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Is Better, Good Enough?

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Yesterday, I attended Digital Media Summercamp – A sold-out one day social media conference organized by the Houston Association of Realtors. Among other speakers and panelists, they had invited Jay Thompson, Paul Chaney, Jeff Turner, Rudy Bachraty and fellow genius Ken Brand. For the curious ones, here’s how the event went down on Twitter. In between presentations, the association’s chair and other officials took time to let their members know that when it came to technology we “didn’t know how good we have it” compared to other associations. Not only that, but Jay Thompson mentioned something to that effect in his presentation and our very own Lani confirmed it in a Twitter conversation.

HAR Positive

There are some undeniable truths that put HAR at the forefront of most REALTOR™ associations. For starters, the fact that they threw a social media conference in an of itself puts them ahead of the pack. But there are some tools they provide to their members for free or close to it, that solidify their position:

  1. Light IDX Lead Generation – An external, lightweight IDX search page that members can use to generate leads.
  2. HAR Member Websites – Template based sites hosted on HAR. Light IDX solution is incorporated.
  3. HAR Member Blogs – A platform that members can use to start their own blog. Light IDX solution is incorporated.
  4. Agent Profile Videos – Professionally produced 30-60 seconds spots that members can buy for $99. HAR promotes videos through YouTube.
  5. Housing Trends Newsletter – A one size fits all stats and trends newsletter that members can point clients to or use in an email campaign.
  6. Social Media CE Classes – For a minimal fee (usually $20) members can attend 101 type classes on using Twitter, Facebook, Linked In or Blogging for real estate.
  7. Consumer Site – HAR’s pride and joy is the consumer side of the site from which members can generate leads on their listings if consumers schedule a showing or contact the agent.

Serious Lag

I listed all their achievements because I wanted to give credit where credit is due. But in stark contrast with all those positives, the association falls short when it comes to the crucial tool they provide their members: The MLS.

MLS

The same association that brought you all that forward thinking hits in the previous paragraph, has brought us the Gigli of MLS providers – Tempo. What’s wrong with it? If we start with what’s right, we’ll finish sooner. Here’s some of my beef:

Kludgy mummified interface – When consumers have a better, more functional interface than member agents, something ain’t right

Photo and Character Limitations – Good agents take a lot of time perfecting their photography skills and spend a lot of money on equipment  all in the interest of taking great listing photos, only to be reduced to pixelated mush from HARMLS photo compression. Moreover, why allow just 16 photos and 500 character descriptions and not more?

Browser Incompatible – Tempo works on in IE which is the only reason why IE is still installed on my computer. In this day and age, this is inexcusable.

Sucky Reports – Neighborhood stats on TEMPO are less than sorry. You get a one liner with the total number of listings, average list and sold prices and days on market. No running average, no export to Office or Google Docs, no email to client.

Zero Charts – If an agent wanted to generate an activity chart or running median sales price chart on a neighborhood they’re farming to write a post on their member blogs, they’d be out of luck. No such thing anywhere with Tempo.

But all the techie issues with the software don’t bother me as much as this. Four or five months ago, the HAR MLS commitee had a meeting to discuss whether or not to continue with TEMPO for another three years. There wasn’t an announcement or an email to members. I’m sure is listed somewhere deep in the captivating HAR Committee schedules and someone will surely tell me I need to get involved more. But my point is, shouldn’t members get a say on the selection of the software that can make the difference between thriving success and sameoldology? I’m willing to bet most HAR members think TEMPO is MLS and are not aware of any other choices. That’s the way it’s always been done and why change it.

Better or Great?

In part, the purpose of this post was to show other associations and their members what is possible. And in that context, HAR is an example of how it can be done better. But the real question is should we revel in “how good we have it” or strive for great, instead?

What say you?

Houston Real Estate Rainmaker and Uberproud Father/Husband (not necessarily in that order). When I'm not skinning cats or changing diapers you can find me on Twitter or Facebook. I blog about marketing, social media and real estate. I might not always be in agreement, but you can rest assured I'll be honest. Oh, and I can cook a mean breakfast...

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. clint miller

    July 23, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Erion — Dude, there are two things I love about your writing style…

    1. You list facts and you do it in an engaging way.
    2. You dont pull any punches.

    I wasnt at HAR. And, I dont use Tempo. To be honest, I have no feedback on this matter in any way except to say that you could write names from the freakin white pages and I would read it.

    Nice work.

  2. Jay Thompson

    July 23, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Erion –

    It was GREAT to meet you in Houston!

    HAR is definitely on the leading edge of what they provide their membership.

    But I can attest that Tempo sucks.

    Our MLS converted from Tempo to FlexMLS and it’s like night and day. The conversion was painful, as any major change is, but well worth the effort.

