BAM Key Details: 

  • On August 9th, a cyber attack occurred on Rapattoni, a data host for multiple listing services (MLSs). As of August 15, affected MLSs were still experiencing outages. 
  • As the attack is being investigated, MLSs and real estate agents are working to find solutions for their clients. 

On August 9th, agents across the nation learned their MLSs were experiencing an outage. 

A couple of days later, they learned the reason for those outages—a cyber attack on Rapattoni, a Southern California data host that hosts multiple listing services for San Francisco Association of REALTORS® (SFARMLS), Bay Area Real Estate Information Service (BAREIS), Fresno Association of REALTORS®, and Multiple Listing Services of Greater Cincinnati (CincyMLS), among others. According to a report by T360, Rapattoni serves about 5% of MLSs in the United States.  

With the outages, agents are unable to update the statuses of listings, add new listings, or pull comps. That last one also affects appraisers, which is backing up the closing process for listings already under contract. 

The latest public update from Rapattoni was posted on its Facebook page on Saturday, August 12th: 

Rapattoni Update: We are continuing to investigate the nature and scope of the cyber-attack that has caused a system outage and we are working diligently to get systems restored as soon as possible. All technical resources at our disposal are continuing to work around the clock through the weekend until this matter is resolved. We still do not have an ETA at this time, but we will continue to update you and keep you informed of our efforts.

CincyMLS , SFARMLSFresno Association of REALTORS® and BAREIS MLS, four MLSs affected by the outages, have similar updates online. This means tens of thousands of real estate agents don’t know when they’ll be able to access their MLS again. 

MLSs Scramble for a Solution

The attack is reportedly being investigated by the FBI as Rapattoni’s insurance company is negotiating with ransomware individuals. Since each MLS affected has different settings and configurations, it’s been reported that it could take weeks—or even months—to rebuild them all. 

In the meantime, MLSs and real estate agents are working to find solutions for the short term. 

The Fresno Association of REALTORS® has been sending agents six to eight email updates a day, according to Jason Farris, founder of FresYes Realty and Tom Ferry Business Coach. In addition, it started a Listing Update Google Form, with updates going out on an hourly basis from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. Farris reported that very few agents are using the Google Form for listings. Many, including his team, are joining the regional CRMLS—another short-term solution that isn’t available to everyone affected. 

Brad Acree, a Realtor in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, spoke with BAM about the actions that CincyMLS is taking. 

I’ll give (CincyMLS)  credit in that regard — they are communicating. I get 2-3 emails a day. There’s also a private Facebook Group with leadership that has always been active. They are using those avenues to get information out.

Brad Acree

Realtor in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky

Aside from sending multiple emails a day with updates, CincyMLS initially started a new Facebook Group specifically for agents to share new listings. It quickly became apparent that the group wasn’t working, however, so they made the switch to a new, makeshift database for its members. While agents cannot update the status of listings uploaded prior to the outage, they can search and add new listings. As of Tuesday morning, it had about 200 listings, Acree stated. 

Agents Moving Forward For Their Clients

Today marks day seven of the MLS outages, with no timeline for getting back online. As agents work to find solutions for their clients, it brings up a lot of questions, especially regarding security and how much the real estate industry relies on MLSs. 

If you’re an agent, you need to think about, ‘How can I market my listings without relying on the MLS?’

Jason Farris

Founder, FresYes Realty

Farris is considering out-of-the-box solutions for his team, clients, and other agents in his market. This includes turning to Zillow for listing data, using RPR for comps, using the FresYes newsletter to market listings, and communicating with sellers about going on the market without the MLS. 

In addition, he’s inviting agents from any brokerage in his market to share listings on the FresYes email newsletter, which has over 80,000 local subscribers. While it may not reach everyone the MLS does, it will get new listings additional exposure. 

This is why you need to own your own data. This is why you should have a CRM. It’s why you need these big monster lists. And you need people to open the emails that you send…This is why we coach on this all the time. Own your data. Be a list builder. This is one of those times I’m grateful we have such an exhaustive list, and I just wish we had more.

Jason Farris

Founder, FresYes Realty

In Cincinnati, agents are also looking for ways to move forward, but not before reflecting on past decisions. Earlier this year, CincyMLS was supposed to roll out a new system. But when agents started sharing concerns about how a change to the system would disrupt their businesses, it got put on hold. Now, CincyMLS is working to expedite a new system for its agents. 

Acree noted that with this, he’s reflecting on what he’s put on hold in his own business, and is working to implement strategies to best serve his clients. 

I think the MLS has a ton to learn, but individually we can all learn from this. When something is broken or can be better, there is no disruption avoidance that is worth the wait. There’s so many things we put off. But if something can be better, fix it as soon as possible. We need to act and move quickly, rather than let ourselves get bogged down by the process.

Brad Acree

Realtor in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky