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Real Estate Associations

MLS-Subscriber surveys: more important than anyone imagines

With the majority of MLS providers missing a tremendous opportunity, members continue to suffer from lack of information and involvement. But there’s a fix.

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According to a recent Clareity Consulting survey, 58 percent of MLSs don’t survey their subscribers about MLS system satisfaction. That’s a huge missed opportunity. I suspect that many MLS executives – and subscribers who are on the boards of directors – don’t understand the tremendous benefit of conducting a well-constructed subscriber survey.

If subscribers understood the benefits that could result from their MLS surveying them, they would march en-masse to the MLS office and demand to be surveyed at once.

mls surveys

Becoming a Great Customer

When MLS staff goes to bat with their MLS software provider to get improvements made, how do they know what to ask for? That’s right, subscriber surveys.

Figuring out the Communications Gaps

So many times, when I perform an MLS survey, a member asks, “Why in the world doesn’t the MLS system do THIS!?” where “this” is something the MLS system already does. This opens up a number of opportunities to improve MLS service. MLS staff can reach out to the individual (through the survey provider, if the survey was conducted anonymously) to inform them about the “missing” feature.

And, if it seems to be a common issue, there’s an opportunity to communicate to subscribers more broadly about it. Maybe people don’t know about a feature because it’s just too buried in the software. In that case, it’s another opportunity for the MLS to be a great customer and advocate for a system interface improvement.

Communicating Benefits

Some MLSs mistakenly think that surveys are just for “taking the temperature” of subscribers. They couldn’t be more wrong. When a survey asks about a benefit or initiative (and links to more information about it), subscribers will find out about it, and will better appreciate all that their MLS does for them.

Illustrated below is the result of one MLS survey where 72 percent thought the MLS was doing a good or excellent job communicating with them, but 74 percent didn’t know about the impending MLS system rollout… at least until we did the survey! Surveys are great tools for communicating with members – not just for listening to them.

mls-surveys-graph

Speaking of listening…

Speaking of listening, one of the biggest mistakes MLSs make when they survey subscribers is to use simple multiple choice polls instead of surveys that include open-ended questions. Sometimes it’s useful to not ask about much of anything in particular. Just ask, “How can we improve?” and listen.

Measuring Service

Is service from MLS staff (and MLS software provider tech support, if applicable) up to snuff? Is it offered during the days and times it is needed? Are those answering the emails and calls knowledgeable, professional, friendly, and able to resolve problems quickly? What are the service targets and are they being reached?

Tool for Overall Accountability

Surveys aren’t just a tool for MLS staff to learn about the subscribers. They’re also a way for subscribers to learn about the MLS organization and how well (or not-so-well) it is being run. A concise report based on the survey results should go back to the board of directors and back to subscribers, providing accountability for the operation of the MLS.

Of course, for the survey to be useful, subscribers have to be willing to answer truthfully, which is why confidential, independent surveys are the way to go rather than using a survey created and analyzed by staff who are already subjects of the survey.

Surveys have limitations that must be recognized

If an MLS asks a question about a subject (i.e. product licensing or an MLS system selection) that requires a lot of education and discussion to understand fully, the answer won’t be useful. And sometimes decisions – especially strategic decisions – can only be made properly after a lot of research, not by getting a simple “yes or no” answer from those who haven’t put the time into understanding an issue.

But, what an MLS can learn from the survey is that there may be a need to communicate more about a strategic issue so that subscribers do understand why the leadership has made a decision. However, sometimes the MLS leadership has to do just that – lead. Just because a loud minority wants the MLS to be free doesn’t mean that doing so would be good for the organization or its subscribers.

The takeaway

The MLS is an important business system for real estate professionals, and it can be better. Using well-designed surveys correctly as a mechanism for benchmarking and transparency is crucial for MLSs and subscribers alike. A lot more than the current 42 percent of MLSs need to use surveys to gauge MLS system satisfaction. Getting there is a change that can be led by MLS organizations or by their subscribers.

#MLSsurveys

Matt Cohen has been with Clareity Consulting for over 17 years, consulting for many of the real estate industry’s top Associations, MLSs, franchises, large brokerages and technology companies. Many clients look to Matt for help with system selection and negotiation. Technology providers look to Matt for assistance with product planning, software design, quality assurance, usability, and information security assessments. Matt has spoken at many industry events, has been published as an author in Stefan Swanepoel’s “Trends” report and many other publications, and has been honored by Inman News, being listed as one of the 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders.

