I attended the Council of MLS meeting in Washington DC on May 15, and following are some of the highlights.
What Does the Consumer Expect?
John Heithaus, CMO, MRIS + Consumers
There were four consumers on this panel and while interesting anecdotally, the views of the panelists may not reflect uniform consumer views.
Would agent ratings be valuable (like Yelp?).
“I wouldn’t trust what I see on the internet because everyone likes something different – the same thing gets one star and five stars online.”
“I do treat Yelp the same way because you find someone who goes to a restaurant on a bad day and then someone writes a review. But I do like to look at reviews – I can tell if people are blowing off steam or have a legitimate concern.”
“If we were in an area where we didn’t know anyone it would be more helpful.” (Note that so much of RE buying is local….)
How did you decide what websites to use, before your agent set you up with the MLS?
“I used Google and it gave me Trulia and Zillow when I searched for a home in Bethesda.”
“I used Realtor.com for the San Diego house.”
“I have the Realtor.com app on my phone and also Zillow. One has a better interface – usability.”
“We did look at Realtor.com, then used Weichert – which had all the MLS listings. Their site was well set up.”
“Sites that show their own listings first aren’t good. Weichert didn’t do that.”
“Short Sales should be called Long Sales” They can take so long to close.
“24 hours is too long a day to refresh listings on the public site.”
Consumer: When using Zillow and Trulia, our listing agent would have to let us know when some listings we had found were unavailable – the feed via my agent set up from MRIS everyday was accurate – so then I stopped looking at Trulia and Zillow.
“Advice and negotiating skills were the primary things my agent offered. The information is all out there.”
“I love mobile real estate information – to see a house while traveling and be able to find out how much it costs.”
Did you consider listings with no photos? “I didn’t look at listings that didn’t have photos – why wouldn’t they show photos of a property they want to sell? What’s wrong with it? I don’t have time to look at listings without a photo.”
John: This is the generation we’ve been told doesn’t need or want professional wisdom. This panel disproves that.
Consumer: “We loved eSignatures” John: “It’s the only premium product I have that’s making any money.”
Anticipating the Demands of your Consumer
Who Is the Customer?
Russ Bergeron, CEO, MRED: We have several levels of customers – the people that pay you (agents), brokers that provide the inventory, vendors that we see as partners to deliver product and services – but the consumer is the ultimate customer for all of us.
MLS Public Websites
Bill Dermody, SVP, Coldwell Banker (MLSPIN)
My personal opinion, I think the MLS is the starting point for information and it will flow to consumers but I’m not sure it should flow directly. It should flow to our website to the consumer.
Todd Shipman, Lakes Sotheby Int’l Realty (Northstar MLS)
I’m an agent and I want to sell a house – I don’t care where the information is coming from – an MLS website, a broker, me – I want good tools to enable the consumer to buy something. So, I’m not opposed to an MLS website.
FSBOs in the MLS
Todd: We have an active FSBO enabling broker in our market. But eventually they turn into listings for an agent. Let them work through their frustration before they end up with an agnet.
Bill: In our MLS we allow limited services “MLS only” – there are a few of them. Eventually the consumer turns into a listing with a full service broker.
What does consumer want from RE pros?
Todd: The misnomer is that they have MLS access. We could do them a service by clearing up that confusion. The consumer wants accurate information fast. I want agent and consumer centric mobile tools – as timely as possible. It’s got to be quick, it’s got to be mobile, and it’s got to work.
Comparison of pro and consumer mobile
Todd: Our mobile tools are accurate. Zillow and Trulia are conflicted over content and availability and what listing belongs to who. Consumers are going right back to the listing agent.
Bill: Wikipedia says that the “MLS has hundreds of fields are determined by real estate professionals” while public sites have only a subset of data. Consumers want accurate timely information and that’s what the MLS provides.
Russ: It was good to see that the consumer panel was interested in expertise, versus the data.
Todd: I want my MLS to innovate and provide tools and research.
Art Carter, CEO, CRMLS: In the good market the broker said not to provide agent tools. In the bad market they want us to do so and take off some of their costs. Where’s that line?
Bill: NRT wants to work in cooperation with the MLS – but we have a lot of tools because of our size. But we want the information from you for our partner websites.
Can MLSs keep up in this world, where Zillow & Trulia gets 10s of millions of dollars from IPOs?
Russ: The biggest problem with competing is that they have rules while we’re a regulated industry – and self regulated. We’re defining social media and Zulia doesn’t have to do that. We can’t put out a PR when Michael Jordan sells a house through the MLS. Brokers will put listings on Zulia as a “necessary evil” but not an MLS website. We don’t have the same level of press – it’s hard to compete.
Art: Where’s the Zillow & Trulia achilles heel?
Russ: The brokers are going to have to step up and ask themselves if they will continue to feed these guys.
