What is the future of the MLS?

In a meeting yesterday, someone remarked how much I have been writing recently on the MLS. It’s true. I do not intend to bore readers, but this has been a very hot topic of late, and I am fascinated by the direction of the MLS for a variety of reasons:

1) How will this affect my clients?
2) Emerging technology and the implementation of said technology fascinates me.
3) How will this affect my business?
4) What do I need to do to adapt, overcome and out-innovate my competition? Even if I am able to stay only a step or two ahead, that’s important. Short-lived, surely, but important.
5) How might I be doing business in three years? Five? Ten?

We are in a time of massive transition, from one where the Realtor controlled all the information and consumers were forced to go through a Realtor to buy or sell property to a world where information is free-flowing. If you hadn’t notice, times have changed a bit. I would argue that most of this is happening in a way that consumers are not paying close attention to the changes, but they are in fact experiencing and taking advantage of the changes.

But – referencing free information, such as that provided by Zillow, Johnathan Miller states:

Free infers less precision, so as long as the product is marked accordingly, thats ok. I think the turmoil created has been the assumption that the result was gospel, and people will rely on the results, which may or may not be accurate.

Most consumers do not use the MLS every day, but I would argue that somewhere near a majority checks the local MLS public search page at least once a month, if not once a week – just to satiate their own curiosity.

For more information and insight, read Russ’ review from this past May and this article describing the future path(s) of the MLS concept. Disclaimer: I am a member of the NAR Future of the MLS PAG (how’s that for acronym overload).

This, from Saul Klein’s blog (actually a cut-and-paste of an Inman article) – from Tom Stevens, CEO of the National Association of Realtors:

What makes MLSs unique in the business world is that they exist first to facilitate cooperation between brokers, and that includes interbroker compensation.

I had occasion to preview Albemarle County’s upcoming release of their GIS service. Quite simply (assuming it will work on Macs and with Firefox on Windows and Macs) – it is fantastic. There is such comprehensive and accessible data coverage there that I leaned over to the person next to me and said, “now, why do we need the MLS?” His answer – the offer between Realtors of compensation and cooperation.
In the age in which we live, and as we move (as I foresee) to a world where buyers pay their own representation rather than depending on the sellers’ concession … Do we need a means by which to facilitate cooperation and compensation? (I am not advocating this position, just asking the question)

Now that two large brokerages are going to send their listings to Google Base (subscription only), how long before an MLS decides to do the same? Or a large regional MLS?

“The content partnership with Google will grant home sellers increased visibility for their property listings, as the partnership allows home buyers greater access to search for properties with specific attributes including details on bedrooms, baths, lot size and address,” according to Prudential California’s announcement..

How long before they stop adding properties to their local MLS’? How will this impact consumers?

Each day that I learn more and think more about the future of the MLS, the future of marketing property, a couple of things become clear:

1) I get more confused
2) I get more unsure as to what the future will look like
3) What we know today is far different than what we will know tomorrow
4) Property data (or content) is becoming far more fragmented than ever before. This is making the “finding of” homes more difficult – for Realtors and consumers.
5) Regionalization is inevitable. Currently I belong to three (3!) MLS’ and could reasonably join at least one or two more. This is expensive, and this cost is built into my fees for buyers and sellers.
5) Google’s mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful – may well come true. And this frightens me on so many levels

Heck, Zillow’s not even in Charlottesville/Albemarle/Fluvanna yet … but it’s just a matter of time.

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