Real Estate Associations

NAR Board approves major MLS rule changes to take effect in January

The NAR Board has approved new MLS rules to improve transparency for consumers, all set to take effect in just a few weeks.

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To improve transparency in a time where forces are pushing to muddy waters, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced today that proposed changes to its guidance for local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) broker marketplaces have been approved by a Board of Directors vote.

The changes seek to “ensure disclosure of compensation offered to buyer agents, ensure listings are not excluded from search results based on the amount of compensation offered to buyer agents, and reinforce that local real estate agents do not represent brokerage services as free,” according to a NAR statement.

The following changes are set to take effect Jan. 1, 2022 (per NAR):

  • (1) Reinforce that local marketplace participants do not represent brokerage services as free. While Realtors® always have been required to advertise their services accurately and truthfully, this change creates a bright line rule on the use of the word “free” that is easy to follow and enforce.
  • (2) Ensure disclosure of compensation offered to buyer agents. The change bolsters transparency and Realtors®’ existing duties and practices to talk with their clients about what services they provide and how they are compensated.
  • (3) Ensure listings aren’t excluded from search results based on the amount of compensation offered to buyer agents. This changes wording to reiterate Realtors®’ existing duty to inform clients about all relevant properties meeting their criteria.

“Grounded in our commitment to act in the best interests of buyers and sellers, we regularly review and update our guidance for local broker marketplaces to continue to advance efficient, equitable and transparent practices,” said NAR President Charlie Oppler.

“These latest changes more explicitly state what is already the spirit and intent of the NAR Code of Ethics and local broker marketplace guidance regarding consumer transparency and broker participation,” Oppler noted.

Brokers we spoke with for this story unanimously agreed that this rule update simply codifies what was already what they believe to be the modern practice of real estate.

He added, “This is another example of NAR constantly evolving to ensure pro-consumer, pro-competitive marketplaces for buyers and sellers, and brokers. NAR is proud to be affiliated with the hundreds of local broker marketplaces around the country and will continue to tirelessly pursue changes that improve the real estate experience for all Americans.”

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Real Estate Associations

You know there’s a national real estate mentorship program, right?

(REAL ESTATE) It’s been a long time coming, but the call for mentorship in real estate has been realized thanks to the new NAR program. Here’s how to sign up.

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Mentor speaking with his mentee over mentorship video.

A mentor can help you grow and develop your knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, in the real estate industry, “being thrown into the deep end”, without proper mentoring, has become the norm. For years, we’ve said this shouldn’t be the case and those Realtors should be mentored so they can be set up for success. Now, the National Association of Realtors® has finally heard our cry for mentorship.

The NAR has a mentorship program that is “designed to help budding professionals in underserved areas thrive in a real estate career”. Named NAR Spire, the program will match mentees from “historically marginalized communities” with seasoned Realtors.

Those in the program will not just be exposed to the day-to-day business operations, but will also receive insights into marketing, appraisal, IT, and financing aspects of real estate. Along with that, they will be given educational opportunities, be able to attend business-related events, have one-on-one mentorship meetings, and have access to an online platform designed specifically for the program.

“NAR Spire is a groundbreaking new initiative designed and developed to drive inclusivity in the real estate industry,” said NAR CEO Bob Goldberg.

“We’ve reached beyond NAR’s walls to collaborate with partners across a number of industries,” Goldberg adds, “and we’re confident this program will help Realtors® enhance their reputation as invested, engaged and integral members of every U.S. community.”

You can join the program by completing an application form to become either a Mentor or Mentee.

After you’ve submitted your form, a program coordinator will evaluate your information to conduct a matching process. Your educational and professional background, experience, time availability, and location will all be taken into account to make a match.

When a match has been made, the Program Coordinator will provide you with your mentor/mentee contact details and make an introduction. Then, you will fill out an agreement, review guidelines, and complete an action plan.

Afterward, it’s up to the mentor and mentee to start the mentoring process.

According to the NAR website, the mentorship experience provides opportunities for both the mentor and the mentee, and I think we can agree that is true. For mentors, they will have the opportunity to coach the new kids to help them reach their full potential and also learn a thing or two in the process. For mentees, well, they will finally get the guidance they need to learn the ropes and thrive in their careers.

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Real Estate Associations

Why NAR’s Realtor Safety Network is so critical [personal story]

(REAL ESTATE) NAR has launched the meaningful Realtor Safety Network – here is a personal story, and an exclusive interview with NAR CEO, Bob Goldberg.

