Category : Public Portals

Listing Syndication Major Real Estate Portals MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Public Portals

MLS – Where are we now? How did we get here, and where are we headed?

MLS Past, Present, and Future all in

this video clip!

 

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Listing Syndication Major Real Estate Portals MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Public Portals REALTOR.COM

The Future Of Listings Online – It May Not What You Have Been Conditioned To Believe

With all of the Hoopla and the surprises at Inman this week between MOVE/REALTOR.COM/Newscorp and Zillow/Trulia, the New York Times, etc, there is another possibility that will be spoken little of, if at all…and that is talk of a Broker MLS portal as part of a consortium with local MLS and Association public portals…for lack of a better term, the Network.

John and I have been considering and socializing various aspects of a network or consortium, with interesting result. There is much flesh to be put on the bones of this outline. Something that would enhance this concept is the sun setting of syndication by MLSs, leaving it the responsibility of brokers.

So, as with any onion, there are many layers, the future could resemble:

Broker/MLS National Public Portal Joined in a Consortium with Association/MLS Public Portals, AKA The Network

What’s at Stake

  • The current real estate sales model

The Opportunity

  • Position as the authoritative source of real estate information to the public, becoming a competitor for the public eyeballs at a greatly reduced capital cost…you own the data everyone wants
  • Listhub, Zillow Trulia Data Battle will be expensive for both sides, and create an opening for an Industry entry.
  • Creating the revenue from the data search, display, and other acceptable uses to pay for all of the costs of MLS services to real
  • Synergies of this Consortium.

Stakeholders

  • Consumers
  • Agents
  • Brokers
  • Associations/MLSs
  • Franchisors
  • Vendors
  • Consultants
  • Portals

Projects

  • Broker/MLS National Public Portal
  • Association/MLS Public Portals
  • Contract Alignment – LRM (Listing Rights Management) – Data contracts with specific data rights. This is critical. Exclusivity of data is a driver of value, and attainable.

Strategy – P C M

  • Protect – Contract Alignment
  • Control – LRM
  • Monetize – Industry Public Portals

Major Portal Competition

  • Zillow
  • Trulia
  • REALTOR.com

Portals are “Games”

  • Traffic count indications
  • 60 Million Uniques per month
  • 5 Million Annual Transactions
  • Changing rules of data display will not affect serious buyers, only gamers.
  • Portals at vulnerable and at multiple risk
  • Relationships with MLSs are weak
  • Data Source from Point2 short term contracts
  • Data Source from Listhub tentative – owned by Move
  • Reliant upon MLS (free) data to build commerce

The Network is a Player

  • The Network uses its data resources to propel it forward. All indications is that The Network must move now, to maximize the current landscape
  • Third-party Portals pose a threat to brokers as the portals move upstream, creating relationships with consumers early in the home buying process, and cultivate consumers in a far more effective way than is possible for most practitioners. MLSs are at risk
  • The Network is the alternative
  • Network of Portals with combined traffic better than the Top Three
  • Positioned to help Brokers and MLSs control and monetize their data (API Strategies) – LRM
  • MLS Fees become a thing of the past for real estate professionals

Portals Are Vulnerable

  • Be a competitive alternative to the top 3 in the real estate portal space
  • Compete for the current dollars
  • Find ways to monetize or benefit
  • Position for future opportunities (dollars)
  • MLS Public Portals
  • Providing relevant search results to consumers, not hampered by revenue models of most portals
  • Bringing Realtor® and consumers together online through the most dynamic and prolific Online Real Estate Communities on the Internet
  • Data – Quantity and quality, the best of any portal
  • Offering training and education resources to agents and consumers
  • Sold data eventually – “that was then, this is now.” Sold data provided by forward thinking MLSs. Put the Zestimate to bed once and for all.
  • Develop a public portal solution that is a WIN – WIN – WIN (Consumers/Practitioners/Organized Real Estate)
  • A new online consumer experience
  • Syndication Network – MLSs and Association Public portals
  • Harnessing the power of the data, creating data products and revenue for the benefit of consumers and the industry
  • Bringing REALTORS and Consumers together in a conversation
  • Capitalizing on the community and organizing power of our MLSs and Associations to generate community created, hyper-local content

How? Create a “New Model”

  • Key: “Industry Friendly” with Integrity
  • Old Model – Single giant portals competing
  • New Model – Create a network of MLS/Association portals and use the power of the organizations and brokers to help propel the “New Model” to the top, organize and share in revenue. Gain recognition and brand exposure in the marketplace to assist in the sale of other products

Industry Friendly

  • Other MLS/Association Portals
  • Broker Portals
  • Agent Portals
  • Franchisors
  • Anyone who wants the data, under the provisions to be determined
  • More Power Growing demand for data products….the MLS is data rich and can be used to construct many data products that have not yet been thought of.

MLS/Association Portals Will Come From:

  • Public Portal
  • Ad Networks
  • Ads to local vendors
  • Member Involvement
  • Online Community
  • Education
  • Bringing the consumer and the REALTOR® together

Member Benefit

Sending leads back to members In a REALTOR® Friendly way

Emphasis on:

  • Mobile
  • Millennial
  • Social
  • Gaming
  • Learning
  • Community
  • Content
  • Search
  • Display
  • BI/Big Data

The Revenue Opportunities

People keep talking about “data,” but what is it that they are talking about?

