Getting ready for another MLS PAG

Ah, acronyms! The National Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service Presidential Advisory Group. Another NAR MLS PAG meeting in Chicago this week. This group has been meeting for well over a year to discuss what the future of listing distribution between Realtors as well as marketing to the general public will be.

The future of the MLS and listing distribution/marketing is something I enjoy studying. In preparation for the two-day meeting, I’ve been refreshing my brain on some of the pertinent issues. Michael Wurzer’s thoughts, most recently this post, a timely GeekEstate post and a few other sources have contributed. Frustratingly, relatively little has been written in the public domain about this task. Working in a vacuum sometimes has the feeling of working in an echo chamber, no matter the extremely high caliber (myself excluded) of people assembled.

Selectively cutting and pasting from the comments at the GeekEstate post:

Real estate brokers go to only one place to search for homes to show their buyers: their local MLS. They do not go to Trulia, Edgeio, or anything like that because they do not need to.

So the technology is getting easier, but my concern is that the conversation raised in your post has been shut down by the NAR/DOJ litigation and usurped by the web 2.0 entrants. Now the conversation is confusing Trulia, Point, Google Base, Zillow and others with the MLS, when, in fact, the MLS isn’t technology at all but a process by which competitors have agreed to cooperate with each for the good of all involved in the transaction.

Yet consumers don’t want to search many sites, they want to search one. They want to be confident they are seeing the entire inventory.

Buyers do go to these “other” sites; that’s why I put my listings in as many places as possible. However, with so many (new) ways to distribute listing information, having one place to search for all homes could be a coup for Realtors, buyers and sellers. The MLS systems (all 900+ of them) and Realtors are in the perfect position to implement such a database or system. Arguably, MLS’ have the best historical data available, and perhaps the best current housing data – current actives as well as under contract (pending) properties – that is one of the reasons that local and national Realtor associations are called upon to give market analyses for the media.

If Realtors can guide their associations and members to see the value of working together in this, we might have something. Realtors already cooperate through the MLS – Sellers typically offer compensation to buyers’ agents. Once we remove that component from the equation and move forward towards a more clear-cut method of buyer and seller representation, all stakeholders will be rewarded. Varying levels of compensation would disrupt the implementation of this system, as the vast majority of Realtors still are not comfortable negotiating their commissions with their buyer-clients.

Streamlining the system is crucial. Cooperation and compensation have always been core components of an MLS; removing one of these components would facilitate implementation as MLS’s transition from what used to be to what they will be.

One of the fundamental questions is this – should an MLS’s primary function be for the Realtors to market to each other or to market homes and land to each other and the general public?

As consumers, would you want to have one place to look for homes? As a Realtor/real estate professional, would you want one place to look for properties?

The dynamics of marketing real estate are changing. No longer are Realtors depended upon to find homes for their clients – it’s a component of the representation equation, but no longer can a Realtor depend on that being his or her only value-add to the equation. There are multiple places to look for homes in the Charlottesville area. I, for one, would love to to be confident that I, as a buyer’s agent, was searching the entire inventory.

Two final choice snips from the excellent GeekEstate conversation:

However, it seems as if both entities would better serve the interests of their customers – the agents – if they became more part of the conversation like the smart people at the FBS Blog.

The truth of the issue is that in the near future there may not be an opportunity to have this discussion.

We would do well to move forward with expediency, urgency and efficiency. Bureaucratic layers must make way for innovation.

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  1. Michael Wurzer September 11, 2007 at 14:34

    Jim, thanks for the update on the PAG! Excellent to hear the discussion is progressing. I, too, would love to see the discussion broadened. To that end, I’ve spent a little (very little) time setting up a wiki on the future of MLS. I meant to do so much more but, with your post, thought it might be worth putting forward now. The details can be filled in as we go along. The URL for the wiki is I’m hoping it will prove easy for people to use. To edit documents, users will need to sign up with Zoho, but it’s free. A great start would be if someone could post the initial MLS PAG report to the wiki. Next, I want to review the CAR’s principles, because I think they have a lot of great points, but there are areas where they should be extended or modified, too, such as by clarifying that data standards should follow RETS and by making declarations regarding advertising and public display of listings by the MLS. There’s so much more and it will be great if the conversation can be done in the open.

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  3. cgmckeever September 11, 2007 at 16:06

    “Yet consumers don’t want to search many sites, they want to search one. They want to be confident they are seeing the entire inventory.”

    This is a great statement – while I was working for a Chicago based Broker, I was well aware that users had a sense when inventory was incomplete and/or stale. Often times it is because they are subscribed to a few different sites as a method of checks-and-balances.

    “MLS’s primary function be for the Realtors to market to each other or to market homes and land to each other and the general public?”

    I think the Houston Assoc. is a great model. They are getting close to 50% of web searches originating with their consumer portal that they then pass along to the listing rep. It all starts with the source and flow downstream from there.

    Couple a tremendous user portal with a agent client manager, and you have a winning cobo that leaves the first time web consumer with an unbiased search, and the experienced and tethered clinet with an agent that is empowered and efficient.

    The flip side model is that everyone is competing with everyone for placement on the web. Often times agents compete with their broker and vice versa.

    Which sounds better?

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