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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 and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, 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

9 ways to be more LGBTQIA+ inclusive at work

(OPINION EDITORIALS) With more and more people joining the LGBTQIA+ community it’d do one well to think about ways to extend inclusiveness at work.

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LGBTQIA+ people may have won marriage equality in 2015, but this momentous victory didn’t mean that discrimination was over. Queer and LGBTQIA+ identified people still have to deal with discrimination and not being in a work environment that supports their identities.

Workplace inclusivity may sound like the hottest new business jargon term on the block, but it actually just a professional way of making sure that everyone feels like a valued team member at the office. Business psychologists have found when people are happy to go to work, they are 12 percent more productive.

Making your business environment a supportive one for the queer community means you’re respecting employees and improving their workplace experience.

Here’s nine ways you can make your workplace more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ people.

1) Learn the basics.
If you’re wanting to make your workplace more open to LGBTQIA+ people, it’s best to know what you’re talking about. Firstly, the acronym LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual and the plus encompassing other identities not named; there are many variants on the acronym. Sexual orientations (like lesbian, gay, bisexual) are not the same as gender identities.

Transgender means that that person “seeks to align their gender expression with their gender identity, rather than the sex they were assigned at birth.” Cisgender means a person identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth. If you need a more comprehensive rundown about sexual orientation, gender identity, and the like, visit the GLAAD reference guide.

2) Stop using the word “gay” as an insult.
Or insinuating people you don’t like are “gay” together. This is the most basic thing that can be done for workplace inclusivity regarding the queer community. Anything that actively says that LGBTQIA+ people are “lesser” than their straight counterparts can hurt the queer people on your team and make them not feel welcome. It’s not cool.

3) Don’t make jokes that involve the LGBTQIA+ community as a punchline.
It’s not cute to make a “funny quip” about pronouns or to call someone a lesbian because of their outfit. This kind of language makes people feel unwanted in the workplace, but many won’t be able to speak up due to the lack of protections about LGBTQIA+ identities in anti-discrimination statutes. So stop it.

4) Support your colleagues.
If you’re in a situation and hear negative or inappropriate talk regarding the LGBTQIA+ community, stick up for your co-workers. Even if they’re not there, by simply expressing that what was said or done was inappropriate, you’re helping make your workplace more inclusive.

5) Avoid the super probing questions.
It’s okay to talk relationships and life with coworkers, but it can cross a line. If you have a transgender colleague, it’s never going to be appropriate to pry about their choices regarding their gender identity, especially since these questions revolve around their body.

If you have a colleague who has a differing sexual orientation than yours, questions about “how sex works” or any invasive relationship question (“are you the bride or the groom”) is going to hurt the welcomeness of your office space. Just don’t do it.

6) Written pronoun clarity is for everyone!
One thing that many LGBTQIA+ people may do is add their pronouns to their business card, email signature, or name badge for clarity. If you’re cisgender, adding your pronouns to these things can offer support and normalize this practice for the LGBTQIA+ community. Not only does it make sure that you are addressed correctly, you’re validating the fact that it’s an important business practice for everyone to follow.

7) Tokens are for board games, not for people.
LGBTQIA+ people are often proud of who they are and for overcoming adversity regarding their identity. However, it’s never ever going to be okay to just reduce them to the token “transgender colleague” or the “bisexual guy.”

Queer people do not exist to earn you a pat on the back for being inclusive, nor do they exist to give the final word on marketing campaigns for “their demographic.” They’re people just like you who have unique perspectives and feelings. Don’t reduce them just to a token.

8) Bathroom usage is about the person using the bathroom, not you.
An individual will make the choice of what bathroom to use, it does not need commentary. If you feel like they “don’t belong” in the bathroom you’re in due to their gender presentation, don’t worry about it and move on. They made the right choice for them.

An easy way to make restroom worries go away is creating gender neutral restrooms. Not only can they shorten lines, they can offer support for transgender, nonbinary, or other LGBTQIA+ people who just need to go as much as you do.

9) Learn from your mistakes.
Everyone will slip up during their journey to make their workplace more inclusive. If you didn’t use the correct pronouns for your non-binary colleague or misgender someone during a presentation, apologize to them, correct yourself, and do better next time. The worst thing to do is if someone corrects you is for you to shut down or get angry. An open ear and an open heart is the best way to make your work environment supportive for all.