  • Information is the currency of the Twenty First Century – Toffler
  • MLS Data – Availability, status, size, on market,
  • Property Data
  • Local Data added by associations and MLSs
  • Community Data
  • Behavioral Data

Components

  • Vision
  • Organizational structure
  • Resources
  • Budget
  • New Hires – a few
  • Responsibility
  • Authority
  • Accountability

MLS Portals

  • Socialize MLS public portal acceptance to MLSs, Associations, Brokers, Agents
  • Strive for as many public portals in the next two years as possible, by all competitors

 

 

 

 

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Listing Syndication Major Real Estate Portals MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Public Portals

Real Estate Syndication Consortium

Back in July, I circulated the seeds of a “position paper” I had in mind, internally, to the leadership at Yardi, and I also circulated it to a few “industry giants.”

I knew that Yardi (then owner of Point2 and the number 2 syndication capability in the Industry) had decided not to dedicate any more resources to the Point2 syndication product. This was about to create a huge hole, and for the right party or parties, an even bigger opportunity.

There were strategic as well as tactical benefits for specific entities that might be willing to step up to the “data distribution” plate, as Yardi was stepping away. Listhub already controlled the biggest network and stood to gain much if it could acquire Point2. Zillow and Trulia seemed to be at greater risk if Point2 were to fall into the hands of Listhub…which then fell into the hands of NEWSCORP.

The September acquisition of Point2 syndication by Listhub (which is owned by MOVE) puts MOVE in a very strong position to regain the number one position it held for so many years. I think we may begin to see some of the results of MOVE’s recent acquisition  of Point2 Syndication when the Zillow and Trulia data contracts with Listhub expire…sooner rather than later. 

What is needed is an Industry syndication alternative. This is the time for disruption, for “taking back the future” by the industry. Conversations and meetings are already taking place. A Public Portal effort with a new syndication effort is a multi billion dollar proposition, and is a possibility if the right entities “join hands.”

I have been saying for a number of years that the value of the MLS data, properly packaged and distributed, should be able to pay the cost of the MLS infrastructure, and a whole lot more, and in a way that is not adversarial, or in conflict with the best interests of the brokerage community, the MLS and association communities, and consumers.

Back to July…here is what I was advocating to a small group: 

Real Estate Syndication Consortium

Create an organization of interested parties who will benefit from more uniformed and structured data resources from MLSs nationwide. This can be done by placing in motion a process whereby MLSs will begin to control their data once again, through the Intellectual Property (data contracts) and Leadership and influence offered by this organization.

 Discussion

Billion dollar enterprises are wrestling and positioning for their share; expectations are that huge commerce will be made in the real estate online marketplace, and all that entails…from advertising, media, and “upstream lookyloos” to the transaction platform and closing, and all of the commerce that may spring from that major event — the purchase or sale of a home. Multiples for companies in this space are unusually high.

There is much at stake, and yet much rides on a major choke point, data acquisition and data rights.

All of the activity pre and post purchase in a lifetime relationship with the consumer in the area of real estate needs is the goal of many portals today, and all of the data that can be derived therefrom.

What all of these companies (save one) lack is reliable long term access to the consistent flow of accurate, dynamic data.

Access to that data is fragmented and of varying degree of accuracy and freshness. What many entities, looking to make commerce in this space all need, the key element, is access to MLS data, which is policed, and made available with varying depth of information, by the different MLSs (Data Providers).

Background:

We have moved from Syndication Evolution to Syndication Revolution in the past 6 months, and it is just beginning. The Industry at the broker, MLS, and agent levels are ready to take control of their data, with new, data agreements developed in a way to insure there is a fair exchange of value for the information.

Brokers, MLSs, have learned much since syndication was brought front and center in the Industry in 2008, with the prevailing thought being “Distribution trumps destination.” Data, its value, and the value of the data created by the data, was being considered by few inside the Industry.

 Current State of the Industry:

There are 3 ways for third parties to obtain this data, at varying expense, and benefit (this was written in July, and now Point2 and Listhub are ONE):

  • Listub – Owned by one of the “Big Three” real estate portals, REALTOR.com – Growing stronger
    • Point2 – Owned by Yardi – weakening and little resource available to make it better
    • Direct Feeds – The choice of major portals, which would benefit in the long run from a more reliable source of data, not controlled by a major competitor

There is great misunderstanding within the industry around data rights and the licensing of those rights, but that is changing and this creates a disruptive opportunity.

In addition, the value proposition provided by those currently using MLS data (Zillow, Trulia et al, received from Point2 at no cost) is being questioned at all levels of the residential real estate sales industry (the Industry).

There is great dissatisfaction with the portals, and with the MLSs by the brokerage community.

The time is now right to use the strengths of the Industry to anchor its position for the future. Those strengths being the data collected by the army of REALTORS who work for free until a transaction closes, and the organization of MLSs across the US and Canada that makes the real estate marketplace in North America the envy of the world. The Industry can now capitalize on the fruits of this labor, for the benefit of:

  • Practitioners at all levels
  • Associations and MLSs
  • Media
  • Consumer

There is an opportunity for major players currently in this space to achieve a number of their individual goals by working together on the Real Estate Data Syndication Consortium project.*

 Purpose of the Organization:

To achieve mutually beneficial goals and objectives around the accumulation, manipulation and dissemination of real estate listing data provided to the public by MLSs, brokers, and franchises, for the benefit of group members, industry stakeholders, and, ultimately, Consumers.

Examples of Benefits:

  • Alternative to Listhub
  • Rewrite syndication model in the residential real estate industry today

Include data rights in a transparent way, and in a fair exchange of value with portals and those desiring the use of the Industry data.

There should be enough money in the data food chain, behavioral and advertising, that the infrastructure in the industry, currently costing the industry over a billion dollars a year (made up, check real number from Clareity…it is a lot).

What entities have an interest and might participate in this “Movement.”

Financial

Expenses – 3 year proposed time to accomplish goals and objectives. With possibilities new opportunities will arise.

Funding could be through a group of investors yet undetermined; the companies mentioned here, and/or others.

