The Many Woes of E-mail Delivery

“Sorry, I never received that e-mail.”  Have you ever heard that before? You have most likely even told someone that yourself.

Why doesn’t e-mail just arrive in the recipient’s inbox?
E-mail delivery has become increasingly complex and troublesome. Many clients still have the optimistic but naïve belief that they can simply type a letter, click send, and expect the e-mail to arrive in milliseconds. Unfortunately, that is sometimes far from the truth.

If you could “see” the path an e-mail takes over the many networks and through countless servers, you’d find it is much more complicated than getting from point A to point B. The majority of e-mails are delivered successfully. Although, some e-mails can be delayed minutes, hours, or even days by the e-mail provider.  Some never arrive at all.

Life cycle of your e-mail (in summary)

  1. You type and send your e-mail. It “takes off” into the cyber-unknown.
  2. The gauntlet: Your e-mail gets scanned, rerouted, and scrutinized by multiple gatekeepers on the way to its destination. Any one of them can say, “You look suspicious!” and make your e-mail disappear.
  3. It arrives at the destination server and there are two possible outcomes:

    a. Not Accepted: E-mail is bounced as a security risk, because it’s misspelled, or because the destination inbox is full. And, you may or may not get a message notifying you that it bounced.

    b. Accepted: More scans. Your E-mail may be filtered and sent to Spam or other filter folders causing the e-mail to be delayed hours or days, but eventually delivered.
  4. It made it! But did they read it? It is now up to the recipient to open or view the message.  Hopefully they can find it among the dozens of other e-mails; they don’t casually delete it off their phone before viewing it; and they know they have a Spam folder and that they need to check it!

What should I do to make sure I get the best results?

  1. Be proactive with your client. Remind them that they will want to reach out to their e-mail provider. Explain the pitfalls and delivery issues associated with e-mail. After reading this article, you can pass along the knowledge you now have regarding e-mail delivery and its many twists and turns.
  2. Alternate e-mail address: It’s highly encouraged that your client provides at least two e-mail addresses, particularly if they are having delivery problems. The two addresses should be with two different e-mail providers. As of this writing, it’s probably a good idea that one of them be a G mail address. Send any important information, including listing subscription e-mail, to all addresses. If one is lost, blocked, or filtered, perhaps the other one will be delivered.
  3. Contact your client outside of e-mail: Call, text or reach out to them in a way that isn’t by e-mail and work with them on the issue.
  4. Contact your e-mail service provider when you have issues or questions.
  5. Have your own backup e-mail address: A backup or secondary e-mail address is a very good way to make sure you get those important e-mails. Your e-mail can have the same potential problems as the client’s e-mail.
  6. Read up on any help or documentation provided by your e-mail software and e-mail provider.

The new “normal” in the world of e-mail

  1. No guaranteed delivery: You, the sender, cannot control the final delivery of your sent message. You hope it gets to the other side, but you really have no control over it. There are dozens of twists and turns along the path. Each of them is a potential point of failure that you cannot control. The process is like the postal service. You drop a paper letter in the mailbox, which then travel hundreds or thousands of miles through dozens of other systems and, hopefully, will eventually be dropped in to the recipient’s mailbox.
  2. Dangers once it’s delivered – the recipient’s e-mail provider: All e-mail providers have junk mail filters that “catch” e-mail that is deemed unwanted or unsolicited.  Some e-mail providers (Gmail, Outlook, etc.) have multiple filtering folders.  The sender cannot stop Gmail or any other provider from hijacking that legitimate e-mail and putting it in Social, Promotions, or Spam folders.  Most e-mail inboxes have storage limits.  If you e-mail a client with a full inbox, your e-mail will not be delivered for that reason alone. The e-mail provider can also reject the e-mail for any reason they see fit.  You may or may not get a notification “bounce back” e-mail. That is up to the e-mail provider that blocked it in the first place.
  3. Recipient’s prerogative:  Even if that letter was successfully delivered to the recipient mailbox, you can’t control what happens to it next. It may get lost between 50 advertisements.  It may be “filtered” automatically as we just discussed above.  The recipient can even manually mark your e-mail as Spam.  Sometimes e-mail recipients aren’t sure what your e-mail is or who it is from so they mark it as Spam. They may also intentionally or accidentally click delete. They can even setup their e-mail to automatically delete or “filter” your e-mail into folders and forget to check that folder.

What are some scenarios that could make this worse?

  1. Non-existent e-mail address: You misspelled their e-mail. Maybe you typed instead of If you send multiple e-mails to an incorrect address, this will get that e-mail provider’s attention in a very bad way. 
  2. Multiple identical e-mail sent to the same address: Another good way to draw bad attention to your e-mail address is to look like a spammer.  Sending more than one e-mail from the same address with the same content to the same person can look suspicious.

