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Op/Ed

The end of the MLS is near… maybe

With all of the predictions surrounding the death of the MLS, let’s talk about how this could happen at the hands of the industry instead of outsiders. This will be a tough pill to swallow for many.

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mls end is near

It has been said many times throughout history, “the end is near.” Nostradamus, the Bible, and even the Fortune Teller under the Boardwalk in Atlantic City have predicted it. In the MLS space, many have predicted the end of MLS. Consultants, MLS gurus, association executives, and the Fortune Teller under the Boardwalk in Atlantic City have all predicted MLS will go away.

All these predictions have been wrong… so far.

Love/Hate Relationship With MLS

For some, the end of the MLS would feel like the end of the world, but some seem to be gleefully looking forward to it. There is a love/hate relationship between Realtors and the MLS. Notoriously an independent group, Realtors hate the rules, fines, restrictions, and frustrating technology of the MLS. At the same time, they love the comprehensive data, easy distribution of listings, and the rich business tools that feed off of the data.

Realtors also love and/or hate the cost of the MLS. If you only have to join one MLS to operate in your marketplace, the MLS is generally a good value and very few complain about the price. Unfortunately, marketplaces have expanded over the years and many have to pay multiple MLS fees to operate their business. Only a few things make Realtors crankier than having to pay multiple MLS fees.

It is easy to understand why paying multiple times for the same service is not popular. What if you had to pay one phone service to call people in your city/area, another one to call people in the city 50 miles to the east, and a third carrier to call folks 50 miles to the west? And, you could not call other states unless you had that state’s phone license and paid various vendor fees in each of those states?

Even worse than having to pay to join multiple MLS systems is the fact that you have to enter the same data into each of those systems. And the final straw? Each system operates differently, with different technology and different rules.

So to recap, having to join multiple MLS systems means Realtors have more costs, more work, more systems to master, and more rules to learn. No wonder this makes them cranky, and no wonder some are begging for a national MLS.

So, Why Don’t We Fix This?

The problems with the current set up of MLS are easy to understand, but the solutions are much more complex. First, let’s start with the fact that there are 800+ MLS systems in the United States. That’s 800+ different sets of rules, 800+ different databases, and 800+ different groups of professionals providing local services to members. That’s almost 50 gazillion different variables to overcome.

Even if you suspend disbelieve and assume that we can actually overcome the organizational challenges, the human challenges are much more complex. The complexity of the human side of the issue can be compared to Congress, another significantly inefficient and dysfunctional American institution. Most Americans think their member of Congress is not the problem. Most Realtors, in much the same way, think their MLS is not the problem. In both cases, it is the rest of the country that’s so screwed up.

Like politics, all real estate is local. We have trouble looking beyond our own little world to see the bigger picture. In addition, like politics, we have a bunch of people willing to point out the flaws, but few leaders are willing to step up and lead us to a solution. Perhaps no leaders have appeared because the problem is so complex and emotionally charged that the likelihood of a solution is not worth the effort.

MLS is the third rail for Realtor politics.

Tough Love and Tough Leaders Needed

A wise person once said, “don’t just bring me your problems, bring me your solutions.” All right, here are the five steps to fix the problem:

  1. NAR must stop ducking the issue and publicly declare it is in the best interest of the industry to have a National MLS. The issue will never be fixed on a comprehensive scale by the state or local associations without national leadership.
  2. Create a policy that local associations have to stop using MLS revenues to subsidize non-MLS programs. Currently, many associations have not raised dues to pay for rising association expenses because they use MLS revenue to subsidize other activities. This will likely require a 5-year transition.
  3. Develop a mandatory common database structure, with standard fields and field names. We got halfway there with RETS (Real Estate Transaction Standards), but each MLS is allowed to do things differently. This has to stop. Lock ten really smart people in a room and don’t let them out until they develop a standard we are all required to follow. Again a 5-year transition may be required after the standard is developed.
  4. After standardization, merge the 800+ databases into one national database backbone that hosts the data for all MLS systems. Realtors already have three national databases with NRDS, RPR and realtor.com, so while we’re at it, let’s make sure they all work on this same common database.
  5. Scrap the name MLS and come up with a new one that can be branded by the Realtor organization and delivered as a dues-based service. Members will have access to the common database as a member benefit included in their dues, and non-members will have to pay for access. No more “joining” the MLS; instead each member will purchase the software of their choice to access the Realtor database and the access to the data will be included in dues.

Will this be easy or popular? No way. Will lots of great people who run MLS systems lose their jobs? Unfortunately, yes. Will the leaders of NAR take a lot of heat? Count on it. No matter what the solution, this is going take tough love to push associations/members away from the status quo and tough leaders who can stand tall and take the heat.

Will this be the end of MLS? Maybe, but it is better to dictate your own changes, than lay in wait for others to dictate them to you.

Dave is a 20+ year veteran in Realtor® association management and leadership and is currently the CEO of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors®. He is a writer, speaker, strategic planner, and life-long learner with a passion for creative thinking. Dave has published his first novel For Reasons Unknown and will be publishing his second by the end of the year.

Op/Ed

How to keep your business partner on your same page during COVID-19

(EDITORIAL) COVID-19 has a lot of people worrying about themselves, their families, and their friends, but one that doesn’t get brought up much is business partner.

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Business partner

In the age of COVID – we are all having conversations about our personal wellness. Story after story, we are encouraged to be reflective about our self-care to ourselves, our families, and our employers.

Our business partners, while being in the same storm as us, are not always in our same boat.

They have unique situations, perspectives, and needs. To maintain that business relationship, you need to start thinking about how you can communicate your situation to them.

This is a critical piece of communication. You should be mindful of this beyond a simple “I’m at home and may be delayed in answering email” kind of message.