Execution

  • Organize and fund as necessary
  • Create the Data Contract Standard – Stake in the Sand
  • Negotiate with Data Recipients
  • Consult with MLS and Brokerage community
  • Charge for the data, and/or data handling and delivery to destination sites
  • Timetable

Results:

Standard data contracts in place and constructed to allow for the continued evolution of the value of the data created by the real estate Industry with the first major goal to be a new funding mechanism for MLS.

Now is the time to take the next step  to change the monetization model of MLS data from lead generation and sales, to the participation in the value created by the information, and by the information created by the information….

Considering the above, the days of dominance of the current portal superpowers may be numbered.

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Public Portals Uncategorized

Househappy: A More Industry Friendly National Portal?

Househappy: A More Industry Friendly National Portal?

In many respects, today’s leading online real estate search portals are all starting to look alike. So much so, that consumers frequently skim through listings on more than one of these sites, thereby creating a gigantic number of eyeball visits on an aggregated basis relative to the actual number of home sales. If one adds the reported visits from the 4 top ranked portals by monthly traffic, the number exceeds 150 million unique visitors per month. And yet there are only about 5 million home sale transactions per year over the last few years.

While listing agents may be initially attracted to the appearance of national exposure of their listing asset on the more well known portals, the consumer often finds it easier to locate competing agents on the listing detail page than it is to find the listing agent — that is, unless the listing agent decides to lay out some marketing dollars for prime placement.

It seems the profit model of the large, national portals is based on selling online impression-based advertising to agents, where priority is given to the highest bidder rather than the agent with the listing. And the marketing fees seem to be rising and someday may reach as much as 40% of the commission on a closed sale, as noted in a recent Inman article.

Some brokerages like Edina Realty and Crye-Leike have viewed the business models of third party portals as a means to position the portal between the brokerage’s agents and the consumer — and the brokerages have demonstrated their distaste with these models by removing their listings from a few of the larger portals altogether in some markets, creating “black holes” where the portals do not have local listings to display.

With this Industry feedback in mind, several recently launched portals are trying to find new approaches to displaying listing data while giving proper credit to the listing agent.

So, what if there was a portal that prominently displayed only the listing agent’s name next to their listings—and what if this portal did this for free?

We found a site with a fresh new approach to displaying listings that does just that.  Househappy has entered the market quietly — however, you may have seen them most recently in the news as an invited attendee at the Realogy FWD innovation summit where Househappy was described as a “visual real estate search engine that offers consumers an intuitive way to search homes for sale, and brokers and agents a free platform on which to advertise their properties.”

If you haven’t yet heard of Househappy, I encourage you to take a look at www.Househappy.com.  You might notice that the home page is very different than what we are used to seeing with other national portals.

Here are a few other things that Househappy is doing differently for real estate professionals and in a manner consistent with Listing Rights Management principles:

  • Cost—It’s free. No ads and no fees for real estate professionals or for buyers.
  • Leads—All leads belong to the listing agent. Your listing, your leads. Leads flow directly to you. The buyers email you directly.
  • Integrity—Clear ownership of listings. Your contact information (and no one else’s) is displayed next to your property post, along with a link to your agent profile.
  • Agent Profile—You can build your brand presence online with a professional, dedicated profile page. All your properties are displayed on the agent profile and there is space to include your bio, expertise, specialties, and all forms of contact.
  • Social Tools —Connect with buyers and share your properties with built-in social sharing tools on every property post.

Househappy may be flying under the radar for now, but based on what we have seen, not for long. It looks like a welcome addition to the online real estate search space.

HH_Press_Agent-ProfileHH_Press_Property-Listing

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MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Online Sales Public Portals

Want to Buy a House? What’s For Sale?

Today, with the aid of the Internet, consumers can find timely and accurate information about homes available for sale, at the push of a button, at the speed of light…without the inconvenience of a conversation with a real estate agent. Millions of available properties are displayed on many different real estate sites, the largest being Zillow, Trulia, and REALTOR.com

In the United States, we have a real estate marketplace that is the envy of the Free World. It is not perfect, but billions of dollars of residential real estate business is transacted year after year). A KEY ingredient to the success of our real estate marketplace in North America is MLS, or Multiple Listing Service. What exactly is “MLS”?

MLS is the coming together of Brokers (competitors) to share their listing inventory. A listing is the contract with a seller, allowing the broker to offer the property for sale, and it includes an offer of commission. MLS provides access to its inventory to brokers who represent buyers as well as sellers. An MLS in not a publicly accessible data base, unless it elects to be such.

National Association of REALTORS MLS Model Rules states:

“A Multiple Listing Service is a means by which authorized Participants make blanket unilateral offers of compensation to other Participants (acting as subagents, buyer agents, or in other agency or nonagency capacities defined by law); by which information is accumulated and disseminated to enable authorized Participants (Real Estate Broker Licensees) to prepare appraisals and other valuations of real property; by which Participants engaging in real estate appraisal contribute to common databases; and is a facility for the orderly correlation and dissemination of listing information among the Participants so that they may better serve their clients and the public. Entitlement to compensation is determined by the cooperating broker’s performance as procuring cause of the sale (or lease).” (Amended 11/96) NAR MLS Model Rules.”

