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Op/Ed

Why a nerdy NAR Board decision on MLS matters to all of us

Nerdy MLS news may feel over your head, but it’s not, and it must be paid attention to. At the NAR convention, a big change was made that you must know about.

nerdy mls stuff

While the Realtor population was all abuzz this week about the National Association of Realtors Board of Directors’ announcement that they’re creating a Code of Excellence initiative in order to “raise the bar” in our industry, a perhaps more important (yet much more boring) announcement was glossed over by most and received little attention.

Most likely only the nerdiest of the real estate tech nerds – those who truly understand listing syndication, IDX and the MLS system – focused on these mandated MLS policy changes that shift the purpose and meaning of the MLS system.

Time for a Grand Conversation on the MLS

In “It’s Time for a Grand Converstation on the MLS,” blogger Rob Hahn devoted over 3,000 words this week in a post about just how monumental this shift is and how the original purpose of the system may finally be adapting to the modern tech age.

Hahn’s article is detailed and tedious, and links to an even longer line-by-line description of the policy changes by Andrea Brambila, but it’s worth reading and digesting both of these pieces to understand Hahn’s premise that the old purpose of the MLS system (according to NAR: a “private offer of cooperation and compensation by listing brokers to other real estate brokers”) is evolving to allow brokers to better compete with internet portals and generate leads for its participants.

Changes that support this point

The board voted for several changes that support Hahn’s point. First, MLSs were ordered to allow sold data to be provided on broker sites (as long as that data is publicly available). Zillow and other portals already pull this information and provide it to the public. This will allow broker sites to stand toe-to-toe in providing the same data the public is already hungry for.

Second, the board ordered MLSs to refresh their data every 12 hours, not every 3 days. (Okay, big facepalm on this one – why do we have to mandate this anyway?). If we want to assert our broker sites and public MLS sites are the providers of the most accurate data, why not have realtime data available?

Third, the board allowed brokers to co-mingle searches pulled from various MLS systems into one search. I, for example, belong to two MLS systems and provide two different search portals on my site. Sometimes consumers search on both MLS systems to make sure they are truly picking up every house available in the MLS. On Trulia, Zillow, and Realtor.com it is a single search that pulls up every listing. Again, this move makes the search easier on the broker site, and puts its participants sites on par with the big portals.

Core values are changing

Hahn’s piece states that less than a decade ago, the MLS system was considered a purely business-to-business venture. Brokers shared listing information and offered to share commissions in exchange for cooperation amongst participants. We used the system to help our clients buy and sell property. In 2014 there are over 800 MLS systems serving the Realtor population, and their role is not just to offer B2B services, but also B2C services.

By allowing members of “the club” to show sold data on their brokerage sites, making searches easier for the consumer, and helping brokers compete against the big portals, the MLS system acknowledges lead generation is now a core value it can offer its brokers. As a broker, it seems to me a logical evolution that – if anything – is better late than never. Brokers who want to keep information behind a firewall of secrecy have their heads in the sand. The data is out there.

Savvy buyers and sellers sometimes know more about a particular property than their agents might. They can look up sold data, mortgages, tax information and other previously “personal” information with a few keystrokes.

Trying to be the gatekeepers of the data is a losing proposition

These changes by the board are positive steps in the right direction, in my opinion. Now if we could just figure out how NAR is ever going to enforce a Code of Excellence that will  “focus the attention of REALTORS® on key issues, such as data protection, property rights, community involvement, and proficiency with technology” then it would be a pretty good week overall. (Seriously, what does that line even mean? But that’s another editorial.)

Written By

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

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