What if – the MLS went away?

Would marketing become more important? How would buyers/consumers find houses/websites dedicated to individual properties? The Search engines. Search engines are already dipping their toes feet are already up to the waists in real estate search technology. Would this not present an opportunity for search to develop their own listing aggregators? All the blogs we do for properties, all the personalized websites, all our personal websites, not to mention our blogs – depend on the search engines.

There is much talk around the real estate blogosphere about the demise of the MLS, how it is for the consumer, a database to which Realtors and subscribers ought to have no real ownership of, that it has nearly become a public utility that is in the public domain, albeit paid for and serviced by those same Realtors and subscribers.

One huge question is one relative to data/content quality: What about duplicates? And triplicate entries? There are at least three services that allow for easy uploading to various sites which are all competing for the real estate dollar: Postlets and VFlyer will both upload listing information to Google, craigslist, eBay … the list is nearly endless. Visual Tour will upload listings to Google among others. (Note: I first learned of postlets from the Tomato) and … the Tomato offers this proposal as well – the internet is traditional marketing. What’s next?

A question I have asked before but have not yet answered – Are we as Realtors undermining the value of the MLS by posting our listing content in all these places? Are prospective buyers looking at these alternatives because Realtors put content there?

Greg puts it succinctly (as usual):

But: It would be a mistake to replace this depth of information with a more-shallow but more-user-friendly substitute. A true home search entails searching for the small details, not the big features.

For those who feel that the MLS is for the public – here is my challenge – work for a week without using the MLS.

Bottom line: Realtors are shooting themselves in their collective feet. But, the die has been cast. How will we be different going forward?

As a Realtor, how would you do business relying solely on the various sites that are in the process of filling the perceived void? How would you run market analyses?

As a consumer, would you rather look at many sites, or a few?

Related reading:

Understanding market value in full context
Starting a conversation on real estate commissions
Whoo-hooo!

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9 Comments

  1. Kevin October 20, 2006 at 03:33

    I’ll take a pass on your primary question and concentrate instead on the secondary one: What would a real estate search look like if you had to wade through duplicate or triplicate entries?

    My response: it would look a lot like the Internet. That might sounds like a facetious answer, but here’s what I mean: the Internet is already replete with multiple entries about the same content/product/service. The role of search engines is to wade through the morass, and the online competition between the content/product/service providers ideally provides you with great choices.

    If I search for, say, a “Lenovo X41” laptop, I get hundreds of hits. Many of the top ones contain valuable information. I may well go to one of them to buy the product.

  2. Jim Duncan October 20, 2006 at 06:41

    search engine technology has a long way to go. As the amount of information/content has exploded, the need for targeted search engines will be greater.

    Already there are engines specifically for scholarly research, and other segmented aspects of search. My concern is that the business of searching for and marketing homes will be vastly more inefficient than it is now. But … over time, I expect that there will be a “Google Real Estate” search …

    What we have now, for all of its limitations and criticisms, makes searching for properties very efficient. For better or worse.

  3. Todd Tarson October 20, 2006 at 11:44

    >Are we as Realtors undermining the value of the MLS by posting our listing content in all these places? Are prospective buyers looking at these alternatives because Realtors put content there?

    Hmm.. interesting as always.

    I’m on the other side on my views. I think we could be hurting our MLS because of our traditional stance that the data is ‘ours’ as in it belongs to the members of the MLS… which means that the public cannot view it.

    Buyers are searching the internet when starting the home buying process. Often times I’ll have someone walk in to my office and hand me print outs from Realtor.com and say these are the homes they want to see before making a decision to buy.

    While I haven’t been handed a google, trulia, or other online search print out as of yet… I know it won’t be long until a buyer will.

    I think the MLS can do it’s Members, and more importantly the Members clients, a big favor by agreeing to post a limited view of the database to any and all search sites. I’m talking of negotiating with these online sites and providing them a data set that appeals to buyers while at the same time promoting the listing clients property AND promoting the listing agent.

  4. Karen Rhodes October 20, 2006 at 22:20

    We need to take control of our MLS systems. If MLS’s would refuse to sell off their data to anyone who is not a member we would not be in the situation we are now. They were created, are maintained and paid for by the members. Period. It is an offer of cooperation between members. It is not and was never meant to be advertising however we have only ourselves to blame for that being the perception.

    I see no problem with listing agents advertising their listings on websites just like they advertise in the paper and magazines but to sell or give the entire MLS to google or anyone else is shooting ourselves in the foot.

  5. robert October 23, 2006 at 01:23

    In the conversion, will they do away with all the re-list?

  6. Philip October 23, 2006 at 19:58

    Hi Jim,

    You may be interested in my company’s new Reverse MLS. It’s Realtor friendly and free. http://buyerhunt.com/.

    Sellers search for buyers.

    -Philip

  7. Athol Kay November 12, 2006 at 11:04

    It’s only a matter of time before an alternative “MLS” springs up that is public and free.

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