The workplace can be a supportive environment for LGBTQIA+ people, or it could be a hurtful one, depending on the specific culture of the institution. But with some easy changes, it can be a space in which queer and LGBTQIA+ people can feel respected and appreciated.

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Opinion Editorials

“Starting a business is easy,” said only one guy ever

(OPNION EDITORIAL) Between following rules, finding funding, and gathering research, no business succeeds without lifting a finger.

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While browsing business articles this week, I came across this one, “Top 10 Business Ideas You Can Start for Free With Barely Lifting a Finger.” These types of articles make me mad. I can’t think of many successful freelancers or entrepreneurs who don’t put in hours of blood, sweat and tears to get a business going.

The author of the article is Murray Newlands, a “VIP Contributor.” Essentially, he’s a freelancer because he also contributes to Forbes, HuffPro and others. He’s the founder of ChattyPeople.com, which is important, because it’s the first business idea he promotes in the article.

But when I pull up his other articles on Entrepreneur.com, I see others like “How to Get Famous and Make Money on YouTube,” “Win Like A Targaryen: 10 Businesses You Can Start for Free,” and “10 Ventures Young Entrepreneurs Can Start for Cheap or Free.”

I seriously cannot believe that Entrepreneur.com keeps paying for the same ideas over and over.

The business ideas that are suggested are pretty varied. One suggestion is to offer online classes. I wonder if Newlands considered how long it takes to put together a worthy curriculum and how much effort goes into marketing said course.

Then, you have to work out the bugs, because users will have problems. How do you keep someone from stealing your work? What happens when you have a dispute?

Newlands suggests that you could start a blog. It’s pretty competitive these days. The most successful bloggers are ones that really work on their blog, every day. The bloggers have a brand, offer relevant content and are ethical in how they get traffic.

Think it’s easy? Better try again.

I could go on. Every idea he puts up there is a decent idea, but if he thinks it will increase your bottom line without a lot of hard work and effort, he’s delusional.

Today’s entrepreneurs need a plan. They need to work that plan, rethink it and keep working. They have to worry about liability, marketing and keeping up with technologies.

Being an entrepreneur is rewarding, but it’s hard work. It is incredibly inappropriate and grossly negligent to encourage someone to risk everything they have and are on the premise of not lifting a finger.

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Opinion Editorials

Why freelancers should know their worth

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Money is always an awkward talking point and can be difficult for freelancers to state their worth.

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Recently, I delved into what I’ve learned since becoming a freelancer. However, I neglected to mention one of the most difficult lessons to learn, which was something that presented itself to me rather quickly.

“What is your fee for services?” was not a question I had prepared myself for. When it came to hourly rates, I was accustomed to being told what I would make and accepting that as my worth.

This is a concept that needs multiple components to be taken into consideration. You need to evaluate the services you’re providing, the timeliness in which you can accomplish said services, and your level of expertise.

Dorie Clark of the Harvard Business Review believes that freelancers should be charging clients more than what they think they’re worth. The price you give to your clients is worth quite a bit, itself.

Underpricing can send a bad message to your potential clients. If they’re in the market for your services, odds are they are comparing prices from a few other places.

Having too low of a number can put up a red flag to clients that you may be under-experienced. What you’re pricing should correlate with quality and value; set a number that shows you do good work and value that work.

Clark suggests developing a network of trustworthy confidants that you can bounce ideas off of, including price points. Having an idea of what other people in your shoes are doing can help you feel more comfortable when it comes to increasing prices.

And, for increasing prices, it is not something that is going to just happen on its own. It’s highly unlikely for a client to say, “you know what, I think I’ll give you a raise!”

It’s important to never take advantage of any client, but it’s especially important to show loyalty to the ones that have always been loyal to you. Test the waters of price increasing by keeping your prices lower for clients that have always been there, but then try raising prices as you take on new clients.

At the end of the day, keep in mind that you are doing this work to support yourself and, theoretically, because you’re good at it. Make sure you’re putting an appropriate price tag on that value.

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