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Op/Ed

If brokers don’t push for MLSs to consolidate, business will suffer, as will consumers

If you belong to one, six, or 20 MLSs, it is time to take action. Today, we explain the common objections from MLSs, and business benefits of brokers pushing for change. Without brokers asserting this change must come, it never will.

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home buyers

Whether you are someone that belongs to two MLSs, seven MLSs, 29 MLSs, or know someone who is, you may understand how truly problematic this challenge is. Is it really feasible for the broker to sit on several MLS boards of directors and participate in all their committees – and still run the brokerage?

Is it reasonable for the broker to have to manage all those data license agreements and download data from multiple MLSs to bring together for their website, app, and back-office systems? Not really.

How about markets where the data is split between multiple MLSs (and agents have to belong to multiple MLSs) learn to use multiple MLS systems, and run multiple prospecting searches for a single client just to make sure they’re seeing all their options? Or brokers and agents having to deal with different MLS rules and inconsistent compliance departments – that may even conflict with one another – for the same listing? That’s just crazy.

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MLS “data shares” are only the beginning

We’ve all heard about MLS “data shares,” which solve some, but not all of those problems. And some brokers are working on a project called Upstream, but that doesn’t solve all of those problems either and is a long way from completion.

While the aforementioned initiatives have merit, to really solve these problems, brokers need to take a more active hand in MLS consolidation or, as it’s sometimes called, MLS regionalization.

The goal of this article is to explain the benefits of MLS consolidation so brokers in leadership positions can better articulate them, then look at why the consolidations aren’t happening, and finally explain what brokers can do about it.

A strong business case for MLS consolidation

First, let’s articulate the potential benefits of MLS consolidation:

1. Reduction of arbitrary information barriers
a. Reduce need for multiple memberships
b. Reduce number of data feeds for participants’ use
c. Provide more comprehensive / accurate statistics
d. Provide wider listing exposure for sellers

2. Reduce number of systems some users need to learn

3. Improve MLS rule and data accuracy compliance
a. Providing uniform rules and enforcement

4. Provide efficiency for governance involvement

5. Improvement in scope of MLS products and services

6. Associations can focus more on association functions

7. Reduction in cost (balanced against improvement in scope)

That’s a lot of potential benefits – for brokers and agents, as well as for associations and MLSs themselves to stay strong and relevant. There’s a clear business case for MLS consolidation.

Most common excuses for MLSs not consolidating

Next, let’s look at the most common excuses for MLSs not consolidating, which as CTO at Clareity Consulting, I hear when facilitating MLS consolidation meetings:

  • “3 years to retirement … They’ll take US over when I DIE!”
  • “But next year I was going to be MLS president”.
  • “But what will 25-year loyal employee Mary do if we eliminate the redundancy?”
  • “What if we lose MLS revenue to the association?”
  • “My MLS is worth a lot! Why would I give that away?”
  • “What about our association’s IDENTITY?”
  • “Their members benefit more than ours.”

It’s amazing, but I hear these excuses all the time!

What I like to do is relate these to the association or MLS mission statement. These organizations do not exist in order to provide jobs to leaders and staff. They don’t exist to provide volunteerism resume padding for agents.

While associations need money, they need to charge association dues as needed to fulfill that role and let MLS be a separate business. The “us versus them” attitude some associations and MLSs have about their neighbors is likewise not serving member needs. Again, it all goes back to the organization mission, which should be about providing benefits to the members.

One final fear that is totally unfounded

There’s one more objection that people use to try to put off MLS consolidation that bears special attention: “If we consolidate, their agents will come to our market and sell homes they know nothing about.”

All I can say is that, in the history of MLS consolidation, other than anecdotally, that fear has never played out.

There are answers to all of the consolidation objections – and compromises that can be made to address them if needed. For example, associations can still get revenue from MLS by providing value as MLS service centers, and often existing staff can be re-deployed to a regional MLS. This is the kind of thinking that can reduce the strength of the objections to MLS consolidation.

Some MLS boundaries hurt the industry

Still, sometimes leadership is focused on parochial interests, and acts in a manner contrary to the organizational mission. Bluntly, if the leadership is acting against the mission, it’s time for new leadership.

I understand that there is a fiduciary responsibility that leadership, including board members, have to their organizations. However, plenty of associations and MLSs have shut down or merged in the last few years, because it was clearly the right thing to do for their brokers and agents. This has been a good starting point for erasing the arbitrary MLS boundaries that are hurting our industry.

It takes a long time, so brokers must push

You should be aware that MLS consolidation is usually a several year-long project, given the business and legal complexity of merging organizations, as well as the nature of MLS software contracts, which sometimes have multi-year terms. I’m involved with several consolidation efforts right now, and they take patience – but if brokers want this to happen, they need to start the efforts now.