Where are MLSs going right and wrong?
Michael Hayes – VP, Homes Media Solutions:The role of the MLS – cooperation and compensation – is very important. That’s what MLSs are doing right. Where they are missing out is not enforcing their own rules. We worked really hard to play by the rules but we have to compete with companies that don’t follow the rules.
Bill: Compensation is a very important piece of this – help me sell my inventory and I’ll sell yours. It’s unique to our industry. The honda dealer doesn’t take you to the toyota dealership. Without MLS it would turn into the wild wild west.
Todd: MLS does a lot right – they are the core of our business. The enforcement of rules – the consumer doesn’t understand that – they need to be educated on the rules and code of ethics. The MLSs might support that role of the Realtor associations. Improve education – how to use the tools and social media and communication. Leverage social media tools to educate members.
Too many rules in the MLS?
Russ: I’d love to re-write MLS rules so they are on one page. Data rules are different.
Art: We could do that, but in really little type.
Bill: Our MLS does a good job of enforcing rules for members. In the past members would try to sneak things in – our MLS is doing a better job to enforce those rules.
Todd: We do a great job enforcing rules. It’s a great opportunity for staff to engage with the agent. We’re happy when rule violations go down.
Greg: Homes.com – let us know your model – what’s unique in how you work with MLSs. You work directly with MLSs.
Michael: I think it would be silly to tell this room why we want MLS data. We use that, broker data, franchise data – but MLS data trumps all the other feeds. We’re different from competitors – our goals are our advertisers – brokers, agent, and franchisors. If the data’s not up to date and accurate … we believe that the MLS should be branded. The MLS should be communicated from the MLS and that’s a trusted source. The consumer should know the data came from this MLS and maybe there’s a date/time stamp.
Bill: I don’t think it would be horrible… to have a timestamp and the source. But that’s just a knee jerk reaction.
Todd: We have to educate consumers about this business to business tool, about what the MLSs really are.
What should we do with social media regulation?
Todd: We’re overregulated in social media. I have to deliver that content and context to the consumer. The consumer needs the information. Someone’s going to have to violate the rules or fix the rules. Brokers rely on commission income – brokers need to find a new way to make money beyond that. If brokers can leverage those eyeballs during the day… I just want my listing to sell, and my duty is to the consumer.
Bill: Our concern is that it will go on social media sites and they will try to sell it back to us.
Future of MLS
Russ: It’s not going to change. All the tech innovation – the “deal” has not changed.
Bill: Not much has changed since the 1800s but instead of meeting in an office … now we do it via the Internet. It’s still the basic stuff – sitting with the consumer and getting them into a home.
Todd: The consumer needs our core services and good advice. I do think the revenue model has to change.
Michael: I don’t see a lot changing. Jim Sherry once said, “Internet, Sminternet”. The technology will evolve and agents will need to learn how to work with the “kids” we saw up here. As long as this group continues to build partnerships and learn from each others mistakes, I don’t see it changing.
How big should MLSs get?
Todd: You have to respect regional boundaries – that’s where it’s common sense.
Russ: MLSs focus on data. The databases can be as big as you want to make them. But the local service area remains the same. But all the MLSs could form a common database. But the service aspect is not going to go away. We are the local experts on the data.
Richard Renton, Triad MLS: Cooperation and compensation has adapted and the role of the MLS has expanded to accomodate the demands of the customer – our customer has changed over the years and we have to acknowledge that. The consumers are going to places that are not broker sites.
Russ: The definition of MLS core services have evolved considerably … it’s different than it was 20 years ago.
Bill: We have to educate the consumer on that. That’s what I’m looking to you for.
Amy Geddes, COO, Clareity Security
Greg Manship, CEO Intermountain MLS
Shelley Speccio, CEO, NNRMLS
SourceMLS says to consumers:
1. Listing data bearing the mark came directly from an MLS data feed.
2. Listing data bearing the mark is refreshed a minimum of every 24 hours making it current.
Amy worked on criteria:
We were worried about “more accurate” because of liability. So the two criteria [above] lay out what it is – and what it isn’t.
SourceMLS Participation Criteria:
- Available to MLS organizations with an active membership in CMLS
- Particpating broker, agent, public sites owned and operated by participating MLS, or other publisher site eligibility TBD by each authorized sourcing MLS.
- Only listings that come directly from an authorized MLS feed would be eligible to display the mark
- Listings on the displaying site must be updated a MINIMUM of 2 hrs and a date/time of refresh must be displayed
- The website operator/publisher indemnifies the data content provider
- The mark will link to sourcemls.org for descriptive information. Source may be each MLS or CMLS or a combination (TBD).
