National MLS

  The idea of a “National MLS” has been floated around for years.  Lately, with the arrival of Google Base and consolidation of some large MLS’s the talk of a National MLS is heating up again.     

Hmmn, it makes one wonder what would/should a National MLS look like?  I guess that depends on one’s point of view.  One of the most common definitions for MLS is: A group of brokers joined together in a co-operative marketing organization for the purpose of pooling their respective listings. In exchange for a potentially larger audience of buyers, the brokers agree to share commissions. 

This seems like a fairly accurate description to me. So really, in some ways,  the MLS is a marketing organization.  In this organization Brokers “share” their “marketing assets” (listings) with other brokers and agree to share commissions.   They do this in exchange for a potentially larger audience of buyers.

Realtors clearly favor a National or some form of consolidation at least to a state level, according to the NAR 2006 MLS Technology survey that was just recently released.  The survey also highlighted a few reasons why, including:

  • The expanding market areas for brokers across MLS lines
  • The cost and inefficiency of belonging to multiple MLSs
  • The cost and difficulty of data aggregation across multiple MLSs
  • The need for MLSs to provide improved services in response to new competitors entering the real estate industry

Before I return to my musings about what a “National MLS” should look like I think it prudent to point out more problems with the current structure of the some 960+ MLSs out there.DATA CONTROLBrokers can’t effectively control with whom they “share” their marketing assets leading to many problems:

  • Brokers can’t measure how their “marketing partners” are contributing to the co-operative (if at all) i.e. do the partners bring “marketing assets” and/or buyers or are they simply bringing a fork to the potluck (as Dave Liniger puts it).
  • Brokers have no control over the integrity and reputation of others who are using their listings and, therefore, their reputations are connected with these people as marketing partners – guilt  by association.
  • Brokers have limited access to data (marketing assets) they provide to the MLS and have to effectively pay to get it back
  • Brokers have restrictions on how they may use their own, and each others, marketing assets.
  • Brokers cannot reuse marketing assets for other marketing in vertical search, partner websites, print, etc. This makes for multiple re entry for things like Google Base, Trulia, Oodle, Realestate.com, Yahoo Classifieds, etc.
  • Brokers have no control or insight into the level of service provided by the marketing partners forced on them. Thus they difficulty sharing commission properly based on amount of work and value the partner brings.  Equal pay for Equal work seems to not apply in the current MLS structure.

DATA STRUCTURE

In many cases brokers have little or no flexibility over the data types and data quality they can provide.

  • Brokers and agents are the experts on marketing yet have very little control of makeup of data set
  • Limited in qualitative descriptions, photos, sound, virtual tours, neighborhood info.
  • The limited and ridged structure of the data doesn’t allow brokers to accommodate the type of marketing information that consumers expect and sellers are willing to provide
  • The heterogeneous data sets (960+) make for a fractured broker (entering data) and consumer (providing and viewing) experience.

DATA  TYPES

MLSs  are unable or unwilling to provide for the new types of marketing assets that brokers will need in the future.

  • Current MLSs do not contain all the homes truly for sale – only those under contract.
  • Many New homes are not included (if not under contract).
  • FSBO’s , foreclosures, rentals and vacation properties are not handled properly or at all.

What does this mean?As a result Brokers are unable to satisfy the current demands of consumers let alone the ever increasing demands of the coming Information Empowered Consumer.  

What might a “New National MLS” look like and how could it solve the problems enumerated above?  Well, I am willing to step out on a limb and take a shot at describing how I think it ought to look.

