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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

Is there a difference between being a leader or being a manager?

(OP/ED) Some people use the terms “leader” and “manager” interchangeably, but there is still a debate regarding their similarities or differences.

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Some people use the terms “leader” and “manager” interchangeably, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, there is still a debate regarding their similarities or differences.

Is it merely a matter of preference, or are there cut and dry differences that define each term?

Ronald E. Riggio, professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College, described what he felt to be the difference between the terms, noting the commonality in the distinction of “leadership” versus “management” was that leaders tend to engage in the “higher” functions of running an organization, while managers handle the more mundane tasks.

However, Riggio believes it is only a matter of semantics because successful and effective leaders and managers must do the same things.

They must set the standard for followers and the organization, be willing to motivate and encourage, develop good working relationships with followers, be a positive role model, and motivate their team to achieve goals.

He states that there is a history explaining the difference between the two terms: business schools and “management” departments adopted the term “manager” because the prevailing view was that managers were in charge. They were still seen as “professional workers with critical roles and responsibilities to help the organization succeed, but leadership was mostly not in the everyday vocabulary of management scholars.”

Leadership, on the other hand, derived from organizational psychologists and sociologists who were interested in the various roles across all types of groups; so, “leader” became the term to define someone who played a key role in “group decision making and setting direction and tone for the group.”

For psychologists, the manager was a profession, not a key role in a group. When their research began to merge with business school settings, they brought the term “leadership” with them, but the terms continued to be used to mean different things.

The short answer is no, the two terms are not the same; simply because leaders and managers need the same skills to be productive and respected.

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Op/Ed

Sexism is never cured by reverse-sexism

(EDITORIAL) Sexism is still around in 2021; it seems some want to try reverse-sexism, but that just isn’t the way equality works. Just try respect.

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sexism reverse-sexism

Sexism is and has virtually forever been, a glaring issue in all areas of the work environment – from recruiting and hiring all the way through invariable work interactions. While the proper “cure” for sexism may elude some employers, we know what absolutely DOESN’T work: reverse sexism.

Let’s get a bit of a disclaimer out of the way: The term “reverse sexism” is often used to insinuate the notion that men are victims of gender-based discrimination on the same level as women – as if the current social and political environments could ever support such a thing.

The idea of a male facing even a fraction of the societal limitations and microaggressions with which the average woman has to contend is cry-yourself-to-sleep laughable, so to apply any notion of the same level of discrimination in reverse has no merit whatsoever.

However.

The entire point of rebelling against sexism is not – and should never be – that current sexist practices should be applied to men in addition to women; perhaps surprisingly, the opposite holds true: that women should be treated with the inherent respect and financial support that most men in the workplace enjoy.

See, practicing any kind of discrimination – however small in scale – against any group of people only helps to perpetuate discrimination in general. Refusing to hire men because you’re trying to avoid sexism toward women may seem like a good idea on paper, but it’s really just enforcing the notion that sexism is okay in certain contexts when that just isn’t the case.

Are you with me so far? Good, because it seems that virtually innumerable companies are missing the mark: Google’s solution for the wage gap is to underpay men, and Bumble implements a women-only hiring environment (though this has since been expanded to utilize more inclusive filters). Again, the idea behind this may have initially come from a good place, but the driving principles cause the execution to fall flat when held up against ACTUAL sexism-free practices.

Here’s a thought: Instead of treating your male employees with less respect in order to match your behavior to all genders across the board, or refusing to hire a gender outright, try treating all of your employees (regardless of gender) the same. It’s a little-known tactic known as common decency, and guess what? Doing so is not the least bit sexist.

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Op/Ed

Open letter to Realtors: Let your freak flag fly and quit judging each other

(OP/ED) Tattoos are becoming more acceptable in many fields and industries, but there still seems to be a gap in careers like law and real estate.

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tattoos real estate

When most people think of Realtors, it’s easy to think of the boring headshot that seems to accompany them. You know the type: Boring suit, smarmy grin, some tagline about how they’re going to find you a house. Some Realtors, however, have set out to break that mold. One example is Justin Mercer who sports a full body (and face) of tattoos.

Hailing from Arizona, Mercer goes by the title “The Tattooed Realtor.” It’s a name he’s definitely earned – Mercer sports tattoos everywhere from his hands to his face. And he looks awesome. Honestly, it’s about time more people start letting themselves live authentically, instead of trying to look like what society says they “should” look like.

Sure, Mercer has gotten plenty of strange looks, but he owns his appearance. In fact, he hands out fake tattoo stickers to kids and has a pen-shaped “tattoo” machine for clients and visitors to use. The approach is interesting, but it helps break down the stigma surrounding face tattoos in fun ways.

His tattoos have also provided unique opportunities. For instance, Mercer has begun to land several acting roles! According to Mercer, he’s been in films, television, and even music videos. It’s a pretty neat perk to come from being visible and open.

That’s not to say it’s always easy for Mercer; he’s gotten a lot of pushback for his appearance. Even from within the industry:

Really, this says more about his detractors than Mercer himself. Why should tattoos stop someone from being a good real estate agent? In fact, why should tattoos stop someone from being a good anything?

Frankly, we’ve gone way too long subscribing to the idea that looking professional must mean trying to fit in. Who’s to say someone with pink hair, numerous piercings, or, in Mercer’s case, facial tattoos, isn’t fit to do their job? In fact, one of the great things about standing out is the ability to make like-minded customers feel at ease. There’s less fear of judgment when your Realtor looks like you.

Sure, no industry is going to change overnight – Mercer’s pushback is proof of that. But things are changing for the better. It’ll be an exciting day when everyone, no matter if they’re a doctor, lawyer, or real estate agent, feels comfortable enough to live authentically. And an even more exciting day when fellow Realtors don’t take to Facebook to trash a fellow professional for their appearance (isn’t there a saying about glass houses)?

In the meantime, congratulations to Mercer and those like him – for pushing ahead in this relatively new frontier.

Mercer with tattoos with his children.

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