Best Practices for Data Content Providers (for agreements)
Data Content Provider (DCP) does not transfer ownership rights over the data to publisher
DCP licenses data for use and display on publisher’s website and other forms of electronic display of content including mobile (all screens)
DCP license restricted to display of authorized listings only (active or off-market – up to local)
Publisher must expunge all photos and property descriptions within 10 days of the listing being removed from active status (unless authorized to display off market data)
DCP expressly forbids the licensed data from being re-licensed or otherwise provided to any third party.
How it would work:
Data identified as SourceMLS and meeting the criteria would be identified with a mark.
Only listings that come directly from an authorized MLS feed would be eligible to display the mark.
Mark will link to sourcemls.org for descriptive info (as before)
Consumers would learn to recognize the SourceMLS mark.
Review survey information
Suppport MRED pilot
Feedback from this group
Trademarking process initiatied
Finalize marketing and communication to drive adoption – marketing to MLSs and also brand/value recognition for consumers.
Why ten days to take off market listings down?
Amy: I don’t disagree that more timely would be ideal.
Matt Cohen (Clareity): Let’s be really clear about what 24 hours really means – it should be 24 hours after information is changed in the MLS – not just downloaded every 24 hours.
Who protects the trademark?
How will marketing be accomplished?
Shelley: CMLS will work to market through MLSs and eventually consumers will recognize value. That will take time and money. If a third party adopts the criteria, then when someone clicks from there to SourceMLS, that helps build the brand.
John Holley (NTREIS): CMLS will own this and create a license agreement and we as MLSs would have a sublicense. Is it similar to that? Could we look at a master agreement from CMLS? Is there a charge from CMLS contemplated?
Amy: The goal is that a participating MLS would license the program from the CMLS with local options and there would be a standard recommendation for your data license agreements – standard best practice language so people are in compliance. The MLS will sign an agreement with CMLS and then you will incorporate these requirements into your existing requirements to implement it.
Michael Bustamante (SWMLS): Regarding third parties – are they open to this mark?
Greg: We want to visit with them and see if they have an interest in this set of criteria.
Amy: You can find the full criteria on the website – the slides shown aren’t all the criteria. It was built on IDX but didn’t recreate the IDX rules.
Lloyd Graves (Trulia) – We are very supportive of this whole process.
Homes.com – We would step up behind this effort.
Tom Hurdlebrink (NWMLS) – This isn’t restricted to IDX/VOW but MLSs could use for syndicated listings as well? Our group would be concerned that any 3rd party would have rights to this mark at all. We thought the idea was to make the consumer know the member website was accurate and trusted. How did this get to non-members?
Amy: That’s the most significant area of disagreement. Where we got to it was to have a compelling argument for giving them something because there are three or four similar initiatives where they can put their own badge on their website – MLSCertified, MLSTrusted … they can do this now without us. Maybe it should start with brokers and agents, but let’s be realistic about where the traffic is.
Shelley – Third parties don’t have to operate under any rules – this, if you chose to use it for third parties in your market, they would have to meet the criteria and operate under tighter rules.
Marilyn Wilson – broker and consumer perspectives on the SourceMLS badge: Is there value of “MLS” to consumers, determine interest and revelance, and where should it go? Consumers: 48% very interested, 35% somewhat, 11% not sure, 6% not at all. Brokers: Interest in your MLS participating: 17% extremely interested; 22% very interested 43% somewhat interested, 17% not at all.
Concerns: won’t promote effectively. too little too late. consumers’ don’t get what MLS means (contrary to consumer survey). not sure it will make a difference.
David Charron – I echo other concerns about making it available beyond brokers and agents. What about the badge connoting some % of inventory as part of the definition?
Amy: That was the difference between a site seal and a listing basis. The challenge comes in when they have 7 MLS feeds and 3 MLSs participate in the program and 4 don’t.
Brokers: what sites should the badge be on?
87% brokers, 69% mls, 69% agents, 46% realtor.com, 37% third parties. (101 agents+)
90% brokers, 79% mls, 74% agents, 61% realtor.com, 44% third parties. (all respondents)
– Create affinity groups to share best practices: technology, communications, consultants, finance & business operations (FBO), and business partner/vendor (BVP), Executive, Law & Policy, LP (Leader Plus) for volunteer leaders in the MLS world who want to be engaged with CMLS activities.
– MLS Executive Certification – similar to NAR’s RCE certification but for MLS. Ownership, governance, best practices, technology trends, legal trends, financial management, data, syndication, data licensing, rules and enforcement … Goal is to launch in January of 2013.
– Legal Hotline and Knowledge Database for MLSs and their legal counsel – note there would most likely be a charge for the hotline on a per call/email basis. How to avoid anti-trust? And regional differences?
This was covered during the recent webinar, materials from which are available here: http://councilofmls.com/cmls-webinar-files-posted/
Registration for CMLS 2012 in Boston is now open – www.cmls2012.com
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