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75 big brokers to refuse adding listings to MLS, forming alternative MLS?

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Data remains a contentious topic

Recently, the invitation-only Realty Alliance bi-annual conference took place with no members of the press in sight. The Realty Alliance network of elite real estate firms is comprised of top brokers across America and Canada and accounts for a large share of the real estate industry. Although press was not invited, various sources have told AGBeat that the destination of Realty Alliance member data continues to be highly contentious. This spring, Realty Alliance was influential in the shaping of IDX rules and sources tell AGBeat that the group came together on the topic of data use at the most recent conference, with roughly 75 top brokers allegedly discussing seceding from their MLS, and banding together to build a national MLS run by brokers to exclude Zillow, Trulia and other media companies like Realtor-backed Realtor.com.

“There was no banding together,” The Realty Alliance President and CEO, Craig Cheatham told AGBeat. “Our members are fiercely independent and make independent business decisions based upon their business model and local/regional market factors. There certainly was no decision to band together and no effort even to try to encourage collective action of any kind. Our member firms make decisions with their MLSs and various vendors that fall all across the spectrum and they reevaluate those periodically based on local factors. If you see any trend among real estate brokerages in the coming months it should be traced to predictable industry reaction to overall trends in the offerings and business rules of MLSs and outside vendors.”

Seceding from the Union?

Cheatham may be right that there is no public or official move to band together, but our sources note that there is certainly a strong conversation about seceding from the union, if you will, which makes one wonder what would happen if this actually came to fruition. It is an admirable thought, but it might be a decade too late and could create massive backlash against brokers that pull out of the MLS. Our sources note that some brokers in the group are sedate on the topic while others have strong intentions to move forward with the conversation, and it brings up the age old subjective question – who does real estate data belong to? Does it belong to the MLS, the association, the brokers, the agents, the aggregators or the consumers?

Advantages and disadvantages

Unfortunately, the cat (data) is already out of the bag and seceding now may be too little too late. Consumers wouldn’t even know that listings are missing from Zillow/Realtor.com/Trulia despite broker secession and the true value of data is only when it is in full, so the Realty Alliance national MLS site would be at the biggest disadvantage. All aggregators (like Zillow or HotPads) would have to do is run a campaign in those local markets inviting consumers to add or tweak their own listings if their broker won’t.

It would give aggregators something to rally against and playing the victim card would tap into the existing generic distrust of the traditional real estate industry. Also, consumers and agents alike could buck a broker-centric system altogether, which is what gave birth to the aggregators in the first place as the industry moved away from broker power toward empowering local agents and consumers.

Another problem with any group of brokers thinking about restricting their listings to only being featured on their own national site is that the Trulias of the world have a massive head start on recruiting the best and brightest technology talent in the business. They recruit from Google and Apple which are in their back yards. With The Realty Alliance based in Dallas, is it really possible to hire hundreds of highly expensive experts to create this national MLS that could even come close to comparing to Trulia? There is much more to running a listings site than following IDX rules, there is a culture of search and a fine science to it that is still barely understood, even by those specializing in it for the last ten years.

The takeaway:

Whether it’s true that the discussion happened or will come to fruition or not, the idea of real estate data being owned and operated by the very practitioners that brought them to market makes sense and is admirable, but seceding from the union is probably a decade too late and could not only end up boosting aggregators and giving them a platform to rally against, it could come across as greedy and uninformed as consumers believe it is their data, not the broker’s, and no matter how well-meaning the conversation is, it might be too late and could ultimately further harm the industry and consumer sentiment toward the industry.

The Realty Alliance has been fairly tight lipped as no one wants to go on the record, which makes sense, however, meaningful discussion cannot happen behind closed doors because the bigger picture cannot be seen without a diversity of entities being part of the discussion.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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86 Comments

86 Comments

  1. Jody Cowdrey

    October 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Regardless of their goals or intentions, I'd love to see them honestly explain to a client how, in the vast majority of situations, limiting their listing data to anything less than the maximum amount of exposure possible is somehow more helpful to them.