The National Association of REALTORS MLS Handbook states:

“Through the facility of multiple listing, information concerning individual listings can be made known to all Realtors® who participate in the activity. In associations of Realtors® with few members, the actual operation can be very simple. Each Realtor® can duplicate enough copies of the information concerning his listing to distribute to all other participants. However, when many Realtors® are involved, the distribution of information becomes more burdensome and may require reasonable rules of procedure and efficient central office management to expedite the service. Regardless of the method, however, the basis of the multiple listing activity is the creation of a facility whereby Realtors® may most effectively invite other brokers to enter into cooperative agreements with them for the sale of their listings and provide information necessary to permit such cooperation; by which information is accumulated and disseminated to enable authorized participants to prepare appraisals and other valuations of real property; and by which participants engaging in real estate appraisal contribute to common databases. (Amended 4/92) “

MLS was created decades, maybe a century before the Internet. It was not created for the purpose of distributing MLS data for advertising, or for the creation of revenue streams with third party vendors.

Since the introduction of the Internet as a means of providing MLS information to consumers in the early 1990s, some MLSs across the country have gone beyond the original stated purpose of MLS, to the benefit and pleasure of some, as well as to the dismay and disapproval of others. In addition, the movement toward larger MLSs and regionalization has been fueled by promises of economies of scale and other potential benefits to MLS users, which may or may not materialize and there really is a question as to the power of the data, who should control it, and how, for the benefit of whom.

New Consumer portals featuring inventory received by the MLS are being met with great consumer success, making many MLSs ponder the idea of making some of their database of inventory, directly accessible to the public?

 

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MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Public Portals

Direct Monetization of MLS Data – Public MLS Portals

Public MLS Portals are controversial…but, if done right, they can make sense, as the Houston Association of REALTORS (HAR) and Bob Hale, its CEO, continue to advise the Industry at every opportunity (Bob is one of my industry heroes, and he introduced me to Uber when we spent a week in the Las Vegas Airport one day!).

HAR claims that it is the number one real estate portal in its market. While that may be disputed by some, it is an impressive feat to be close to first, if not first.

Might MLS public portals, within well-defined criteria, be the next step in the never-ending saga of syndication and data distribution?

The recent conversations of the NAR MLS Committee regarding MLS levels of service, and the Realty Alliance Fair Display Guidelines have brought the subject of MLS and Association Public Portals “front and center.”

Is it possible to build a Public Portal that:

1. Benefits Brokers

2. Benefits Agents

3. Benefits MLSs

4. Benefits Associations

5. Benefits Franchisers

In other words, benefits all major stakeholders, and…

6. A portal that Consumers love with robust and relevant data, true search, less advertising, mobile, parcel based (property wiki), cool technology, with acceptable privacy terms.

A number of major entities, including Point2, think so, and are creating Public Portal products for associations and MLSs. The Point2 Public Portal product is a world-class website that complies with the Fair Display Guidelines and does not require dues dollars for support, but instead shares advertising revenue with the MLSs and Associations.

Competition in the MLS Public-facing Website space includes big name players –

Rapattoni

About:
Not a true public facing portal until recently;  in the past it integrated find a home and find a realtor into its member site. Here’s a demo of their new comprehensive Rapattoni Integrated Website Service (IWS) –  http://www.rapattoni.com/multimedia/player/player.asp?v=IWSDemoVideoShortVersion.mp4&w=864&h=540&title=Rapattoni+Integrated+Website+Service

New Orleans Metro looks like their first true public facing portal http://www.nomar.org/

They also recently completed the San Francisco Association of REALTORS® member site http://my.sfrealtors.com/  http://www.rapattoni.com/news/pr/13_07_24SFAR.asp

As noted in Vendor Alley,  Rapattoni  is entering  the public facing website game with its Rapattoni Integrated Website Service (IWS). “As with their other product the new IWS works with their existing applications, which seems to be an advantage over non-MLS vendor solutions. More and more MLS vendors are adding this type of solution to their offerings. In some cases, like Solid Earth, it is becoming a “tent pole” type of product.”

Real Estate Digital (RED) – LPS

•             Operated by former LPS executives; MLS consultants

•             Entering the public-facing website arena – http://realestatedigital.com/consumer-portal/

Notice the similarity with the promotional message offered by the various public portal competitors –

From RED: “Why should national real estate websites monopolize all the money from your Broker, Agent and MLS listings?

Create your own public website that displays and promotes listings and open houses – and more importantly drives traffic and leads to your member sites and REVENUE to your organization.
Create a Lead-Generating Engine for Non-Dues Revenue.  The MLS Consumer Portal is a customizable, public-facing website, where consumers can search for Open Houses and Active listings, find their Agent or research local school and neighborhood information. Best of all, the leads and inquiries go directly back to the Agent and/or Broker of Record. Include our REALM Advertising Network and now your MLS Portal is generating revenue and working for you!

•             sample site: http://www.recolorado.com/
•             Offers a Value Estimates tool “What’s your home worth?”

CoreLogic

Mission/Sales Proposition:
“A public multiple listing website that not only delivers added value to brokers and agents, it provides consumers with something they cannot get from many other sites—truly localized listings and information. Make your association’s public website the one-stop shop for real estate in your market with a custom-designed Website from CoreLogic. Detailed listings, frequent updates, highly accurate “locals only” information, agent searches and much more provide a comprehensive picture of your local real estate market.

Become the #1 Provider of Public Property Information in Your Market.  An effective public multiple listing web site can deliver real value to your brokers and agents by promoting REALTORS® to the public and providing a friendly, consumer-centric real estate portal with the best property information on the Internet. Stop other web sites from stealing your members’ leads! Your multiple listing organization should be the one-stop real estate web site in your market. This service is available to real estate boards/associations and multiple listing organizations.”