Brokers in positions of power with associations and MLSs, formal or otherwise, need to work together to demand MLS consolidation. Brokers have been successful in these efforts before, forcing the issue to form regional MLSs around the country, but there are still hundreds of markets where it makes sense for MLSs to consolidate and brokers need to take responsibility for driving the process to completion…

Sitting back and blaming “them” for not consolidating is not a good strategy for change.

#MLSconsolidation

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.

Op/Ed

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

(EDITORIAL) Whether it’s a podcast, news, or music, most people are listening to *something* while at work – so what makes you the most productive?

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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

Morning rituals of highly successful people – do you have one?

(EDITORIAL) From start to finish, the daily life of each successful person is very much dictated by their family and job. But there are definitely some patterns that we can all incorporate into our own morning rituals to achieve higher success and order.

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realtor working

Fleximize took a look at the morning habits of 26 of the country’s most successful individuals to include the President of the United States Barrack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Jobs and even Oprah Winfrey.

What was discovered? Well, each of the men and women on their chart start their day early with time blocked out for exercise and meditation, breakfast and family. In short, things that are important!

Someone, somewhere coined it best: “If it has to happen, then it has to happen first!” Everyone has an “it.” Anyone who has managed to find professional success is surely embracing this philosophy. The first hour(s) of the day are used doing whatever is one’s top-priority activity. And no sooner do you start you risk the priorities of everyone else creeping in.

Interestingly enough, exercising in the morning is one of the group’s top priorities. It’s been said many times that exercise helps keep productivity and energy levels up and better prepares us for the everyday challenge of achieving all we can.

From start to finish, the daily life of each successful person is very much dictated by their family and job. But there are definitely some patterns that we can all incorporate into our own lives to achieve higher success and order.

An Insider article found that “the most productive people understand how important the first meal of the day is in determining their energy levels for the rest of the day. Most stick to the same light, daily breakfast because it works, it’s healthy for them and they know how the meal will make their mind and body feel.”

The Fleximize chart demonstrates that successful people consider the quiet hours of the morning an ideal time to focus on any number of things: important work projects, checking email, meditation. And what’s more, spending time on it at the beginning of the day ensures that it gets complete attention before others chime in.

So check the chart and find someone you can relate to.

BI points out that planning the day, week, or month ahead is a crucial time management tool designed to keep you on track when you’re in the thick of it. Using the mornings to do big-picture thinking helps you prioritize and set the trajectory of the day!

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Op/Ed

Security of client information is important, so change the process

(EDITORIAL) Too many companies have had security breaches, which is bad enough, but is the process for insuring client information safety too old to secure?

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security too old to function

While it’s clear companies seem to get hacked regularly, the steps taken to keep users safe are a joke. Companies still rely on asking personal questions in an effort to make users feel safe, but those attempts are laughable.

I wasn’t laughing earlier this week as I was setting up a few new accounts.

As anyone knows, creating accounts can be a real pain in the buttocks. But, since I’m kind of a geek, I would sometimes find the humor in choosing and answering my three security questions. (Wondering if I’d remember the answers.)

What band was your first concert?
What was your favorite dog’s name?
Where were your parents married?
What model was your first car?
Who was your childhood bff?

Cool.

I never thought much about the security questions until the last few times when I encountered a few like this:

In which city were you married?

What is the name of your eldest child?

At what time of day was your oldest child born?

How old was your father when you were born?

What?

I felt I had taken a step back in time.

Sure, these questions might be ok, if there were a lot of options, but these were four of the seven provided.

I’m not a super touchy person who gets triggered easily or angered at the drop of a hat. But, these questions made me question this process and its security.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, in this day and age, it’s quite possible you’ve never been married or had a kid. It’s also possible for some folks, they didn’t know their dad. Or, if they do, maybe they don’t want their security question asking how old he was when they were born.

But, the bigger question: Why so very personal? And, from a woman’s perspective, why so presumptive. It made me wonder: are the questions the same for a man or a woman of any age?

I can’t imagine a 22-year-old being asked about the birth of their eldest child. Or, where they were married.

These questions had to be options based on my age and gender.

I chose the questions I could answer like, where was my elementary school located.

But, I didn’t feel safer for answering. Somehow I felt like the company asking them was 1) Prying to gather personal data 2) Not concerned about safety 3) Was sexist.

As many others have argued, it’s time to shut this process down, if only for the fact that it doesn’t make us safer online. This is a practice that should be relegated to the past, just like the presumptive questions being asked.

Seems no matter where you look online, banks, retailers and even medical providers are hacked. Our information is floating in space on the interwebs.

Obviously, security is a top concern. Who wants to sign up for a service only to find out later, “OOPS, our bad, your information was hacked. Here, we will give you free credit monitoring for a month.”

Doesn’t cut it.

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