Are all e-mail providers the same?
Yes and no.  As of this writing, Roadrunner seems to be having some serious delays and non-delivery issues.  Roadrunner was recently acquired by a company called Spectrum.  It is possible that the new owners have new and tighter protocols for e-mail delivery. This alone may account for recent delivery issues with this vendor.

You may have also heard about a little issue Yahoo had recently.  They experienced a major security breach.  E-mail addresses and passwords may have been compromised en masse. Unfortunately, that is not the first time in the last few years that Yahoo has had security issues. This will likely cause tighter security and more delivery issues and delays for Yahoo e-mail.

Does that mean everyone should use Google for e-mail?  Not necessarily.  Google delivery rates and speed are very good right now. That does not guarantee that Google will never get hacked.  No e-mail provider is impervious to hacking and cyberattack. It is a good idea to pay close attention when news stories announce the latest security breach, cyberattack, etc.  When you are instructed to change your password, it is always in your best interest to change it immediately.

TIP: 48 Hours to Submit Listing to MLS
We frequently receive calls to the MLS inquiring whether an Office Exclusive Waiver form is on file for a property where signage is placed. Frequently there is no form on file and a warning or fine must be assessed to the agent named on the sign. MLS policy mandates that a listing must be submitted to MLS within 48 hours from the date the listing agreement is signed or an Office Exclusive Waiver form (found at must be on file. If the 48-hour limit falls on a weekend or federal holiday, the listing or form must be submitted on the next business day.

MLS Software Operations Report – February 8, 2017 

  1. New sub-types Other Residential added – Feb. 6, 2017
    a. Two new sub-types will be added to RES and RNT property types. 
    b. The new sub-types will be:
  •  Other Residential with Deeded Land
  • Other Residential without Deeded Land

c. For a listing to be entered as “Other Residential”:
1. The unit may not have been converted to real property.
2. The unit must be available as a full-time dwelling.
3. The unit must be located where human habitation is permitted year-round.
4. The unit may not be self-propelled nor titled as a vehicle.
d. Units that do not meet these criteria (or criteria for another property type) cannot be listed on the MLS.
2. Additional selection “Other – Agent Provided” in “Documented SqFt Source” field. – Feb. 6, 2017
a. This field and selection can be modified only by MLS staff.
b. New selection “Other – Agent Provided” is specifically for use in conjunction with the new “Other Residential” subtypes.
3. Flexmls iOS app for consumers:  e-mailed listing links open in app – Feb. 2, 2017
a. On Feb. 21, 2017, the newest iOS Flexmls for the consumer’s version will allow your clients to tap on e-mailed listings and open them directly in their app instead of the mobile website.
b. Shared listings from Flexmls using Subscription E-mails, Manual E-mails or Flexmls Pro app will be a universal link. If your client opens the e-mail on an iOS device that has the Flexmls consumer app installed, the link will open directly in their app.
c. If your client doesn't have the app installed or if they are not using an iOS device, the link will open on a mobile website just as it currently does.
d. This new functionality is only available for iPhone 5/iOS 9 (or newer)
4. Showing Start Date (SSD) – placed back on edit screen – Feb. 1, 2017
a. SSD field was removed from edit screen due to issues that were occurring with the date limits, particularly the 30 days in future limit.
b. SSD field was added back to the edit screen Feb. 1, 2017
c. Field will warn that the SSD cannot be more than 30 days in the future of the list date.
d. Field was editable until Feb. 15, 2017, for agents to modify their existing listings in MLS that were entered without a Showing Start Date; and locked and no longer editable by the listing agent on Feb. 16.
5. Documented SqFt Source field added – Jan. 31, 2017
a. New field Documented SqFt Source has been added to the MLS in RES and RNT only.
b. Initial release has some issues that are being corrected by FBS.
c. Picklist will initially include these options: None, Appraisal, Auditor, Builder Statement, Floor Plan, Realist. New option (Other – Agent Provided) will be added for use with new “Other Residential” property types (see below)
d. Non-required and un-editable by agents. Field is editable by MLS staff only.
e. New “source” field appears directly below SqFt Documented (previously SqFt Tax Record) If SqFt Tax Record (total_sqft) is auto populated by Realist, UD63 should automatically be set to Realist.
f. If Realist does not auotpop SqFt Tax Record, the new source field will be set to “None”.
6. New Tab label added to pop out icon – Dec. 20, 2016
a. Basic functionality has not changed. Only the new label on the pop out icon “NEW TAB.”
b. You type in an address, MLS number or other criteria into the Quick Launch bar. When you hover over a result, you'll see a New Tab option.
c. Click New Tab icon to “pop out” the results in a new browser tab.
7. Quick Launch bar help text added – Dec. 21, 2016
a. The Quick Launch bar has been relabeled in Flexmls Web to make its functionality more intuitive.
b. The old text was Quick Launch when not in use.
c. The new text is Enter an Address, City, ZIP, MLS#, or Menu Item.