    • Bill Rovillo

      October 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm

      Jody, I think the point Realty Alliance is making is that with syndication, Brokers make less money and receive less leads.
      As a husband of a Broker/Owner, I agree. I've seen it with my own eyes over the past 17 years. Please see my post on Listing Sin-dication to see where you may be leaving money on the table..
      https://imapp.com/blog/2011/04/listing-sin-dication/

  2. Rachel LaMar, J.D.

    October 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I second what Jody says above…this is just going to make our industry look ridiculous and seem less trustworthy – not a good thing.

    • Jake

      October 27, 2011 at 8:51 am

      I'm baffled at how this makes our industry look any MORE ridiculous and LESS trustworthy than it does now. We feed them erroneous data to millions and millions of websites and mislead them into thinking folks that paid top dollar for advertising are actually the listing agent or actually top buyer agents in the area. They don't know what an MLS is, they don't know what VOW is, they don't know what an IDX is they don't understand syndication, they don't even know what the word Realtor even means. The consumer couldn't distrust us anymore and they have every reason not to.

  3. Robert Drummer

    October 26, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Joe Horning from Shorewest REALTORS® (WI) gave an interesting presentation at MLS Cloud in Houston:

    "MLSs are guilty as an accomplice to the Syndication Crime"

    https://www.slideshare.net/secret/Enclqx9WdIHylH

    It gives insight into the mind of the large broker, or at least Shorewest.

  4. Bill Rovillo

    October 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    The author mentions twice that Realty Alliance is "too late" with their ideas.
    I couldn't disagree more with this and many other points she makes.
    And if someone wants to turn a "wrong" into a "right", what difference does it make when it happens? a year, 5 or 10 years down the road?
    Doing nothing is what is wrong.

  5. Ken Brand

    October 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Compelling Arguments both ways are possible.

    To me the take away is that everything about the real estate business is warping, shifting and morphing, at a speed we've never seen before. Adventurous times, unless you're standing still, then it's a steamroller.

    Great article Lani, thanks.

  6. Demetri Koutsokostas

    October 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    As a broker whose office does both commercial and residential transactions, I see both sides of the spectrum. Most commercial real estate never makes it to an MLS and somehow that part of our business is the strongest and provides a more loyal and satisfied client base. On the residential side, we pay fees to put our listings on the mls, other companies make money off our listings, and if that's not enough, they turn around and charge us for services which they couldn't provide if it weren't for our listings. Residential real estate took a wrong turn a long time ago and I don't see it making a u-turn.

  7. Rosy at ComFree

    October 27, 2011 at 7:58 am

    This is not going to be an easy battle to take on. The MLS is one of the most well-known real estate websites in North America, however, the way real estate is sold nowadays is ever-changing and perhaps it's time to revisit the way business is being conducted.

  8. Jacob Clayton

    October 27, 2011 at 8:37 am

    This is by far some of the most encouraging news I've read about this industry since I entered it 6 years ago. I always thought I was alone in feeling this way but it's incredibly wonderful to see that others are interested in righting this incredible wrong. It hasn't been an easy fight for me the last few years but nothing worth having is easily attained and fighting the tide against years of brainwashing and bad behavior is always difficult but if it weren't for those willing to step out and make a difference….what a sad and pathetic world we would live in.

  9. Russ Bergeron

    October 27, 2011 at 8:57 am

    At MRED we don't send data to Zillow, Trulia, ListHub, etc. – the brokers do, including the Realty Alliance members. In markets where a firm, or a couple firms have more than 50-60% market share they can probably take a stand and refrain from syndication. But until that happens it is hard to turn your back on 90 plus percent of the real estate internet traffic.

    Russ Bergeron
    MRED

  10. Joe Zekas

    October 28, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Curious that no one has mentioned the very serious antitrust issues involved in brokers discussing anything of this sort at a forum like the Realty Alliance.

    In my long-ago days as an attorney representing trade associations I would have put an immediate and forceful end to the discussion within seconds of its having begun.

    • Robert Drummer

      October 28, 2011 at 5:01 am

      The headline ends with a question mark and the CEO stated "There certainly was no decision to band together and no effort even to try to encourage collective action of any kind."

      The rest of the article is speculation and "what if".

      It's a great topic but people are drawing conclusions about this group based on speculation.

