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Op/Ed

Your MLS system is ugly and boring – how you can impact change

Many in the real estate industry complain about their MLS, but why is that the case and what can be done about it?

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meh

When I perform surveys of real estate brokers and agents, I see the following two complaints about MLS systems all the time: “Why doesn’t the MLS have [this cool feature]?” and “Why can’t the MLS system be easier to use?”

The first question – “Why isn’t the MLS system isn’t as full featured as some would like?” – comes down to two things: money and politics.

Let’s talk about money

Some people might think that MLS software providers are making a huge amount of money, and that the providers can put more resources into adding software features. That’s just not the case. The money isn’t there. Think about it: MLS vendors have had to put resources into making their systems work cross-browser and on an expanding number of tablets and phones.

They have added increasingly more sophisticated prospecting and client collaboration features, numerous local information and mapping layers, and so much more over the past decade. All this while, the wholesale cost for MLS systems has not increased, and in many cases has trended lower due to fierce competition for strategic accounts.

The political push and pull

As for the politics, there is a constant push and pull over the future of MLS systems. For every professional that wants the MLS system to evolve and improve, there is one that doesn’t want the system to change. I often hear, “What we have now works fine.”

If MLS staff and software providers only listened to those latter voices, we’d still be using “the MLS book” instead of electronic tools. But even when an MLS is selecting a brand new system and options are being compared, committee members will often say something like, “We should choose this system because it is the most like our current one and so will be easier to learn.” What that means is that the most innovative system is penalized for being different!

Sometimes subscribers who sit on an MLS board of directors or committee don’t want the MLS to improve its functionality. Quite often, an MLS system will be deployed with some features disabled. During a recent demonstration of system features by an MLS vendor, visitors from the neighboring MLS (which used that vendor) commented, “Is this the same system as what we have?”

Even when the features are enabled, sometimes professionals don’t know what they have.

I see this in surveys all the time – an agent will ask, “Why doesn’t the system do this?” where this is a feature the system already has.

Why is the MLS so difficult to use?

Looking at the second question — “Why can’t the MLS system be easier to use?” — the answer is a lot simpler: the more features a system has and the more ways there are to customize it, the harder the system will be to use.

Since the MLS is a business system with significant complexity, and since subscribers often want it to be customizable to fit their business needs, preferences, branding, and so forth, ease of use can suffer.

For example, it’s easier to enter a listing when there are few required fields, but the fewer required fields there are, the more agents will complain about data inaccuracy and missing data. Likewise, an MLS-generated report with fewer fields on it is easier to read and more attractive.

However, without all the fields accessible, the agent can’t fine-tune the search on behalf of his or her client and must call the listing agent for the information—which is, in actuality, more difficult.

Also, it’s easier to click once to download a pre-built statistical report. Despite this, in order to make the reports more useful to many users, the reports need to be customizable based on the part of the market the user specializes in (i.e., by area, price range, and property type), and need to be styled so the chart can be downloaded and embedded in a newsletter. That means more complexity and a system that is more difficult to use.

MLS software providers try to make good choices when designing the MLS system, balancing out the need for robust features and customization with the desire for an easy-to-use system, but it’s impossible to please everybody.

What you can do about all of this

What this all comes down to is that, if you as a subscriber want to shape how full-featured and easy-to-use tomorrow’s MLS system is going to be, there’s a way for you to do it. Get involved with your local MLS leadership, including with the system evaluation, selection, and implementation processes.

I work with many local MLSs to make sure their leadership is aware of innovation going on in the MLS technology space so they can be smarter shoppers when looking at MLS software providers. When it comes to ease of use, while there sometimes are usability gaffes on the part of the software provider, it is more often the case that system complexity simply reflects the complex needs of active real estate professionals.

Expecting a professional-grade MLS system to be as clean and easy-looking as a consumer-grade real estate search site like Zillow or Trulia is simply unrealistic. Now that you know why your MLS system is so “Meh,” you don’t have to sit back and complain about it. Get involved in your local MLS organization and help take charge of your future!

This editorial was first published here in May of 2014.

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

Gender discrimination still exists, even blatantly in job descriptions

(EDITORIAL) Surely after a century, we have learned half the population can work just the same as the other half right? Down with discrimination.

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Woman taking notes representing gender discrimination.

Suzanne Lucas, Evil HR Lady reported a job description post for a hospitalist from Ascend Medical that said, “women don’t do well here.” The posting was taken down once it was brought to Ascend Medical’s attention, but it does beg the question how something like that was allowed to get through two organizations. First, Ascend Medical didn’t proofread what was posted; then, ZipRecruiter’s algorithms didn’t catch the obvious gender discrimination.

Gender discrimination in job descriptions is against the law.

One hundred years ago, Congress ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Federal law addressed gender discrimination in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For 58 years now, it’s been illegal to discriminate against women in employment.

It’s difficult to imagine anyone of any generation currently in the workplace who doesn’t understand gender discrimination. Unfortunately, discrimination still exists in the workplace. The Ascend Medical posting might have been a fluke, but Pew Research estimates that over 40% of women experience discrimination in the workplace based on gender.