Sample Sites                                                                                                                                                             
http://hiltonheadmls.com/
http://homelasvegas.comCoreLogic embeds the local market statistics they provide.
http://myfloridahomesmls.com//HomePageMFR.aspx?vidx=ERoQ0BM-9hCCWKizlNgKog2

•             Advertising Network –  http://www.corelogic.com/products/corelogic-real-estate-ad-network.aspx

  • The large Mid Florida MLS announced to its members that it was going to include “neutral” advertising – “The ads will appear on the home page, search results, find-an-agent page and property detail pages. While consumers will see premier brands, they’ll never see ads from brokerages, agents or real estate franchises.” Advertising launch announcement: http://www.mfrmls.com/news/815-myfloridahomesmlscom-advertising-launch

Solid Earth

  • Mission:
    We are partnering with clients to make technology accessible, useful, and valuable to real estate professionals.
  • Other Services:
    SpringAPI – The Spring API will connect developers and vendors interested in serving the Real Estate industry with real-time access to the data sets our clients have created. (marketingHYPERLINK “http://solidearth.com/products/spring/” page)
  • Clients:
    They service 24 MLSs mostly in Alabama, southeast) – http://solidearth.com/about/ including Staten Island , Charleston, North Alabama Regional.
  • Sample public portal sites:
    Chattanooga – https://homes.gcar.net/
    Emerald Coast – http://www.emeraldcoasthomesonline.com/(S(pzwwbymtt4ym2nahljscm3y4))/default.aspx
  • Other Products/Services:  APIs
    -Spring:  Pay-For-Use Business Model – Spring will allow client organizations a way out of the aging $/user model and into a more stable, sustainable pay-for-use approach. High-end users invest in necessary services and low-end users are shielded from waste expense.  An attractive bolt-on opportunity – Client organizations need not purchase “all or nothing” with Spring. Spring can grow slowly along side a legacy product allowing an organization wishing to avoid mass upheaval among membership to offer Spring to eager early adopters.  Complete Ad Network where Ad Revenue will be supplemental to the Spring business model and allow for meaningful revenue share opportunities back to the client organization.  Built on an Application Programming Interface (API) – Solid Earth maintains relationships with 27 outside vendors; all of whom access the underlying database.

MLS Direct Syndication — http://www.big-llc.com/index.jsp

A big supporter is the Huntsville Alabama MLS and their public-facing website is http://www.valleymls.com/(S(fn5g120bgxx2ltqt5ef2f1bk))/default.aspx

                Their message: It is time for MLS and Brokers to take full control of their valuable content. MLS Direct Syndication puts power in your hands in several important ways:

•Direct feeds to each recipient ensure that you know who has legitimate access to your listing feed, and therefore who should not.

•Listing feed recipients must abide by MLS terms and conditions for use. MLS can immediately suspend feeds to any group found to be out of compliance.

•MLS and MLS members decide where leads and links are directed.

•MLS Direct Syndication allows data managers and creators to charge for data access if desired. Our MLS Direct Syndication solution provides an automated process for billing.

•MLS members can determine precisely where their listings will appear, and changes can be made easily at any time.

 Conclusion:

All of these active players in the MLS public-facing website space have a common goal, namely helping the MLS in the area of competing with the large national portals for consumer traffic and agent lead generation.

DREAM?   REALITY?   or SOMETHING IN BETWEEN?

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Listing Syndication Public Portals

I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows… I believe that somewhere in the darkest night, a candle glows…

I believe:

1. Aggregator Portals are vulnerable and at multiple risk.

2. The Portal’s relationships with MLSs, in general are weak at best.

3.Data received by portals from syndicators is subject to rule changes and restriction on use (possibly on very short notice).

4. Listhub is owned by Move (a major competitor to the portals), which is a risk for those portals dependent upon their competitor for the oxygen they require to live.

5. The portals are reliant upon MLS (free) data to build commerce.

6. The data should no longer flow free of charge from MLSs to these portals.

This all adds up to extreme vulnerability for the portals and opportunity for brokers, agents, MLSs, Associations and ultimately, buyers and sellers of real property…at least that s what I believe.

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Listing Syndication Public Portals

Looking at (not for) Real Estate on the www is a game, and should be recognized as a game

Games, real estate, and the WWW…

The big real estate portals are really “Game” sites. I have said this before but I will keep saying this to drive the point into everyone’s heart.

Just as Ancestry Dot Com is a “Game” site that is not recognized by most as a “Game” site…it is true with the major real estate portals as well. They are game sites, not recognized as game sites.

A major point that has led me to this conclusion about real estate portals are the traffic counts continually boosted by the portals, traffic counts on the order of 60 Million Unique Visitors per month (or more).

But how many actual real estate transactions are there in the ENTIRE year?

According to NAR, about  6 Million Annual Transactions. So most of these visitors to real estate portals are not buyers…and yet we are allowing these portals to establish relationships with consumers far in advance of a purchase, using your listing information as the “bait.”

Changing rules of data display will not affect serious buyers, only gamers. This bears repeating: Changing rules of data display will not affect serious buyers, only gamers.

So, as Denver Metrolist is looking at making changes to the distribution rules to public portals, so should all MLSs, Associations, and brokers look to make changes to their existing data distribution rules. Changing rules of data display will not affect serious buyers, only gamers.

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Data Licensing Listing Syndication MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Public Portals

Evolution of MLS Public Websites

There is a movement afoot among Multiple Listing Service (MLS) executives and brokers across the country to take measures to protect, control, and monetize the very valuable asset they guard – namely, the data surrounding listings. A key component of this strategy is the consumer-facing MLS website, also known as the MLS Public Portal.

The idea behind a MLS public website is not new. In a 2009 study of MLS public listings websites, Matt Cohen, well-regarded technology chief for Clareity Consulting, said: “I have been an advocate for MLS websites that provide real estate listings information to the public since 1996. Such websites have always made sense as a hedge against industry outsiders that want to intercept the consumer on their way to the real estate professional, selling expensive advertising, charging referral fees and/or reducing the broker’s capability to provide a one-stop-shop for services ancillary to the real estate transaction.”