  11. Jimmy welch

    October 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Because the MLS has such a recognized name, I think it would be highly difficult to spin off and have a different site. Neither sites would be fully reliable because they would be incomplete. Interesting though…

  12. Joe Rivera

    November 2, 2011 at 10:11 am

    "What matters most" to consumers? It certainly is not one more MLS Website. What matters most to consumers is receiving real (no pun intended) professional "fiduciary" counseling, in regards to all the "data" that consumers are reading on the Internet everyday. The "data" can not provide fiduciary counseling, only a professional real estate agent can provide it. Take a minute and read what Mollie Wasserman, of "ACRE" (Accredited Consultant in Real Estate) has to say about this. The "ACRE" Agent is going to be the future of real estate bokerage. It's about fiduciary counseling not "selling".

  13. Venita Peyton

    November 2, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    As a smaller business, I'm weary from paying higher and higher MLS fees – for little value. I now mostly represent Buyers who don't mind the lesser drama of working with FSBOs. When the big youngins' play, it's US little youngins' who pay.

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Opinion Editorials

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?

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Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

How Peloton has developed a cult-following

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has Peloton gotten so popular? Turns out there are some clear takeaways from the bike company’s wildly successful model.

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Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Peloton is certainly not the first company to gain a cult-like following–in the past we’ve talked about other brands with similar levels of devotion, like Crossfit and Yeti. Now, full disclosure: I’m not an exercise buff, so while I’d vaguely heard of Peloton–a company that sells stationary bikes–I had no idea it was such a big deal.

I mean, it’s not really surprising that an at-home bike that offers the option for cycling classes has grown so much during the pandemic era (a sales growth of 172% to be exact). But Peloton has been highly popular within its fanbase for years now. So, what gives? A few factors, actually.

Vertical Integration

If your company really wants to guarantee the vision and quality you’re aiming for, one of the best ways to enact it is through vertical integration, where a company owns or controls more than one part of its supply chain. Take Netflix, for example, which not only distributes media, but creates original media. Vertical integration lets companies bypass areas that are otherwise left to chance with third-party suppliers.

Peloton uses vertical integration–everything from the bike to its Wi-Fi connected tablet to the classes taught are created by Peloton. Although this may have made the bike more expensive than other at-home exercise bikes, it has also allowed Peloton to create higher quality products. And it’s worked. Many people who start on a Peloton bike comment on how the machine itself is well-built.

Takeaway: Are there any parts of your business process that you can improve in-house, rather than outsourcing?

Going Live

But with people also shelling out $40 a month for access to the training regimen Peloton provides, there’s more going on than simply high-quality craftsmanship.

Hey, plenty of cults have charismatic leaders, and Peloton is no exception. Okay, joking about the cult leader part, but really, people love their trainers. Just listen to this blogger chat about some of her favorites; people are connecting with this very human element of training. So much so that many people face blowback when suggesting they might like training without the trainers!

The trainers are only part of this puzzle though–attending live classes is a large draw. Well, as live as something can be when streamed into your house. Still, with classmate usernames and stats available while you ride, and teachers able to respond in real time to your “class,” this can simulate an in-person class without the struggle of a commute.

Takeaway: People want to see the human side of a business! Are there any ways your company could go live and provide that connection?

Getting Competitive

Pandemic aside, you can get a decent bike and workout class at an actual gym. But the folks at Peloton have one other major trick up their sleeve: Competition. Whether you’re attending a live session or catching up on a pre-recorded ride, you’re constantly competing against each other and your own records.

These leaderboards provide a constant stream of goals while you’re working out. Small accomplishments like these can help boost your dopamine, which can be the burst of good feeling you need while your legs are burning mid-workout. With this in mind, it’s no wonder why Peloton fans might be into it.

Takeaway: Is there a way to cater to your audience’s competitive side?

Conclusion

At the end of the day, of course, Peloton also has the advantage of taking a unique idea (live-streamed cycle classes built into your at-home bike) and doing it first. Plus, they just happened to be poised to succeed during a quarantine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what Peloton is doing right to build your own community of fanatics. There are plenty of people out there just waiting to get excited about a brand like yours!

