I've talked to a number of real estate photographers in the last few months that are working for agents that seem to be confused or unaware of their MLS rules. I say that simply because a couple of things these real estate photographers are doing are explicitly against the rules of the MLS that I've been a member of for 10 years.
Here are the two things I'm talking about:
- Shooting a property when the listing agent nor the home owner is present: Sounds fairly benign right? But the Seattle area MLS has had a rule for the 10 years I was a member that says once the listing agreement is signed (typically before the photographer is engaged) the listing agent must be present at all times on the property with any "contractor" they let in the property. Yup, it's pretty clear that a real estate photographer is a "contractor". Not only that, but for all the time I was a member the Seattle area MLS had a $5,000 fine for any agents caught violating this rule.
- Uploading photos directly to the agents' MLS account for them: Most agents hate uploading photos to the MLS and many don't even know how to do it. Consequently, our real estate office had a office assistant that had a special MLS account that allowed her to create listings and upload photos for any agent in the office. Also, some agents have assistants that they delegate the job of uploading photos and entering listing data to. But the rules at my MLS have always been clear; MLS members are not allowed to give their MLS account and password to anyone else... like a photographer!
It's easy to understand that agents want to delegate these jobs. And as a real estate photographer wanting to provide good customer service, these are two of the first jobs you are likely to get sucked into in the name of giving good service. I'm not claiming that these two things violate the rules of all MLSs. I'm just saying these two things violate the rules in at least one large MLS in the US and it's highly likely they violate rules of many other MLSs too. So I recommend that if you participate in either of these activities, only do it with the blessing of local MLS. Don't just ask the agent about it, call your local MLS and ask them for a copy of their rules on these issues.