In 2009, Clareity Consulting studied every MLS listing website in the United States and found most of them to be severely lacking in features and deficient in other criteria. Clareity updated their study in 2011 and again in 2013, evaluating the listing websites of the top 100 MLSs by size. Of these MLSs, 63 had listing websites, which collectively represent approximately half of the residential listing content in the United States. Links to each of the Clareity Consulting Studies are provided at the foot of this article – we’ll take a look at some of the highlights here but we  encourage you to take the time to read them in full.

Historically, MLS vendors have not focused on the development of MLS public websites and some of their offerings were an afterthought and lacked the content and features found in the national portals. The websites and search components provided by vendors were often free and very basic so MLS operators that wanted a more robust public site retained a local or national website vendor or hired staff to develop it themselves.

Today’s consumers visit many sites and expect more than a basic system. They are not likely to return to a site just because it is provided by the MLS for the reason that the listings are in many places where additional content and advanced features provide a better search experience and superior analysis tools and reports.

Clareity’s 2013 Update stated that: “In order to field highly functional websites, most of these MLSs have moved away from the free websites provided by MLS vendors. A few have improved their websites’ capabilities by purchasing a premium website from their MLS vendor, while 29 % have either developed a custom website by themselves or with technology partners and 61% have leveraged the capabilities of IDX vendors.”

A good example of a Realtor-friendly consumer website was recently launched by the San Francisco Association of Realtors® at the mobile friendly www.sfrealtors.com that will soon add local videos to their Neighborhood tab.

Both the 2011 and the 2013 studies addressed the main features of a well-designed MLS public website. Here’s a quick look:

  1. Finding Properties (Search) – There is no good reason not to provide either ‘count on the fly’ or its visual equivalent, where listings are shown on a map as criteria are changed.
  2. Search Filters/Content – Only 16% of sites allow you to search for pending or sold listings, useful when you want to look at comparable properties. It seems likely that in the future, to remain competitive with national listing advertising sites, more MLSs will allow for local display of pending or sold listings and/or display that information via public records display.
  3. Open House – 70% of sites have some kind of open house search, either integrated directly into property search or available as a separate search from the site’s top-level menu.
  4. Details About Individual Properties – The simplest and least sophisticated implementations of property maps are simply links to Google Maps or another online mapping application, or popup windows in which such links are loaded. Better implementations use their own map data, overlaid with their own points of interest. The advantages of having many pictures of a property rather than one should be obvious. Nonetheless, 9% of top MLS listing websites still show only one picture per property. “Virtual tours” were a hot idea years ago, but the implementations mostly looked like slideshows with perhaps a little wiggle here and there to simulate motion. Most virtual tours still have that limitation, and are displayed by only 13% of sites.
  5. Personalizing Your Searches – 46% of sites allow the consumer to save searches, 24% allow the consumer to receive email updates on properties and 24% allow the consumer to compare listings side by side. Features allowing consumers to save searches and/or listings and receive email updates are crucial for the long-term usability of the website by consumers and should be implemented by more than a minority of websites.
  6. Sharing and Printing Properties – A supermajority of sites (73%) allow you to send an email with a listing to a friend, and a similar number (78%) give you a version of a property detail page that is formatted so that you can print it easily. 45% of sites let you post a link to a property detail page to social media sites, such as Facebook and Pinterest, so that you can share the specs on that dream house with your friends.
  7. Neighborhood Features – Although having a full range of visuals and data about a home’s immediate property is undeniably the central issue for homebuyers, most also would like to have a clear sense of the home’s neighborhood. In this respect, most MLS websites provide scant information, and would do well to beef up their offerings. Similarly, MLS websites provide prospective homebuyers with little information about the neighborhoods themselves. Providing information beyond the listings themselves – especially neighborhood and points-of-interest information – is absolutely critical for MLS websites that wish to be competitive.
  8. Visiting and Choosing a Property – Once a homebuyer has identified several properties of interest, he or she may want to compare their features. Currently 24% of MLS sites enable browsers to compare properties side by side.
  9. Costs of an Individual House – Information about comparable sales, a house’s sale history, and local market trends can help a buyer make an informed decision. Unfortunately, only 27% of sites offer historical and statistical information.
  10.   Advertisement and Policies – Advertisements are a way for an MLS to monetize its site and connect consumers with services they may need during the home buying process. At the same time, they may detract from a site’s appearance of objectivity and authority. 16% of sites display advertisements.
  11.   Appearance of Sites – Use white space and “normal” size fonts as appropriate. Don’t treat the listing page like a data dump. You are not paying by the pixel. Make it easy for people to read the listings.
  12.  Accessibility – International buyers and non-English speakers represent a growing number of purchasers of U.S. homes, especially in multicultural markets such as New York, Texas, and Florida. Public MLS sites that present a user interface in a buyer’s language have an advantage. Only 8% of sites currently offer multiple languages, up from under 1% in 2009.
  13.  Mobile – In 2009, the category of mobile real estate sites did not exist. Today, technology companies sell more mobile phones than computers. The real estate industry has simply not caught up; it is seriously lagging behind. Less than 50% of MLSs have mobile sites. This is a missed opportunity and a crucial area in which MLSs must rise to the challenge, given that, according to NAR, 61% of consumers on a tablet or phone who visit a website that isn’t mobile friendly leave the site immediately and may never come back.
  14.   Search Engine Optimization – Only 36% of MLS sites received a PageRank of 4 or 5 and others were even lower. This is not particularly good, considering that PageRank tops out at a rating of “10.” Only 41% of sites studied had listings indexed by Google! The benefits afforded by having all of the listings indexed and the “long tail” search should not be underestimated. A prime example of the high rankings that can be achieved by a MLS public website is the Houston Association website at www.HAR.com
  15.   MLS Data Security – While consumers are the main audience of your MLS listings site, there is another hidden audience, one that you don’t want. “Scrapers” are scanning your site, copying your data, and using it or reselling it for unlicensed purposes.

