The “Right” of Information
MLS information is ubiquitous , we’ve talked about it frequently. It’s no longer in a book under the desk, it’s no longer just in MLS, it’s spread across countless aggregators. The information is so spread out that many practitioners and certainly their Brokers have no idea where all their listing information is. The information is so readily available that consumers consider unfettered access to it an enumerated right. Evidence of this is exampled in the comments on this post at VARBuzz.com and this post, here on AgentGenius.com .
The existence of IDX , started with the concept of bringing a consumer back to a practitioners site, now it’s one of necessity and fulfillment of expectation. If you read the comments carefully, you’ll see that the consumer is not thankful for the information, you haven’t gained their loyalty; it’s simply anticipated. The thought is that website MLS access is now a utility, and not a service. The perception is therefore, that the buyer’s feel deserving of the material and are offended if it’s not openly available.
To an extent I agree – but not on behalf of the buyer. I think the Seller has a right to have their information in as many places as possible and with as little barrier as possible. The Seller has hired the agent to sell the home – not use it as Buyer Bait (or lead generation).
Apparently in an effort to serve the consumer, by adding this information to almost all agent sites we’ve negated a primary reason that Seller’s hire their agent. Yes, I know it isn’t the sole reason for the agent, and typically it’s the smallest part of the marketing and client representation; but it’s the most tangible to the Seller when looking to hire an agent.
“What does your pontification of IDX / MLS information, have to do with Agency?”, you might ask. I feel it’s leading us to a evolution of the industry that leads to sole buyer-agency in the future. With proliferation of the MLS data to IDX websites, the next evolution was to spread it out to Zillow, Trulia and others. But now, using Postlets.com and other such services, I can enter (for free) information into all the most popular sites, in minutes. Here’s a secret….so can the Unrepresented Seller. Let that sink in for a minute.
Agents are looking for ways to cut costs. With all the MLS Aggregators out there, how long do you think that it will take for an opensource MLS to actually work. They exist, it’s just that there are some barriers to change and lack of practical application to overcome – such as the mutual agreement to compensate a coop broker for their service. Well, if the commission is divorced from the Seller and the Buyer has to pay their own fees, why would one need to share commissions? I’ll leave explanation of the commission divorce to folks like Jim Duncan and Greg Swan who are far smarter about this topic, than I am.
Next Evolution of Agency
I am a huge fan of the abolishment of single agent dual agency. I have NEVER heard an argument FOR dual agency that I could buy into. Let me give you three sources of comments from those who are influential in Virginia Real Estate:
Realizing that cooperation with other real estate professionals promotes the best interests of those who utilize their services, REALTORS® urge exclusive representation of clients; do not attempt to gain any unfair advantage over their competitors; and they refrain from making unsolicited comments about other practitioners.
Paragraph 5 of the Preamble to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics (emphasis mine)
Don’t forget the problems caused by being a Dual Agent. The difficulties associated with this perfectly legal agency relationship seem to be on the increase. Be very careful to communicate and explain dual agency to prospects and clients and avoid dual representation if at all possible.”
Schafer Oglesby, Virginia Real Estate Board Chairman – 2006 Newsletter
Virginia law merely permits you to engage in it with the informed consent of the parties provided you act accordingly. Their informed consent, once obtained, does not mean the conflict ceases to exist, merely that the clients consent to your acting as a dual agent notwithstanding the existence of the conflict. This is an important point to remember: the conflict does not go away just because you get the requisite consent. You still must act in a manner consistent with the conflicting interests of your clients.
Lem Marshall, VAR Legal Counsel “Commonwealth Magazine 2004”
If you’re an agent practicing Dual Agency and get sued, how long do you think it’ll take an attorney to pull up these documents and the large number of posts warning against Dual Agency? A jury is going to have a hard time understanding why agents still pursue this archaic practice, while everyone is warning against it.
Do Not Fear
This is not the end of the industry as we know it, but a positive consumer-centric evolution. Practitioners that are looking at making Real Estate a Career, as opposed to a “job,” should be looking forward and learning how to evolve with the industry. People, for the most part will always need a highly trained and knowledgeable consultant; especially when times are tough. It is human nature to seek help, when needed and to pay for service, at times for conceiager service, if the value is seen.
With the changing landscape of the MLS, coupled with the push toward a more wholesome type of agency relationship, the real estate world is changing. Adaptation by the practitioner and removal of the mentality that says “the agent dictates how business is done” is going to be one of the most important focuses we can have. I don’t know about you, but I find it fascinating to be on the cusp of evolution.