  • A Flexible Homogenous data structure.  This means that it could be a bungalow in Toronto and a Rancher in
    Texas but it is still one data field that is the same everywhere.
  • Ability to accommodate homes not necessarily under contract such as new homes, FSBO’s , foreclosures, rentals and vacation properties.
  • Complete Broker control.  After all they are the ones that really own the data.   Brokers would have complete control over the “who what and where” of their listings or marketing assets. Brokers could then choose to only share marketing assets with those that bring something to the table (other marketing assets or buyers). 
  • Complete control would be easily managed by brokers over the all the National MLS participants with very fine grained control capabilities.
  • Brokers would have complete control of their data for their own use in any manner they desire that is authorized by the providing broker.
  • Automatic branded syndication of data.  Easy and automatic data flow to any media (Google, Yahoo, Realestate.com, newsprint, partner’s websites) that they completely control and could opt out of on a case by case basis.
  • A Democratic Community Based Rating System, much like the eBay sellers rating that would give them insight into their marketing partners.
    • Show what marketing partners are contributing (marketing assets and buyers)
    • Show work ethic and integrity of agents to help in deciding who their marketing partners will be
    • Response time rating
    • Identify service level of their marketing partners to help them decide commission splits based on the principle of equal pay for equal work
    • Consumer satisfaction ratings
    • Referral satisfaction ratings
    • Data Integrity ratings reflecting data timeliness and completeness.
  • Ability to allow home seller to participate (top ten things we will miss about our home/neighborhood).
  • Unlimited photos, descriptions, audio, tours etc. – in short allow brokers to utilize their marketing expertise

If you are a Point2 Agent member you will know that most of this already exists.  Our “Listings Platform” and Point2 Agent HandshakeTM already form the basis for the genesis of a National MLS. 

At Point2 we are committed to the future for real estate agents and brokers.  I would love to hear any thoughts on this interesting, albeit controversial, subject,

15 Responses to National MLS

  1. Finally someone puts in words what I have been thinking since I started real estate.
    In Germany they don’t even know what a Realtor Association or MLS is.
    Banks have their own portals of special financing and real estate brokers within their corporate structure, and it seems to work just fine. The buyer pays the usual commission of 3.48%. How in the world is it even possible to talk about fair practice when each little rinky dink MLS office is owned by a certain majority of members.
    A national MLS would eliminate many backward thinking Agents and Brokers and would revolutionize this outdated system. I just hope I will live to see this happen, so I can really laugh in some peoples faces and be proud that my thoughts were not all that wrong.

  2. Heath says:

    1)There are almost 3 million real estate licensees in the United States. There are only 1,300,000 realtors/mls members. Not all locations need an MLS.
    2) Ten years ago, real estate agents/companies didn’t have their own web site. That has changed drastically. Also, the number of sites on the net has grown from 50 million to over 450 million – that is sites not pages. Now you have to have a techie optimizing your site for every search engine.
    3) Some areas need an MLS. But the “auto-download” to the lead generators has caused all of us company owners to spend thousands on all the “lead generation sites” that use our listings.
    4) Sites like http://www.REindex.com that link to listing companies’ and agents’ page for free, are more useful than the lead generators, because you can now “opt-out” and choose to NOT download your listings to every website on earth. I have started opting-out for our listings. It is the only way to get my traffic back to my office first without paying every lead generator that shows my listings. (and they probably sell the same lead to 10 other agents or companies, at the same time they sell it to me.)
    5) We still co-broke through MLS, because MLS allows realtors to see the listings. But the downloaders don’t get them.
    6) Every company already has properties they know are for sale and not in MLS. Some put them on their web page eve thought hey can’t put them in MLS. I use REindex.com to monitor the “pocket listings” in my town (Falmouth, MA)
    7) A national MLS would probably be an easy target for sherman anti trust problems.

    My 2 cents.

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  4. Dermacia says:

    This post, however off-topic it may be, is about Internet freedom. \”Network Neutrality\” — the First Amendment of the Internet — ensures that the public can view the smallest blog just as easily as the largest corporate Web site by preventing Internet companies like AT&T from rigging the playing field for only the highest-paying sites.

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    In the end game, only large companies will afford domains if the communications monopolies have their way with this. This of course isnt new news, but its coming to a head and blogs like this one will be a ghosttown unless all of us figure it our pretty darn quick. I wont post any links, but advise that if you value the internet, and blogs likw this one, that you search Google for \”Network Neutrality\” and educate yourself on this issue as it effects all of us.

  5. Tony Sena says:

    What should a National MLS look like? That is a very good question and I am still suprised that no one has really tackled this and tried to come up with a solution. I am trying to answer this question as we speak. I have launched a National MLS system on http://www.WannaNetwork.com. I think it should be about driving traffic to the agents to increase their business. Time will tell if we are able to create a National MLS site?

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