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It was a Wednesday evening, the sun would soon be setting, and I was exhausted after pulling an all-nighter the previous night. Our study group would continue, but as a safety-conscious person, I knew it was best to head out.

I walked alone, which was normal for a college student that lived on campus. I held my pepper spray at the ready, had my keys in hand before leaving the building, and was alert. Although tired, I knew I had enough energy to go to dinner with my grandparents.

I get to the full parking garage, and halfway to my car, I hear steps behind me. I look back, and no one is there. I didn’t even see someone duck behind a car. “I’m being paranoid,” I think. “Why is no one around? It’s a full lot!”

I take a few more steps, and I am confident that I hear someone coming up behind me. I turn around, and nothing. I’m ready to use my pepper spray because there is definitely someone following me and I needed to make a decision quickly.

I had three choices – run quickly to my car where I may or may not be able to close the door fast enough, turn back and walk with authority the way I came (risking confrontation), or just straight up confrontation.

I quicken my pace, they quicken theirs, and I know what is about to happen. I turn around so I’m not blindly ambushed by someone I cannot later identify, and it is someone I recognize. Someone I had a class with. But not someone I had ever spoken with before. I hadn’t calculated how I would react in that situation and it slowed me down.

My hesitation meant he was able to shove me, and I fell backwards.

I re-calculate my choices, but this time there was no hesitation because I already knew I was in danger. As I tried to get up, he poised himself to pounce, and I used the pepper spray, knowing I’d probably get a dose, too. I missed his forehead (which is the ideal target as it drips into their eyes, extending the impact), and mostly got his mouth, but enough got into his face that it stalled him.

I rolled over before he could fall on me, and I ran. I was only yards away from a large, densely populated building.

This was nearly 20 years ago, before cell phones were mainstream, and I quickly found help from the school who called police. I won’t go into how they brushed me off and nearly refused to write a report, didn’t want to look for the guy, and so forth.

But I notified my professor as to why I couldn’t possibly go to class the next day. She was the one who insisted the University get involved, and the city police take action. She knew his name and gave it to all entities. And she was the one who never made me step foot in that classroom again, just in case. I got a restraining order, and it apparently scared him enough to stay away, but I knew he could violate it at any moment, so I remained on alert. I’m still on alert today. For him or others that think I might be an easy target.

I later learned he had stalked dozens of students, and attacked several before and after he tried to get to me. He has been in and out of jail since then.

But I always had a nagging thought… what of the other potential victims? Back then, the schools didn’t have any sort of alert system (for school closings or mass shootings). An alert system of systemic attackers could have saved others from being harmed.

It is for this very personal reason that I was moved to hear of the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) new Realtor Safety Network, which was inspired by a Realtor’s child going missing (who is now safe).

NAR CEO, Bob Goldberg took the time to talk me through what the network does – it’s not a pointless group where people whine about missing pets, no, it is activated when there is a potential safety issue, be it physical or online.

NAR is now able to gather information about potential safety issues and either issue a national alert, or share the information through local and state associations via social media, email, and text where applicable.

At this time, it is not set up like an Amber Alert where you can opt in for texts (although I do hope this is ultimately an option), so we encourage members to read any email that is sent to them as an alert, and follow the social media hashtag, #realtorsafetynetwork.

They do have criteria that must be followed prior to a Realtor Safety Network alert being sent out by NAR. It must be a widespread threat impacting Realtors. Qualifying incidents include a pattern of assaults on Realtors, a Realtor or immediate family member going missing (and there is an open police investigation, and the family asks for NAR’s aide), or an association name is being used fraudulently to scam members out of money or identifying information.

Members and Association Executives can fill out a simple incident form, and Goldberg notes there is dedicated staff ready to respond.

While they are going to “continue to perfect” the program, it can be invoked immediately. Goldberg says that members are “our family,” and that the goal is to coordinate with local authorities to keep members safe physically, and keep their identities secured.

Goldberg notes that they intend on using the network sparingly, which makes perfect sense – remember when car alarms came out and you’d jump when one went off, but now you ignore all car alarms as a nuisance? The association has long offered Realtor Safety reports and statistics, as well as safety guidance and classes, but to see this meaningful step taken is one worthy of applause.

My inner 18 year old that still remembers the heart-in-my-throat fear of an impending attack thanks NAR. Truly.

This story was first published here in March of 2019.

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