The possibilities are endless
The MLS Track at Inman Real Estate Connect left my mind spinning with the possibilities that are ahead for our industry and, more specifically, the MLS. I ended up with a few opinions and a bunch of questions to take back to my local Board for discussion. This is where this conversation rightly belongs, after all…with the agents and members who pay for and use the service, and create the data.
Points were made by the various experts about the political implications of the choices we now have and I can’t help but think that if there ever was a time for changes to come to this model, it is now. The changing market, demands for transparency by consumers and the proliferation of social media are all meeting and creating an environment of unprecedented possibility. Never before have we had an opportunity such as this – one which can be directed by member demand rather than leadership whim or control.
Read over the questions and ideas I came away with (thanks to the panelists) and then go back to your Board and start or continue some conversations.
Devilishly Simple, Common Sense Ideas
Will MLS’s find a way to create Univeral Property I.D.’s allowing the cross-referencing of data between tax records and sites like flickr, youtube, etc? (love this one from Michael Wurzer!)
When will the ‘natural language search’ we use everywhere else online become part of the MLS interface? Shouldn’t this interface look and feel different than the actual database?
Easy-peasy? Cool. Now some tougher ones…
Local MLS’s With Public Facing Portals?
Will more local MLS’s offer a public facing website allowing consumers to search for listings, research sold data and more? There are some that are doing this already. Is this creating unfair competition with Broker and Agent sites?
Would these sites, if created, render national portals like Trulia, Zillow and the big R unnecessary or redundant? Can’t a locally focused portal offer better hyper-local data and information that consumers like?
How will Brokers and Agents provide a value proposition to Consumers? Isn’t giving away the data, giving away the farm so to speak? How will MLSs create value for non-listing members like exclusive buyer’s agents? What other information could a local Association site offer that would fairly serve these members too?
Hard questions, right? Well, put on your big girl panties and keep reading – this party is just getting started!
Is Regionalization or Nationalization Inevitable?
Will local MLS’s change their focus from being the gate-keepers of information to being service providers to their customers aka Brokers and Agent members? How are MLS borders justified in the eyes of these customers? And how about to their customers? Shouldn’t we start to respect the blurring of the lines of Broker market area vs. Association market area?
Wouldn’t consolidation allow MLS’s to become large enough to create scale and ability to provide tools that consumers now get elsewhere (T, Z, R)? Should we prepare for the idea that the consumer will determine where we go?
Also, could they then be able to provide more services to Brokers and Agents, thereby lessening the burden on these dues-paying members? Would this allow Brokers and Agents to focus better on professionalism and service rather than all the peripheral ‘stuff’ (forms programs, showing services, etc)? Should MLS’s redefine ‘core services’ and really empower Brokers? Should we be creating, as Saul Klein said, ‘an ecosystem of innovation’ by supporting our members’ businesses?
But then again, wouldn’t consolidation also reduce competition between MLS providers and therefore service? Or is there a way to separate the database from the user-interface preserving choice by members?
Is it all about exposure of listings and economies of scale, or would we be merely creating monopolies?
Is Your MLS Changing With Your Business?
Are you satisfied with your MLS system? Are your clients? How much value do you think you are getting for your dues dollar? Is there a nearby MLS that might be able to do it better? Or are you thinking about creating your own? Talk to your local Association about how you feel!