Pew Research reports that women get passed over for important assignments, based on gender. Many women earn less than the man doing the same job. Women believe that they get less support from senior leaders because of gender. Women are three times more likely than men to experience sexual harassment on the job.

How can gender equality in the workplace be improved?

Hiring managers have to do better when it comes to writing job descriptions. Workers need to talk about gender inequality and address it with HR or other managers. Evaluate the jobs in your business and look for gender bias. Do you expect the women in your office to answer the phones and plan the parties? When you promote, are you looking at the strengths of your workers, not their gender? Are you offering training and mentoring to all of your employees?

The gender gap has been a thing for decades. I’d like to think that many businesses are doing better. But as the Ascend Medical job posting demonstrates, we still have a ways to go.

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Op/Ed

16 easy-to-digest networking tips

(EDITORIAL) Short-form content and blurbs are all the rage. Every social media platform has limited characters, so here are 16 quick networking tips.

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Handshake between two people representing networking representing the question technique.

These days, we like everything in bite-sized, easy-to-digest pieces of information. We’re so oversaturated with news, that it’s only possible to (kind of) keep up with it through a medium such as Twitter where we can get a brief news capture and see what’s trending. But even then it’s overwhelming, so @Ethos3 cast a net asking for networking tips – in 140 characters or less. Here are 16 of the most useful pieces of networking information the search yielded:

“When networking, inquire about passions, hobbies and interests, instead of asking “Where do you work?” – @DaveKerpen

“When you first meet someone, use his or her name a few times to create a feeling of familiarity,” – @CIOonline

“Don’t immediately send a LinkedIn invite to a new contact. Follow up that night or the next day,” – @RealBusiness

“Adam Rifkin a respected networker in Silicon Valley suggests: Don’t rush relationships; trust takes time,” – @Bakadesuyo

“Don’t attend networking events with a list of things you want. Arrive with a list of things you can offer,” – @LearnVest

“Need a reason to network? “Succeeding in business is all about making connections” – Richard Branson,” – @EntMagazine

“Once you’ve made a new contact, ask what method of follow up they prefer: email, phone, LinkedIn, or other,” – @USnews

“During conversations, focus on the other person. Learn what makes them tick. Ask, listen, observe,” – @ChrisBrogan

“Interesting people easily make meaningful connections. Be able to talk about topics other than work,” – @HuffPost

“The business-building “gold” is not in collecting business cards but in the solid relationships you build,” – @Forbes

“Offer to help people. “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity” – Keith Ferrazzi,” – @Ferrazzi

“If you want to go somewhere, it is best to find someone who has already been there,” – @TheRealKiyosaki

“Most people at events are in the same situation: they don’t know many people; they welcome icebreakers,” – @Steamfeedcom

“When in doubt, discuss the setting or the event. How? Do your homework about the event, and be observant,” – @RealSimple

“Take a friend with refined social skills to networking events to ease the awkwardness of breaking the ice,” – @Dailymuse

“Apply to be a speaker at conferences. Networking at the event is easier if everyone knows your name,” – @Ethos3

Now get out there and network your hearts out!

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Op/Ed

How home builders have adapted to the rise in multi-generational co-living

(EDITORIAL) Multi-generational living and landlord co-living has seen a rise in popularity. How are builders keeping up?

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Large house representing co-living.

Homesharing is on-trend in the United States. It’s giving younger Americans a way to break into the highly competitive housing market. Homesharing is often considered #CoLiving. The homeowner rents out a portion of the home to family members or even strangers. Co-living is not the traditional roommate agreement where everyone shares the living space. Co-living spaces are designed to be private, from a bedroom and bathroom to an entire floor complete with bedrooms, a kitchen, and other amenities. Some builders are even building homes designed specifically for co-living with larger communal spaces and larger closets. What’s driving this trend?

Multi-generational living on the increase

According to Pew Research, the number of Americans who live in multigenerational family homes has quadrupled since the 1970s. A multigenerational household is defined as “two or more adult generations living in one home” or a skipped generation, such as grandparents and grandchildren. In 2021, the National Association of REALTORS® suggests two reasons for multi-generational homes.

  1. Aging parents move back in with their adult children as part of caregiving, both for themselves but also to help care for younger children.
  2. Pooling incomes to afford a larger home or to rely on others in a potential loss of income.
  3. Adult children who never left the family home are continuing to share the home while they save money to move out on their own or simply wait to inherit the family home.

Pew Research says,

“Americans in multigenerational households are less likely to live in poverty.”

The financial advantages to living with others, whether in your family or not, can be huge.

Co-living has its opponents

A recent ordinance passed in Shawnee, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, banned co-living with four or more unrelated people. Ostensibly, the ban was to prevent investors from buying up properties to allow for more renters. The goal of the City Council was to keep the housing market from ballooning. However, the ban on co-living doesn’t prevent homeowners from renting to one to three individuals nor does it prevent multigenerational living.

Co-living is a trend to watch.

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