    I’m sure I’ll run into Bob Hale (a genuinely good guy) in a couple of weeks at Inman. I’ll see if I can get him and Mike Wurzer (CEO of FlexMLS) together….

  3. Jeremy Blanton

    July 23, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Unfortunately, Almost all MLS platforms are terrible. It does bother me though when the associations decide to make the changes without asking the people who use them daily what they are needing in the platform or what platforms they like. They just decide for you. And then collect your dues to pay for their decision.

  4. tomferry

    July 23, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Sounds the the event was a hit … I wish more associations would move in HAR’s direction. I noticed on Twitter some great feedback from speakers/attendees.

  5. Ken Brand

    July 23, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I have to say, I’m generally cynical when it comes to Board events etc.

    This was an interesting blend of information, on a level that was edible hungry beginners and some desert style stuff for digital veterans. Of course, I was on a panel so I could be full of self-biased BS?

    I’m no expert, but when I talk to experts like you and others, they share the same sad story. Tempo sucks, there are better platforms available.

    Nice Recap Erion

  6. Sara Bonert

    July 23, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Hey Eric, nice to have met you this week. I thougt the meeting had a great tempo! Haha.

    Seriously- I have done a number of these types of events around the country and it is amazing the impact of how an MLS is run can have on the overall attitude and education level of its members. For example, the general internet knowledge of agents in a city where the MLS hasn’t gotten into listing syndication is radically different than a city that has. Same is true for MLSs that have Web 2.0 ed. This event in other cities could have had a much different vibe and results. It is cool to see how many agents are already starting to try to implement what they learned, as evidenced by the friend requests and twitter followers I have picked up in the last 24 hours. Very cool.

    Also wanted to say that I was blown away by Jeff Turner’s presentation. Definitely go see him if you ever get the chance. Jay, see you at Inman. And Ken, see you in a few weeks back in Houston!

  7. Ben Goheen

    July 23, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    I haven’t personally used Tempo, but here in the Twin Cities we have Matrix and I can’t imagine that it’s much better. We’re only allowed 10 photos! Luckily it does work on FF and Chrome so I guess it is superior.

    Are you positive about exporting data? I use charts in my appraisal reports and they have instructions on how to export comps from nearly every MLS system available: https://www.1004-mc.com/mls-1004mc-compatability.aspx

  8. Erion Shehaj

    July 23, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    @Clint

    You are far too kind, Sir

    @Jay

    It was GREAT meeting you in person as well, Jay. If you could hook up that connection at Inman, that would be cool. I think there’s a chance that when people of that caliber meet, a deal might be worked out. And if it does, I’m pretty damn sure people are going to scream about conversion pains as well.

    @Jeremy

    That may very well be. But from where I’m standing it seems to me like the lack of innovation comes from associations not demanding it. I bet you if HAR pulled the plug on Tempo, they would feel it in their pocketbook and implement changes very soon.

    @Ken

    My initial concern with the conference was that it would be too Social Media 101 like. But you are right when you say that there was something for every level there on Wednesday.

    @Sarah

    Since you misspelled my name, I’m paying you back 🙂 Seriously though, it was a pleasure meeting you in person. After meeting Drew last year, it seems to me that Zillow’s been hiring all the cool people. Jeff’s presentation was magnetic!

    @Ben

    Oh you can export data, but it’s utterly useless as content unless you wanna put in a couple of hours of Excel brainfrying.

  9. Jim Duncan

    July 24, 2009 at 7:48 am

    “@Jeremy

    That may very well be. But from where I’m standing it seems to me like the lack of innovation comes from associations not demanding it. I bet you if HAR pulled the plug on Tempo, they would feel it in their pocketbook and implement changes very soon. ”

    Regarding this – I don’t know … I think it’s a combination of long-term contracts between associations and the MLS providers and the Associations being complacent. Many don’t recognize that MLS is a technology that needs to be constantly updated and innovated. Stagnation seems to be good enough for too many Realtors and associations.

  10. Erion Shehaj

    July 24, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Jim

    I could see signing an MLS agreement for 3 years in oh, I don’t know, 1998. But in the current environment, signing anything longer than 12 months when technology changes so rapidly, is not very smart. Besides, when 95% of membership has no idea that the MLS is provided by a provider to which there are alternatives, it’s hard to get any significant change. Although, I must say that after this post went live yesterday, some people high up in the association have let me know something’s in the works. I’m not sure whether that’s just codespeak for “shut up” or what but I choose to be optimistic.

  11. Missy Caulk

    July 24, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    HAR is a great example that is doing so much for their members. I know it is set up as an example in many of our board meetings. Sounds like fun and a great panel.

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