I am an optimist, so I live under the warm blanket of confidence that everything is going to be all right. But during the past month of traveling to every corner of our nation, I have encountered the twisty, curvy road to progress. I found greatness, and I found stagnation. I found agile innovators alongside good ol’ keep-it-is-ers.
It’s hard to characterize our industry. We use most of the same words to describe our flocks of agents, brokers, Associations of REALTORS®, and MLSs. At times, is it is unfair to call some by their name. Are you an agent if you don’t sell real estate? Are you a broker if you do not have any agents or do any transactions? Are you an Association of REALTORS® if your chapter does not have enough dues to employ at least one full time staff member? Are you an MLS if your only duty is to collect fees?
The one thing that we do have as an industry is freedom of choice. Agents have the choice to become REALTORS® or not. Brokers can maintain their license with little effort and use it as a shell corporation for data access. We have Association of Choice. There is also MLS of choice as long as you do not expect to take a copy of the data with you when you move. If you do not like something about your flock, you can move on quite easily. Indeed, if you are breathing you are likely being recruited.
What could possibly disrupt all of this? Is the disruption likely to be constructive or destructive? What will divide us on our path as we face the intersection of doing nothing or doing something?
We have among us some passionate leaders who are igniting constructive disruption from within the rank and file. They are organizations doing something like the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) who has set a goal to have every MLS RETS certified by the end of the year. There is Project Upstream that seeks to create a unified process for brokers to originate, copyright, and distribute their data to maintain their rightful ownership and prohibit misuse. There is the Broker Public Portal that sets out to deliver on a national consumer facing website fed by MLS data – adhering to the fair display guidelines – and giving brokers a new alternative to property display their listings online. And there are many others.
It is very difficult for many to understand the risk-reward payback of many of these initiatives. Interestingly enough, none of these efforts have financial rewards. RESO, Upstream, and the Broker Public Portal each share one thing in common. They are efforts to position our industry for long-term success without direct financial gain. Those who are driving these changes are pursuing something soulful and important.
Here is the sad part. As I traveled the nation, it felt like fewer than 2 out of 10 people had any resolute understanding of these projects. For example, only about 4 of the 770 MLSs in the
nation have become RETS certified in the past 18 months. MLSs are required to become certified by the end of the year. If you are an MLS, you need to address this right away. You should already have begun your communication plan to every broker and every IDX vendor. You should already have a date set up with your MLS vendor to launch a parallel server.
If you are a broker, MLS, or Franchise Organization – you need to begin to understand project Upstream. How will it benefit your organization and our industry? What risks or new opportunities need to be considered?
If you are a broker or an MLS, you need to begin thinking about how you can lean in to support the Broker Public Portal.
Earlier I spoke about disruption being something constructive or destructive. I whole-heartedly believe that every one of these initiatives is constructive. But in their absence, I fear that a destructive force could be very injurious to the real estate industry. Indeed, that force may already be among us.
We have a choice.
If you need some help, let us know. Invite us to your board meeting so we can help answer the questions that will support you in setting a strong strategy for success.