Data Licensing Listing Syndication MLS (Multiple Listing Service)

MLS 5.0 – Back to the Future

In 2008, I wrote a paper titled MLS 5.0, “The Future of MLS.” So that you don’t have to read the whole paper, here is the Conclusion:

In Conclusion

There is a lot of information contained in this paper, and yet, it is but an annotated outline of what must be done to take advantage of and build upon the strengths of MLS and of the real estate brokerage business. MLSs must use their strengths today to secure their position in the future.

MLS is really an amazing creation if you think about it…A collection of competitors, in a highly competitive, commission-only business, sharing inventory and sharing compensation. The result is a more effective market for real estate practitioners and consumers. Over the years, MLS has changed and it continues to have the most accurate property data available anywhere, constantly updated and kept accurate by an army of agents whose only monetary compensation comes when the transaction “closes.” Today, agents and homeowners themselves are advertising their properties on Craigslist, Google, Yahoo!, and many other sites. All of these sites would love property information available from MLSs because it is unquestionably the highest quality and most accurate of any existing source.

What if the self-policing aspects of a real time Web really began working on Craigslist, Google, or any other online destination site? What if every seller “intuitively” knew that the place to advertise their home to consumers and to agents was on Craigslist (or Facebook or any other growing number of web site destinations)? What if they knew how to post it on Craigslist themselves (and you, the real estate professional did not know how)? In short, what if the impossible becomes possible? If Google became the source of all available properties for sale, nationwide, how might that impact the business of MLS? If as a REALTOR® you could find the complete inventory of property for sale, for free, why would you pay a fee to belong to MLS?
You may think it will take a long time for Google (Yahoo! Etc) to become known as the place for sellers to list property and consumers to find property, and you may be correct.But recall, how many people knew of Google just 10 short years ago and how many know of it today? How many people knew of Craigslist 10 years ago and how many know of it today? In a short span of time, unknown web sites have become household words. The world of MLS as we know it is approaching a cliff, and many riding the MLS train, do not see the cliff as it gets closer with each passing day.

So here is the point. Most of us don’t relish change, but at the same time we have experienced that in life, many things fail to remain as they have always been, so how is MLS any different? To secure its place in the future, MLS must redefine itself from a purely Business to Business (B2B) network and look to becoming a marketing facilitator for its participants and subscribers. It needs to take advantage of its assets and shift its paradigm from information about what is for sale, to information on all property whether for sale or not. From this perspective, brokers and agents can continue to effectively differentiate themselves from the competition, manage information more efficiently, provide more service to their customers, and evolve to be the “trusted and authoritative source” they want the world to believe that they are.

Is the creation of MLS 5.0 a major project? It is. It will require conversation and analysis by all who are considered as stakeholders…but how do you eat an elephant? You have heard it for years: “one bite (byte) at a time.”

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