Sierra Martin | Managing Editor
On Tuesday, May 24, 2022, the Austin Board of Realtors (ABOR) sent a cease and desist letter to the Hays Central Appraisal District (HCAD) to stop using Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data. ABOR said they were made aware that an appraiser working for HCAD may have accessed data from their MLS system ACTRIS, violating their terms of service.
The overall market value of Hays County’s 2022 preliminary appraisal roll rose to $58.86 billion, up 53.27% from $38.41 billion in 2021, according to HCAD’s latest release of preliminary property values. If the sales prices of homes on MLS data was used by HCAD, it may result in higher assessed values for some homeowners in Hays County which could directly impact property taxes.
“We are actively investigating the source(s) of the unauthorized data access and how MLS data may have been inappropriately used in the appraisal of Hays County properties,” according to a letter sent by ABOR and ACTRIS Board of Directors President Cord Shiflet.
According to ABOR, unauthorized access to MLS data by an appraisal district or any other entity is unacceptable. In Texas, state government and local appraisal districts do not force buyers or sellers to report a property’s sale price.
“The Texas legislature has been clear about the respect, freedom, and privacy homeowners should have regarding their home purchases and sales, and we will not interrupt that expectation,” the letter stated.
ABOR also said that HCAD violated the rules regarding the authorized use of the MLS platform since they are not a government entity. Additionally, licensed appraisers with authorized access to the MLS are prohibited from sharing MLS data beyond providing appraisals for consumers.
The HCAD website says that home appraisals are made once every three years, and “each parcel of property in Hays County is visited and reviewed by an appraiser (or data collector) from the appraisal district in accordance with Texas Law.”
The HCAD website also says that they generally use three approaches when appraising a home: the cost approach, income approach and a sales approach. HCAD said they maintain a database of real estate transactions in order to complete the sales approach. Corridor News reached out to HCAD and did not receive a response for comment on the cease and desist letter.
CEO of Central Texas MLS, Beckie Whittier, said that appraisal districts are not supposed to have access to MLS data.
“The reason they don’t have access to our [MLS] data is [because] it’s not their data,” said Whittier. “The data is for the brokers and the participants and subscribers that pay for the service that are realtors and appraisers that are also realtors.”
According to ABOR, the unauthorized use of MLS data by county appraisal districts is an ongoing issue across the state of Texas. According to KVUE, in 2019, the Travis Central Appraisal District was similarly sent a cease and desist letter for the unauthorized use of ACTRIS MLS data.
ABOR also told their members that they are taking actions to “ensure full accountability from all parties enabling the unauthorized exploitation of ACTRIS MLS data.”
Emily Chenevert, Chief Executive Officer of ABOR, said they are taking the issue seriously and working to find a resolution for homebuyers and sellers in Hays County.
“The Austin Board of Realtors and ACTRIS MLS take issues of misuse of the MLS service seriously. The Texas legislature has been clear about the respect, freedom, and privacy homeowners should have regarding their home purchases and sales, and ABoR is not going to interrupt that expectation,” said Chenevert.
According to the ABOR ACTRIS MLS Rules and Regulations, within ten business days of receiving the cease and desist letter, the HCAD must either remove the unauthorized content or provide proof that the use is authorized. Any proof submitted will be considered by the MLS Compliance Committee or assigned staff, and they will decide if the use of the MLS data is authorized within thirty days.
“While we cannot offer further information at this time or speculation on potential outcomes or timelines, homebuyers and sellers should rest assured that we are working to find a resolution to this issue as quickly as possible.”
This is a developing story. San Marcos Corridor News will provide updates as they are made available.