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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.



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.


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.


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.


why dressing your best is important even while working from home

(EDITORIAL) Your computer will say work, but your favorite oversized t-shirt says go back to bed. You feel and work your best when you look your best!



man working from home on laptop

There are many often discussed benefits to working from home. If you’re not spending time on a daily commute, that means you have more time to work on personal projects and share with your family and friends. Plus it saves you gas and/or fare money.

While it’s tempting to cozy up and work in your most comfortable sweatpants or yoga pants, there are a number of reasons that dressing up to go to work can help increase work from home productivity — even if you’re just commuting to your couch!

You should wear pants (yes, every day).

When you look your best, you feel your best, and arguably work your best.

It’s pretty hard to resist the temptation of vegging out a bit if you’ve rolled out of bed and headed to your desk while still wearing pajamas. If you have no plan to get dressed for the day, the temptation to hit the snooze button until the moment you need to be present and accounted for will really work against you.

Your computer will say work, but your favorite oversized t-shirt says go back to bed.

When you’re working from home, planning to get up early and prepare for your day allows you to create a transitional space that will help distinguish your home life from your work life. Dressing for success, even if you don’t see anyone during your office hours, will drive your sense of purpose and help you carve out a more productive space. It will also signify to any family members or roommates that you’ve entered the workspace and shouldn’t be bothered.

If you work from a restaurant, coffee shop, or workspaces, it can make you more approachable.

If you’re not dressed for the part, those around you may assume that you’re spending your time recreationally. Even if you are constantly answering your phone, drafting emails, or working on a project. It’s deceptively easy to look like you’re simply browsing the internet or socializing in casual attire.

There are plenty of opportunities to network and meet new people, even when you work from home. You never know who you may end up connecting with, and dressing appropriately to your profession can send the message that you’re an expert and take what you do seriously.

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Finding the joy of learning during unprecedented times

(EDITORIAL) Many have had to learn new ways of doing their jobs recently and while it can be frustrating, there can also be a lot of joy in adding to your skillset



learning on the job

There are so many different types of learning in so many stages of life. Some we may not quite remember like learning how to walk in a time in our life that we didn’t even consider giving up. We have other capabilities that still seem clear as day like learning to swim and after several lessons, you beg the lifeguard to watch you swim an entire lap across the pool so you could go on the diving board. There was also that time the training wheels came off and Grandma finally let go of the back of the banana seat on your pink bike with white wheels and you were on your first bike ride.

There are easy lessons and some really hard ones. No doubt, there were school subjects that lit us up inside and others that we dreaded – all the while feeling like we were alone and no one else quite knew what we were going through. As an adult, there have been lessons that have to be learned over and over again.

If you went to college and can think back to your senior year, do you remember wondering how you were going to demonstrate you had the skills necessary for someone to hire you and pay you for work? Did you worry that you didn’t really know all the ins and outs and how could you share in an interview that you were the perfect candidate?

Now fast forward ten years or so and hopefully, you can stand really proud of all the things you have learned while being in the workforce or a business owner. It seems fair to assume you are familiar with a new software program. You likely have found ways to please customers and/or communicate with your team or boss. At this time, you probably are PC and Mac Proficient as well as now you can lead a webinar on Zoom like the next guy.

Joyful learning is a precious gift in times of boom or bust. As adults and professionals, we make too little use of it. While the joy is a worthwhile end in its own right, joyful learning can also be used to ignite individual careers and collective productivity. Sparking learning joy, earning flexibly, and contributing productively are timelessly valuable pursuits, and are being felt especially acutely now.”

This is great advice from the article “The Simple Joy of Learning on the Job” from the Harvard Business Review and there is no better time to really challenge our personal efforts on creating joy at work than in the current climate. There is a lot out of our control but something that we can consider – what would bring us more joy in the daily grind?


  • Make sure everyone in your meetings knows how to create a virtual background on Zoom (because those are way more entertaining than you would ever expect).
  • Give yourself a chance maybe once per week to watch a TedTalk on a creative process around art, film, music, entertainment (or any industry that you go to for comfort).
  • Log in and click around to see if there is anything you want to learn more about on LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, or Dabble.
  • Try to attend at least one webinar every six months from the professional organization you are in and have on your LinkedIn profile but honestly just haven’t made the time for it.
  • Try Adobe’s Creative Cloud to get your juices flowing
  • If you’ve had entrepreneurial desires, is now a time to ask a family or friend if you can help them with anything as they may be shifting their business to include more (or all) virtual offerings?
  • Consider ways to cheer up colleagues by themed dress code for meetings (Hat Day, Team Sports sweatshirt, Halloween costume day) or consider starting/ending meeting with music.

This article is not meant to imply that everyone needs to learn a new coding language or how to pull insights on big data (albeit those things may interest you too). The idea here is to find our joy again and bring it into our new workspaces which for some of us, that means at home.

If you feel you may have lost your sense of joy, this Design Your Life Workbook has really user-friendly design thinking prompts to help you journal and think through what brings you joy – or even remind you what were things that brought you joy that didn’t necessarily equate to work. It was created for a Career Exploration class at Stanford. The authors also just published this book: Designing Your Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work.

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The wealthy are miserable in their careers – money isn’t enough

(EDITORIAL) A high salary can be an exciting perk but records show the wealthy truly aren’t happy. You need to have a ‘why’ to live a fulfilling life.



wealthy are miserable and should find fulfillment at work

The wealthy elite are miserable at work, or so the New York Times alleges in “The Future of Work: Wealthy, Successful, and Miserable.” My knee-jerk reaction was “boo hoo.” Of course, you’ll be miserable if you only work for yourself, a lesson that should have been easily learned and fixed in your 20’s.

The NYT’s example was a wealthy investment banker who earned 1.2 million. It’s extremely hard to find pity for someone who earned that much in a thankless job. And the article was less about the future of work and more about how to find job satisfaction. However, everyone should understand that in order to be happy in a job, you must do something that fulfills you.

Fulfillment comes in a variety of forms. It is fulfilling to help others, while working with colleagues you respect.

Sometimes the job description itself doesn’t lead to fulfillment but the way you work does. For example, I worked for two years as a personal injury paralegal helping car accident victims. If that doesn’t make you cringe, this will: I managed well over 100 cases, a very demanding case load, and was also the Office Manager. Tragedy literally walked into the door and called every day. I adored the job – it was hands down the best I’d ever had. Why? It was intense, varied, and immensely fulfilling because I made a difference every day.

I helped people get their life back and fought against big insurance companies who were screwing people out of their deserved recovery. As a victim of a no-fault car accident myself four years ago, I was on a crusade and loved it.

The reasons I left were a complicated mix of work/life balance issues, but primarily because my husband became deathly ill unexpectedly and I chose him and his life over the job I loved. And I don’t regret it – although I still miss that job that had changed my life for the better (despite being underpaid).

In addition to doing something I believed in, part of what made the job great was autonomy, something the NYT article alludes to.

Autonomy to do the job the way you see fit is a precious thing. But it’s also about finding purpose within yourself to do the job.

I was able to bring a sense of purpose to the job description, something everyone should be doing. It’s more about finding your “why,” your reason for being there every day.

And your “why” must be about more than earning a paycheck. No matter how large it is.

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