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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

Malls repurposed as housing could bring back discrimination

(EDITORIAL) Recycling dead malls into community colleges and libraries are smart ideas, but is there a deeper, darker implication behind the affordable housing idea?

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malls changed into housing

Clever investors want to transform defunct malls into affordable housing. This sounds like a win-win-win at first. It’s helpful, useful, practical–and doesn’t necessarily require federal funding. What a warm and fuzzy idea that can help people and make use of existing structures. Yaaaay!

We need more affordable housing. Nobody will deny that. According to Pew Trusts, the 2018 U.S. housing market was at its least affordable in ten years. Adaptive reuse is a brilliant idea on paper. However, “affordable housing” is not merely a phrase; it holds legal connotations and requirements, both on national and state levels. It’s…complex.

Then my inner skeptic popped up and whispered in my ear, “Careful. What if it’s a trap?” History tells us to be wary of separating people by socioeconomic status (often–though not always–related to race). I started thinking about the long, troubled history of the “projects” in the U.S., which served to effectively segregate low-income families from the post-New Deal era until modern days. This in turn led to less investment in the area, meaning residents had to contend with fewer schools, grocery stores, public transportation routes, and the like.

Perhaps the adaptive reuse of the malls is not so nefarious. After all, these malls are already in residential areas. Therefore, one hopes, decent schools, supermarkets, and public transportation already exist, just as in other areas of a given city. The residents of one mall, one housing development, should not significantly change the housing market and available local resources by much, right? It will be a seamless integration of a whole new group of people into a neighborhood, right? We hope that’s true.

Maybe it won’t be a case of white flight, AKA “There goes the neighborhood” all over again. After all, the ethnic diversity isn’t specified beyond “workforce, student and 55 plus housing,” future residents, as defined by Richard Rubin, CEO of Repvblic, the company leading the charge to invest in old malls and big box stores. It sounds like a positive thing that the new, “recycled” housing developments he’s investing in don’t require federal funding to get built.

Affordable housing is a challenge wherever you look. Investors in multi-million dollar, sexy and modern high rises aren’t traditionally going after the affordable housing market, because what’s in it for them? In Austin, where The American Genius is based, developers already balk at the idea of including the mandated affordable housing units required for new construction. Some developers have even paid the city millions of dollars to get around the requirement.

Adaptive reuse by recycling dead malls into affordable housing feels like a creative, beneficial idea. Yet, I encourage us to delve a bit deeper and ask the hard questions. I mean, there must be a reason there are more movies about hookers with hearts of gold than real estate investors with hearts of gold. This calls for cautious optimism, but also reading between the lines and paying close attention to the details as this type of housing develops.

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Op/Ed

Want to move past your burnout? Stop using multiple lists

(EDITORIAL) How my evolving understanding of “burnout” helped me learn an important distinction between being busy and being productive.

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too busy to burnout

When I used to hear the word “burnout” I would picture the freaks from the gone-much-too-soon series, Freaks and Geeks, as they would bum around outside, smoking in between classes. Now when I hear the word “burnout,” I think of myself a few years ago as my brain was being fried by life.

I wasn’t smoking between classes, rather running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out how to manage all of my tasks at hand. I’d make a to-do list, see everything I had to do, and drown in overwhelm.

I’d spend my days fretting over how busy I was, and nights catching up with friends via phone, talking about how busy I was and how there just wasn’t enough time in the day.

Notice that nowhere in here was I actually doing anything productive. I fell into a vicious hole of being so consumed with how much I had to do, I wasn’t taking the time to do anything but stress.

At first, it made me feel interesting and somewhat important that I had so much going on. I quickly realized that no one cares and it’s not that interesting (I also quickly remembered how much I love to just relax and not have something planned every day of the week).

This is where I learned the of the most important lessons to date – being busy does not equal being productive.

It got to a point where I was running on fumes and eventually had this epiphany that how I was operating was doing nothing to help me. This was in part brought on by seeing someone close to me behave the same way, and I was able to actually look at how defeating it was.

