The VOW Policy and other information regarding VOWs may be obtained by clicking on the links listed below. Contact the MRIS Compliance Department by Email or 301-838-7140 for questions on this subject.
We recommend that you periodically visit this page to check for updates.
Click to download: VOW Policy
- What is a VOW?
- If I already operate a VOW site, must I comply with the new VOW policy?
- What is the difference between VOW and on‐line advertising (third‐party aggregators) or IDX?
- Can I have both an IDX site and a VOW?
- Does a broker need to obtain an additional license to operate a VOW?
- What is a broker‐consumer relationship?
- My brokerage is located in/offers services in more than one state. Do I have to follow the agency laws for each state if I operate a VOW?
- Are agents allowed to have their own VOW separate from their Brokers?
- What is an AVP, and am I responsible for my AVP?
- Does the VOW policy apply to non‐REALTORS®?
- What if my seller does not want his or her property or property’s address displayed on VOW sites?
- Some VOW sites will offer automated valuation or blogging features. Can the seller request that these features be turned off?
- How do I enter my seller’s opt out requests in Keystone?
- What are the requirements to have a VOW site?
- Does MRIS currently have a VOW policy?
- If I am not licensed in a state, can I provide VOW services in that state?
- How do I get the listing content for my VOW site?
What is a VOW?
A VOW, or “Virtual Office Website” is a website, or feature of a website, operated by or for a Broker, having the following features:
- the Broker is capable of providing real estate brokerage services to consumers with whom the Broker has first established a Broker-consumer relationship (as defined by local state law), and
- the consumer has the opportunity to search MLS informational content, subject to the Broker's oversight, supervision, and accountability.
If I already operate a VOW site, must I comply with the new VOW policy?
Yes, all VOW sites using MRIS informational content must comply with the new rules within 180 days of MRIS disclosing its new VOW policy.
What is the difference between VOW and on‐line advertising (third‐party aggregators) or IDX?
1. VOW: In the simplest sense, VOW sites enable brokers to provide brokerage services online.
Central to a VOW is the ability to create broke-consumer relationships in the online environment (i.e., through the VOW), as an alternative to bricks-and-mortar operations.
As noted in the definition of the VOW, above, the VOW broker assumes the same level of oversight, supervision and accountability assumed by a Bricks and Mortar brokers. A broker may not opt out of having its listings displayed on another broker’s VOW site.
2. IDX: IDX provides a means for MRIS brokers to display the Active, Contingent and Sold listings of other participating MRIS brokers who have consented to the display of their listings. Establishing broker-consumer relationships is not required of IDX sites.
IDX allows opt-out. That is, the listings of brokers who have opted out of IDX will not display on other MRIS broker web sites. Likewise, brokers opting out of IDX may not use IDX to display the listings of other participating brokers.
3. Online Advertising: On-line advertising generally refers to the display of a broker’s listing information on a non-broker website. As a general practice, each listing broker may determine where and on what advertising sites the broker wishes to have its listing information displayed
Can I have both an IDX site and a VOW?
Yes. VOW and IDX are not mutually exclusive, but their focus is on offering different types of relationships, and services, to those visiting the sites.
Does a broker need to obtain an additional license to operate a VOW?
It is MRIS’s understanding that presently no such additional requirements are required. VOW sites function within the context of the MRIS Rules and Regulations, each subscriber’s MRIS Subscription Agreement, and the state laws and regulations that generally apply to each broker’s license and pract-ice of real estate generally.
MRIS strongly recommends that anyone contemplating operating a VOW obtain counsel from the appropriate state authorities of any requirements that may be specific to the jurisdiction in which you offer your services.
What is a broker‐consumer relationship?
In the general sense, it describes the relationship between a broker and a client, and the “rules of engagement” under which a broker provides its services.
Broker-Consumer relationships are defined by local state licensing and agency laws. These laws, and the related rules and regulations, vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
My brokerage is located in/offers services in more than one state. Do I have to follow the agency laws for each state if I operate a VOW?
--The short answer is: most likely yes. But on this point, MRIS recommends that you seek counsel familiar with the laws of each state in which you do business or offer services.
Multi-jurisdictional practice often raises complex questions that are best answered by an advisor or state authority having all of the facts relevant to your particular circumstance.
MRIS cannot – and does not – provide legal guidance regarding the business of its subscribers. Nothing in this FAQ is intended to be, or should be considered, legal counsel.
Are agents allowed to have their own VOW separate from their Brokers?
Only a Broker and its licensees may operate a VOW site. Any VOW site operated by an agent is subject to the broker’s approval, oversight and accountability.
What is an AVP, and am I responsible for my AVP?
AVP stands for “Affiliated VOW Partner.” An AVP is a vendor, or other service provider, that operates a VOW on behalf of a Broker, subject to the Broker’s supervision, accountability and terms of the VOW policy.
In other words, a broker does have responsibilities for the actions of its AVP.
Does the VOW policy apply to non‐REALTORS®?
Yes. MRIS Rules and Regulations apply to all of its customers, whether or not they are REALTORS®.
What if my seller does not want his or her property or property’s address displayed on VOW sites?
A seller may opt out of having his or her property displayed on VOW sites. However, if a seller does opt of having his or her property displayed on VOW sites, the seller’s listings may not be displayed on any other publicly accessible Internet site. In other words, there is no VOW-specific opt out. Likewise, if a seller decides to opt out of having the property’s address displayed, the property address will not display on any publicly accessible Internet sites.
Some VOW sites will offer automated valuation or blogging features. Can the seller request that these features be turned off?
Yes. To do so, the seller must notify the listing broker, who will, in-turn, enter the seller’s request in Keystone. The request will be transmitted to website developers via RETS.
How do I enter my seller’s opt out requests in Keystone?
There are four fields in Keystone which address seller opt out options. They are:
- Seller Authorizes Listing on Internet
- Seller Authorizes Listing Address on Internet
- Seller Authorizes Automated Valuation of Listing
- Seller Authorizes Blogging Features
The four fields are mandatory YES/NO fields. If the seller wishes to opt out of one or more of the fields, the listing broker must change the default from “YES” to “NO”, indicating not authorized.
These fields are located in the Contract section of Keystone.
What are the requirements to have a VOW site?
MRIS has a created a separate document to specify the requirements for establishing a VOW site using MRIS content. Some of these requirements are technical in nature.
In accordance with the VOW policy, MRIS does not restrict the format of data display on a VOW or regulate the appearance of VOWs. It is the Broker’s responsibility to assure that its VOW is compliant with all relevant legal requirements and the rules governing the conduct of the Broker’s business.
Does MRIS currently have a VOW policy?
MRIS is instituting a formal VOW policy for the first time. This policy is designed to meet the requirements of the court approved settlement of the lawsuit between the National Association of REALTORS® and the Department of Justice.
The MRIS VOW policy is an addendum to the MRIS Rules and Regulations, and may downloaded and viewed above.
If I am not licensed in a state, can I provide VOW services in that state?
You will need to check with the appropriate state Real Estate Commission or Board to determine what services you may offer if you are not licensed.
How do I get the listing content for my VOW site?
MRIS provides listing content via a RETS feed.
Back to Top