Honesty and openness are essential to good business partnership, but you want to craft the right message to assure your business partner and protect yourself. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind for the content of your message:

  • Identity your primary message. What are you trying to do? Why is it essential for them to know? What do they need to know to keep the business afloat, and manage their expectations. You may need to refresh yourself on any existing structural agreements or roles. We often pick business partners for their skills sets in relation to our own – if you’re doing all the numbers and purchasing, explain to them how the current situation will impact your ability to do that.
  • Say “why”. You do not need to dump all the things you have going on to your business partner – but rather explain things in a way that is relevant to them. This will keep your conversation brief and to the point. A good example of this is to say “We normally have morning meetings with clients, but since my kids are being homeschooled in the morning, I need to have them in the afternoon”. This gives a clear explanation of what you need, and why your business partner should care.

Before you get on the meeting:

  • Recognize differences and see where you can compromise and where you cannot compromise. Your health should be number one. This is not the time to endanger your health or radically disrupt the things you do to stay healthy. But also, if there are places where you can adjust or be flexible, be willing to do that. This is useful when you and your business partner are in different time zones or life situations. The situation around us is changing every day – and is different by region, state, or even city. Communicate changes or challenges promptly and with clarity.
  • Set up the conversation. When is the best time? Is it in evening with an informal “Zoom happy hour?” When does your partner prefer communication? Are they morning people? Are they better after a few hours and coffee? Timing is everything. Especially if the conversation is tough.

Number one? Keep communication open. Nothing makes people more anxious than a partner you can’t get in contact with. There are lots of tools and technology we can utilize. Have a regular check in – and communicate frequently. This will keep heads cool and ensure that the relationship you have is protected.

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Op/Ed

The music you’re listening to may dictate your productivity levels

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Whether it’s a podcast, news, or music, most people are listening to *something* while at work – so what listening improves your productivity?

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music for productivity

For some, productivity requires a state of concentration that can only be achieved in silence. But workplaces are seldom so quiet, and truth be told, most of us prefer to have some background music playing while we work. Some people swear they can’t work or study without it.

Personally, I find music helpful for encouraging productivity and creativity. It distracts the part of my brain that would normally be chattering away – the voice in my head worrying, wondering, and daydreaming. I find that music neutralizes this inner voice, freeing up my brain to focus on the task at hand.

More and more research backs up what many of us experience – a state of enhanced calm, focus, and creativity when we listen to music while working. Deep Patel at Entrepreneur.com has a list of the best types of music to serve as the soundtrack to your workday.

Typically, music without lyrics is best for working or studying, since lyrics tend to catch our attention. Research has so consistently shown classical music to boost productivity that the phenomenon has it’s own name – the Mozart effect.

But other forms of wordless music can work as well. Patel recommends cinematic music for making the daily grind feel as “grandiose” as a Hollywood epic. Meanwhile, video game music has been specially designed to help gamers concentrate on game challenges; likewise, it can help keep your office atmosphere energized. Soothing nature sounds, such as flowing water or rainfall, can also help promote a calm but focused state.

Music with lyrics is okay too, as long as it doesn’t turn your office into a karaoke bar. Cognitive behavioral therapist Dr. Emma Gray worked with Spotify to identify the characteristics of music that can actually change our brain waves. She found that music between 50 and 80 beats per minute can trigger the brain an “alpha” state that is associated with relaxation and with being struck with inspiration.

Really, any music will do, as long as you like it. Research from the music therapy department at the University of Miami found that workers who listened to their preferred artists and genres had better ideas and finished their tasks more quickly.

What styles of music help you focus during your workday? I myself enjoy the collection of “lo-fi” or “chill-hop” playlists on YouTube. This music has a consistent beat that is engaging without being distracting, and the accompanying video generally features an adorable cartoon character to keep you company.

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Op/Ed

You don’t have to like working from home, that’s ok

(EDITORIAL) The work-from-home life isn’t suitable for every worker – and that’s okay! There’s pros and cons, acknowledging the differences can help.

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working from home vs office

Working from home has become the new normal for many of us. And while some of us have been doing it for years and love it – and some of our new work from home homies are loving it, as well – there are some that are aching to get back to the office.

Yes, you read that right, there are some people who would prefer working in an office over working from home. While I’m not one to take part in that water cooler chatter, there are some major benefits to working in an office. And, even if those benefits don’t float my boat, it doesn’t make them any less beneficial.

First of all, you get social interaction – something that can be lacking while working from home. Even if you have others living in your house, it’s not like you’re shooting the work breeze with them during the work day, nor do they have the ability to help you with your work-specific tasks.

I will say, some days when I’m working from home all day and happen to not have any phone calls, I sound kind of like Yoda when 5pm rolls around and I’m talking with friends or family. It’s like I get rusty and I’ve jumbled up the ability to properly interact. Just as social interaction is important in our personal lives, it’s important for some people to thrive in a professional setting.

Second, when you’re working on a team, communication can be much more difficult in a remote setting as certain elements get lost in the computer-mediated shuffle. It’s so much easier to pop over to someone’s desk and ask a quick question than to wait on an email or instant message that includes little explanation and zero non verbals.

Lastly, when the workday ends at the office – you get to go home. When the workday ends at home – you’re still at home. This diminishes the excitement of getting to sit on your couch (because it’s likely you’ve already been sitting there for a while).

It also makes it harder to stop working. Working from home has the ability to blur the lines between personal and professional life. Just as we may take a break to throw in a load of laundry during work hours, we may find ourselves working on spreadsheets and proposals during personal hours. Having that set, in-office schedule helps separate work and life.

Like anything else, working from home, like working in an office, comes with its pros and cons. Which style do you prefer?

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