Realtor friendly MLS public websites are a big part of the movement to protect, control and monetize the data. Our hats off to Gregg Larson and Matt Cohen and the Clareity Consulting team for their monitoring of the evolution of MLS public websites.

Sources:

TheDataAdvocate – MLS Public Websites

Clareity Consulting – 2013 MLS Public Website Update

Clareity Consulting – 2011 MLS Public Website Update (feature comparisons)

Clareity Consulting – 2009 MLS Public Website Study

Matt’s Real Estate Technology Blog – Measuring Success article

Matt’s Review of SFAR public website

 

 

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Data Licensing Listing Syndication MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Public Portals

Take Back Your Future – Or Is It Too Late? The MLS Data and Information Debate

It is not too late.

Not only that, the time is NOW to determine paths to data monetization of MLS Information for the real estate industry, with a few initial, specific objectives.

I have been around Internet listing display and listing data distribution since their inception in 1995. My initial experience with MLS data was as an MLS user and a broker, and an association volunteer in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. This led the way for my work with NAR, RIN, Realtor.com, InternetCrusade, and more recently with ePRO, and Syndication as CEO of Point2. We are now at the threshold of a convergence of Syndication (Data Distribution) and MLS Public Portals. This is significant, with billions of dollars of revenue at stake over time. Shouldn’t some of that revenue be directed to pay for the cost of the data, for the infrastructure that supports the data pipeline?

There is a lot of “noise,” misinformation and disinformation about these two related subjects being promulgated and propagated, with intentions that are, in my opinion, not in the best interest of many of the current industry stakeholders, particularly brokers and agents. There is an insidious, yet direct assault being waged against your business practices. Stay with me on this.

What you see of the real estate landscape on the web today is in large part a result of decisions made at the dawn of the Age of the Web (around 1996). But the real estate portals of today, exemplified by Realtor.com, Zillow, and Trulia are not the only solutions to the data concerns of primary industry stakeholders today, and now is the time to seriously consider and implement alternatives which are in the best interest of your business and practice, before it is too late.

Who are the Primary Industry Stakeholders?

  • Agents
  • Brokers
  • MLSs
  • Associations
  • Franchisors
  • Vendors
  • Data Display Sites (Portals such as Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia)
  • Consumers of real property goods and services

Based on what I’ve learned working on this for the last 18 years, and more recently over the last six years, I believe there is now room for different public portal real estate models to flourish. I also believe that the window of opportunity is not indefinite and is in fact, short…two to three years.

My belief is driven largely by my perception, after speaking in person with tens of thousands of agents and brokers from coast to coast, and many more online. My perception is that there is a growing dissatisfaction of the current choices available for data display in the industry, and a feeling that the large, real estate portal models of today do not seem to be serving the interest of the brokers, agents, associations, MLSs or the consumers they serve.

I firmly believe my perception is an accurate portrayal of the feelings in the industry. We can debate this all day, but this is what my intuition is telling me, based on thousands of conversations. The portals of today can quote me all of the traffic numbers they like, but I do not buy the proposed beneficial impact implied by traffic count. But you do not have to take my word for it. You can check this out for yourself. Take the temperature of your colleagues about the major portal choices available today, what they like and don’t like, at your next office meeting.

What is the problem with many portal displays of MLS listing information today?

  • Inaccurate data
  • Untimely data
  • Diversion of leads away from listing agent
  • Sale of leads to agents and brokers generated from listing content
  • Consumer frustration, anger and distrust of agents when inaccurate property representations appear on some of the real estate portals

These are but a few of the complaints I have heard.

Here is the good news:

That was then, this is now. Information is the currency of the Twenty First Century (Toffler)

MLS/Association public portals can be influential as we move forward into the next phase of the real estate cycle. MLSs hold the key to the success of the very portals that are the targets of the industry complaints mentioned earlier in this piece. Part of the answer lies with stricter data licensing provisions and enforcement.

Data Licensing

The current listing distribution (syndication) position of the industry is ready for the next phase. This phase will continue to restrict the uses of MLS data and Information, understanding that information is the currency of the Twenty-First Century.

The following are examples of Data Licensing Provisions which have been vetted by key players and organizations, including major brokers and successful agents. In order for third party MLS data publishers to utilize MLS data, I believe that, unless granted authority otherwise, third party publishers of MLS data must adhere to the following:

  • Publisher is not allowed to sublicense the licensed data nor use or display licensed data in any derivative works.
  • Publisher may not capture leads from the display of specific listings and sell them back to the participant broker/agent or divert them to third parties (the ‘three-headed monster’).
  • Publisher may not feature any other persons or companies associated with a specific broker’s listing in a more prominent manner as the listing broker in any advertisement or promotion.
  • Publisher may only display the licensed data in the context of a consumer display (not, for example, display on an agent’s mobile app).
  • Publisher may not retain any licensed data after termination of the syndication agreement or after a participant has opted-out.
  • Publisher may not re-syndicate and must retain custody of the licensed data and not operate sites on behalf of third parties, even if framed on a third party site or powered by publisher
  • Publisher may not modify the licensed data in any material way
  • Publisher must provide a link on each listing display that directs consumers to the URL provided with each listing where consumers can access extended property information
  • Publisher must promptly update their site upon any update of licensed data
  • Participants must have access to a dashboard where they can change the opt-in and opt-out selections regarding any publisher

If publishers will not agree to these license provisions, they will be denied the data feed from the MLS. Publisher portals are free to ask sellers for the data, or brokers, or agents. Of course data from these sources is not as accurate or timely…but these portals will still have access to the data, so any cries of anti–trust will be muted by the facts. Some MLSs may decide to allow for fewer data restrictions for a fee. Some may also charge the same RETS Feed fees they charge other vendors, such as IDX vendors, imposing the same sorts of restrictions.

