its Zestimate, was not authorized to be used on Bing.

Redfin also worked with its MLS partners in asking Microsoft to remove the listings, said Alina Ptaszynski, corporate communications manager at Redfin.

"As a brokerage, Redfin spends considerable time and effort ensuring our agents, site and apps are compliant with all MLS rules, policies, and our license agreements. Redfin does not have a data agreement with Microsoft," Ptaszynski said.

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