From there, I made it a point to change my tune. Instead of wasting time writing and re-writing to do lists, I challenged myself to make one master to do list and accomplish at least one item upon completion of writing the list. This helped shake off the cobwebs and I was able to feel a bit of weight off of my shoulders.

The ideas surrounding the hustle mentality had me so consumed and all I was doing was hustling my way to nowhere. After feeling the burnout, seeing someone else operate that same way, and seeing that hustle mentality mocked, I was finally able to break free and get stuff done.

And, guess what? I have even more to do now, but feel more calm and collected than ever. I just have to repeat the mantra: being busy does not equal being productive. Being productive – especially in silence – is so much better and much more rewarding.

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Op/Ed

10 Productivity tips to get the most out of yourself and your team

(EDITORIAL) Keeping up productivity can be a hard goal to shoot for, so sometimes It helps to see what others are doing. Here’s our list of 10 ways to stay productive

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productivity in a team

Funny thing about inverse relationships, they are so counterintuitive. Like working hard. That is an example of doing what you think will be beneficial, but usually just makes the job what you expected, hard. When it comes to productivity, harder isn’t smarter, as the saying goes.

And, if you are sick of the word “hack” we hear you. But, finding ease in work will allow you to be more productive and with better results.

We offer you this list of stories to meet your productivity needs. Here’s to finding work-life balance, seeking ease in the moment and rocking out a productive day!

1. If you’re trying to be more productive, don’t focus so much on time management. Instead, consider energy management to get more out of less effort.

2. Meetings suck, wait I mean they are a time suck. Yeah, that’s it. Everyone knows some meetings are unnecessary and could easily be handled through an email. Yet, many supervisors are hesitant. But, there’s an app for that now. Here’s to meeting less and actually getting work done.

3. Kondo your desk, for God’s sake. If you say you are more productive with a messy desk, yet you have a sandwich from last week and those TPS reports you were supposed to turn in weeks ago somewhere under a pile of crap, you need to clean up your act. Nobody wants to get a report covered in coffee, chocolate and mustard.

4. Are you agile? I mean, really. Is your team as productive as it could be? Whether you are a PM or a real estate agent, if you need a tool that helps your team stay agile and nimble, this will help you and your crew kick ass and take names.

5. Cut the team some slack. Too many messages and you forget what you were originally doing. Slack thought about that and has a way to make the app work for your team so you can be more effective and keep the workflow moving.

6. Working remotely has some serious benefits, notwithstanding working in your PJ’s. Convincing your boss you will actually work and not binge on Netflix may be the challenge. And, for many folks, working from home is a much more productive option. Yet, anyone who has worked remotely also knows it can be easy to get caught up in work and miss human interactions, leading to burnout. Here’s how to make the remote transition work for you.

7. Sometimes more is less. That is the truth when it comes to work where quality beats quantity all day long. Our 9-5 workdays may be good for some, but not for all. And, putting in 80-hour weeks may seem righteous dude, but what do you really accomplish? Kick productivity in the butt and consider are you using your hours wisely.

8. Want to be a baller in the workplace? Then get focused. According to the experts, those at the top of their game aren’t necessarily working harder or smarter, they are just hyper-focused. Here are some good habits to have if you want to get ahead.

9. If it seems everyone has a podcast, you are correct! Some of those podcasts are useful, especially if you are trying to get ahead and find ways to use your productivity to the fullest. Here’s a list of podcasts that will fill your free time with useful information.

10. Creative folks love to start new projects. They can be like kids in the candy store any time they have a new idea they must explore. The problem is that whether you are an artist, writer, graphic/web/software designer or developer, you may start a lot of projects and finish few. Here’s how to finish what you start!

By now, you know what information to keep and you are ready to get your rear in gear. We wish you all the success with your future projects. We know you will be diligent and hyper-productive!

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