MLS Public Portals

MLS Public Portals can be another piece of this puzzle as brokers, agents, associations and MLSs look to further define their value propositions.

MLSs, Associations and the Brokers who govern them have the power to create a Public Portal Model that serves the interests of consumers, brokers, agents, associations and MLSs.

A portal model that:

  • Provides relevant search results to consumers, not hampered by revenue models
  • Focuses on Data – Quantity and quality, including timeliness
  • Brings Realtor® and consumers together online through the most dynamic and prolific Online Real Estate Communities on the Internet
  • Drives traffic and leads to broker sites, without the added expense
  • Provides ACCURATE Sold information eventually – “that was then, this is now.” Sold data is currently being provided on a public portal by some MLSs. This practice can be a game changer.
  • Promotes the value of working with a licensed professional.
  • Does not depend upon selling featured agent or featured property ads for revenue
  • Offers training and education resources to agents and consumers
  • Pays for the cost of the infrastructure (and maybe more eventually) through:
    • revenue created from the sale and licensing of certain data – RETS feed fees MLSs are currently charging some vendors, such as IDX vendors, and not others, such as Syndication vendors
    • derivative works of unidentifiable data for a multitude of industries
    • generic advertising, both national and local.
    • consumer behavioral data products based on consumer activity on the site

This model, if adopted by a few MLSs, will mushroom into the choice of consumers and will prove a superior alternative to the portal models of today. Over 400 MLSs currently have some form of public MLS display.

The recent NAR conversations around MLS public portals being either core, basic and optional services, has created the opportunity to once again have an industry discussion around the direct monetization of MLS data through MLS public portals.

Broker’s benefit from tighter control of Listing Data and Information

The collection of the data and information that sits in MLS databases is accomplished by a “volunteer” army of agents and brokers who toil until a transaction closes, with no compensation.

The labor required for the collection of the MLS Listing, used by third party sites to generate commerce, has a cost, currently borne by brokers and agents. Add to that the fact that margins in the brokerage business are smaller than some might imagine, and the idea of eliminating the cost of the MLS infrastructure through the efficient commercialization of the data begins to make sense.

What about the Huge Traffic Counts from Syndication?

Five million home transactions on average each year according to NAR. The three major portals talk about 40 to 50 million unique visitors per month. Obviously, most of the uniques are not homebuyers. Go more granular…to your city or town, zip, type of property, and price range, and the number of substantial leads from those 50 million numbers dwindles rapidly. And aside from leads (whatever constitutes a lead), what about conversions? The conversion rate of these leads would portray an even sadder story of the value gained by agents and brokers from listing portals today.

It’s too late; you can’t put the horse back in the barn. The competition has too much money!

Baloney. This is not about money as we normally think about it. This is about currency, and information is the currency of the Twenty-First Century. And MLSs have much of the information, and all of the power that entails, which they can now bring to bear for the benefit of their Subscribers and Participants…the brokers and agents around the country. The lion coming over the hill is the MLS and the brokers and agents they represent.

The game is still in the early innings. There will be many obstacles and diversions along the way. But have no doubt that the universe of information collected (and even more which can be collected moving forward) has value and will have greater value as we continue to find new ways to use the information. Toffler’s statement, “Information is the currency of the Twenty-First Century speaks directly to MLSs today, and indirectly to the brokers and agents that control them through the maze of governance and businness stucture, which allows for the collection and compilation of current, and future assets.

Broker control over marketing dollar:

Use of MLS data is now fueling consumer confidence and helping to build brand for big companies. Is the advertising these companies offer in return really worth the price you are paying? If it is, end of story. If it is not, it is time to act. The first step is to continue to follow our discussions at TheDataAdvocate.

As brokers were once trapped and forced to advertise in newspapers, because it was “expected” by sellers, it will become that way with portals over the next few years, but there is still time to make sure that does not happen,. A clear vision and focus over the next 3 years has the potential to further fulfil the expectations of all those interested in real property.

Many of the “voices of the industry” will cry that it’s “too little, too late.” I know that this is a very tall order. I brought the concept of listings on the Web to the industry in 1995, and I was instrumental in many aspects of the creation of Realtor.com®. Along with my partner, attorney and author John Reilly, we resuscitated the NAR e-PRO Program in 2001 and grew it into the largest Certification program in the history of NAR. We created an alternative to Listhub, the only large listing syndication company in 2009-2012, and now owned by MOVE, Inc. In each case, the task at hand seemed almost insurmountable. We’re not strangers to challenge and adversity, and we’re looking forward to this challenge.

John and I may not have all the answers, but we’re not ready to tell the industry to give up the fight. The “conventional wisdom” may be telling the industry to throw in the towel, however, that’s bad advice from those who have something to gain should you heed their advice.  At Point2, we are not ready to accept the premise that “MLS is dead.” We believe that MLS as an industry is alive, well, and gaining strength and direction with organizations such as CMLS, and COVE Group. The MLS is the consumers’ best friend, and the ally of brokers and agents. John and I fully intend to participate and have an impact on this conversation and the future of listing data on the Internet. The time is right, the forces are aligning and the future is a little clearer with each passing day.

The time to take control of the future of your business, be it brokerage and sales, MLS, or Association Management, is now. Use the strengths you have today to anchor your position in the future.

It is not too late.

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