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Monday, July 13, 2020 1:30 pm

MLS NEWS: Private Mode for Photos, Videos & Virtual Tours

By Matt Warren, MLS Director, Columbus REALTORS®

Photo privacy is an important consideration in the real estate industry. A growing number of agents are removing photos from listings to address these concerns. This has a negative impact on the value of the MLS data. The MLS needs to retain important historical records while also protecting the privacy of homeowners. Enter “Private Mode”. You may never have to delete listing photos again. These new options allow you to mark photos, videos and virtual tours as Private in Flexmls and visible only to members.

Benefits of Private Mode Include:

  • Agents no longer need to delete photos, videos and virtual tours to prevent them from being seen by the public. Simply mark photos as private to remove them from public view while retaining value for other members as they use listing photos to build CMAs or conduct appraisals.
  • Homeowners who have privacy concerns can be assured that photos from the MLS do not appear on the internet.
  • MLS can retain important historical records and keep listings intact. Visual media support the value of the MLS and help make the market work.

How It Worked Before Private Mode
Previously, listing photos, videos, and virtual tours were always visible to the public. They could be viewed anywhere the listing information is available, including consumer portals, IDX websites, and third-party sites such as Zillow and Realtor.com. The only way to prevent them from being seen on the internet was to remove them from a listing. While understandable, this meant that historical photos that were a valuable resource to agents and appraisers vanished.

How Private Mode Works Now
Photos, videos, and virtual tours marked as Private in MLS will be viewable only by MLS members. They will not be available to the public via the consumer portal, subscription emails, or shared links.

Marking a Photo, Video, or Virtual Tour as Private
All photos, videos, and virtual tours will be public by default. Any member with permission to edit a listing can change the privacy setting for any media on that listing. When editing the photos for a listing, three new buttons are available to mark listings as Private or Public. 

The new buttons are:

  • Mark as Private: Selected listings only available to MLS members at all times.
  • Mark Private While Off-Market: Makes the selected listings Private while listing is in an off-market status such as Sold or Expired.
  • Mark Public: Returns a previously Private listing to Public display.

Mark a Photo Private:
Simply select the photos you want to make private and then click on the Mark Private button. (Important Note: Primary photos cannot be made private). If you want the photos to be “switched” to private mode after sale, use the “Mark Private While Off-Market button instead.

Photos marked Private will have a bright red frame with the label PRIVATE at the bottom of the frame. A similar maroon frame will surround Private While Off-Market photos.

Make a Private Photo Public Again
If your client decides to restore photos to public mode, just select photos and click Mark Public to remove the Private designation and make those photos visible.

Viewing a Private Photo, Video, or Virtual Tour
When a photo, video or virtual tour has been marked private, a Private tag will be displayed when members view the media in search results. In addition, private photos will be displayed only on the private version of listing reports.

Private media displays a Private tag in Flexmls Pro for iOS/Android/Mobile Web. Private media is not available via the consumer portal or app.

Similar options for Private and Private While Off-Market are also available on the Virtual Tours page and Videos page for a listing.

MLS Board Of Directors Actions --5/26/20 

  • Added Section 7.2 to the MLS Rules and Regulations which permits the MLS to request a copy of the completed and signed listing agreement, the complete MLS data worksheet/correction form (if available), required MLS forms, or Sellers written direction at any time.
  • Although warnings for Clear Cooperation violations will begin June 1, fine assessments were delayed until July 1.

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