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Opinion Editorials

How a simple period in your text message might be misinterpreted: Tips to improve your virtual communication

(OPINION/EDITORIAL) Text, email, and IM messages may be received differently depending on your communication style and who you’re communicating with. Here’s some ways to be more mindful.

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Black woman smiling in communication talking on phone and laptop in front of her.

Life is full of decisions, learning, hopefully some adventure, and “growth opportunities” through our careers and work. One that some of us may have never considered is how our text, email or IM communication comes across to the receiver – thus providing us a growth opportunity to take a look at our own personal communication styles.

It may have never occurred to us that others would take it a different way. After all, we know ourselves, we can hear our voices in our heads. We know when we are joking, being sarcastic, or simply making a statement. The way we communicate is built upon how we were raised, what our English teachers stressed, and even what we’ve been taught through our generational lens.

NPR put out an article recently, “Are Your Texts Passive-Aggressive? The Answer May Lie in Your Punctuation”. This article discussed what to consider in regards to your punctuation in text.

“But in text messaging — at least for younger adults — periods do more than just end a sentence: They also can set a tone.” Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist and author of the book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, told NPR’s All Things Considered last year that when it comes to text messaging,”the period has lost its original purpose. Rather than needing a symbol to indicate the end of a sentence, you can simply hit send on your message.”

While it may seem silly that the receiver would think you are mad at them because you used a period, here are some things to consider in our virtual communication now that we are all much more digital:

  • There are no facial expressions in a text except for emojis (which, even then, could be left up to misinterpretation)
  • There’s no sound of voice or inflection to indicate tone
  • We are emailing, texting, and sending instant messages at an alarming rate now that we are not having as many in-person interactions with our colleagues

Gen Z (b. 1995 – 2015), who are the most recent generation to enter the workplace, grew up with much quicker forms of communication with their earlier access to tech. They’ve had a different speed of stimulation via YouTube videos, games, and apps. They may have never experienced the internet speed via a dial-up modem so they are used to instantaneous results.

They also have quickly adapted and evolved through their use of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and now TikTok. The last two platforms are designed for pretty brief attention spans, which indicates our adaptation to fast communication.

Generational shaming is out and uncomfortable but necessary conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion are in (which includes ageism). You can’t just chalk it up as “those kids” don’t understand you, or that they need to learn and “pay their dues”.

So if you are of an older generation and even a manager, here are some considerations that you can take regarding your virtual communications:

1. Consider having yourself and your team take a DiSC assessment.

“The DiSC® model provides a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviors with others — within a work team, a sales relationship, a leadership position, or other relationships.

DiSC profiles help you and your team:

  • Increase your self-knowledge: How you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress, and how you solve problems
  • Improve working relationships by recognizing the communication needs of team members
  • Facilitate better teamwork and teach productive conflict
  • Develop stronger sales skills by identifying and responding to customer styles
  • Manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members

This quiz is designed to help you identify your main communication style. It helps you to be more conscious of how your style may come across to others. Does it builds relationships, or create silent conflicts? It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change, but you can adapt your style to best fit your team.

2. Always ask your direct reports about their preferred method of communication (call, text, email, IM, meeting).

Retain this information and do your best to meet them where they are. It would also be helpful to share your preferred method with them and ask them to do their best to meet you where you are.

3. Consider putting composed emails in your drafts if you are fired up, frustrated, or down right angry with your team.

You may feel like you are being direct. But since tone will be lost virtually, your message may not come across the way you mean it, and it may be de-motivating to the receiver. Let it sit in drafts and come back to it a little bit later. Does your draft say all you need to say, or could it be edited to be a little less harsh? Would this be better as a meeting (whether video or phone) over a written communication? Now the receiver has a chance to see you and have a conversation rather than feeling put on blast.

And finally, be curious.

Check out Lindsey Pollak’s books or podcast on the best ways to work with a variety of generations in your organization. Lindsey is a Multigenerational Work Expert and she does a great job explaining her research to drive multigenerational workplace success. She gives ideas on what all employees, managers, and even corporations should consider as we experience so many generations and communication styles in the workplace at the same time.

You may laugh that your children or employees think you are mad at them when you use a period in a text. But there’s a lot more behind it to consider. It may take adaptation on all sides as communication styles and the “future of work” continue to evolve.

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