Agent- Client collaboration inside the MLS has mostly been stalled since 1998, when MLS systems first started providing an area for clients to view agent-saved searches and suggested listings and provide listing ratings back to the agent. Since that time, some systems have added minor enhancements, such as built-in messaging and for the agent to be able to share a document with the client. But mostly, it’s been the same story: Buyers interacting with agents around listings.
For the past few years I’ve been advocating with MLS vendors to both expand both buy-side collaboration and add something for the people writing the checks that drive everything – the sellers. During Clareity’s 11th Annual MLS Executive Workshop I took this idea right to the workshop participants, and now I’m bringing it to the blog. This won’t be as detailed as the workshop presentation and will be much less detailed than when I’m talking with vendors – but hopefully I’ll get the main point across and drive readers to ask for these types of features.
When it comes to collaborating with buyers, sure, agents need to interact online as they do today around listings. But they also need a more robust search and search result content – otherwise it drives the client back to the advertising portals. I’m talking about neighborhood info, school info, public records info, and Walkscore. I’m talking about enhancements like lifestyle search. Relevant market trends and statistics for the client search areas (DOM, Inventory, List/Sell Prices, etc.) would also be compelling content. Messaging is also important and having proper alerting options, including email, text-message, and phone is key to help ensure agents provide timely response to questions. I’m all for the collaboration portal offering a way for agents to provide documents to their clients, but I think that these documents need to be more collaborative – for example, financial worksheets need to be interactive and provide alerts in both agent and client directions when a new version is created by “cloning” an old version for editing. Open houses visit planning, note-taking, and feedback should either be built in or deeply integrated. There’s so much more – this is just a starting point of how agents and buyers could be collaborating. And don’t forget that this needs to be mobile-device-friendly.
What do I look for when it comes to agent collaboration with sellers? Obviously, there is messaging, open house activity and feedback, seller-oriented market statistics and updates (i.e. new similar listings and price reductions), interactive and collaborative financial worksheets, and and an agent activity log – the flip side of the buy-side functionality. There could be a reverse prospecting tool with “what if” capability – allowing the agent and seller to explore what happens if improvements were made or price was changed. There can be an interactive marketing plan and materials, including where the listing is on advertising portals and metrics for advertising effectiveness inside and outside the MLS. One thing I definitely would love to see is the provision of CMAs, AVMs, and associated financial worksheets that allow for easy change and new versions over time as the market and comps change over the life of the listing. Again, everything the seller needs to know and all of the service the agent provides the seller needs to be accessible from ONE mobile-friendly client collaboration portal.
As Bill Chee once said to me, “The consumer is the lion coming over the hill.” By making MLS systems truly collaborative, MLSs can both help improve agent service to their clients and improve MLS system core value. I know, to those that thought that features like built-in CMA and prospecting would be the death-knell for broker competition, this seems like yet another “level the playing field” move. But please, look back and note that the world didn’t end more than a decade ago when those features were added to MLS – it won’t end now either.
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