2016 has been a great year for real estate. On many levels we see the entire industry rethinking. Giving credit where credit is due – this is an initiative that was powered by the National Association of REALTORS® – but morphed into many other things.
2016 saw the most rapid consolidation of MLSs and Associations in history. WAV Group worked on many of them. The common drive is the notion that there are “too many MLSs and Associations.” But what we learned from deeper investigation through services reviews and satisfaction reviews is that there were “too many ineffective MLSs and Associations.” As Californian’s often remark, there are not too many winemakers in California, there are too many that make bad wine.
In 2017 and beyond, organizations need to take broker and agent satisfaction more seriously. Associations and MLSs that put a bad wine on the table and expect their members and subscribers to drink will quickly learn that they are obsolete. The real estate industry is at war with well funded outside companies that intend to disrupt it. Areas of the country that do not provide outstanding services to brokers and agents will see disruption first.
Consolidation 2.0 – it is worth mentioning the largest consolidation effort in America – Bright MLS – the new company founded by the bundling of Trend MLS, MRIS, and about eight others to create the Nation’s largest MLS. In this case of consolidation (and there are many other examples), a number of great MLSs with exceptional services and subscriber satisfaction are joining together to reimagine how they can serve brokers and agents even better. It is not just the approach of economies of scale – as you will see in the coming year – its about providing an MLS service that is far different, and far better than any other. This is a group that is highly strategic and highly skilled. Their future is indeed, Bright.
RESO – Real Estate Standards Organization
Perhaps the leading indicator of failing MLSs in America is RESO Data Dictionary compliance. To pass compliance, the MLS must format a data feed that uses an industry standard for the fields and field names. This is not hard folks.
Out of more than 720 MLSs, there are still 50 that are not in compliance. These organizations had two years to plan and implement. And now they are more than a year out of compliance. Here is the naughty list.
But underneath passing compliance is another ugly sin. There are many MLSs that have been certified but do not provide technology vendors with access to the RESO compliant server. So hundreds of markets have standard data feeds, but the MLSs are not allowing vendors to access it. This is insane to me, and exactly the type of sin that exhibits MLSs who are undermining their own brokers’ and agents’ success.
The RESO Web API was supposed to be available in every MLS last summer. With a handful of exceptions, the entire industry missed this deadline. The Web API will serve a future generation of technology providers to brokers and agents, but have little impact on the leading providers we see today. Because a Web API was previously not available, technology vendors built their solutions to handle MLS RETS data feeds – a 15 year old method for moving data. To convert to the Web API, most vendors will need to completely rebuild their application. The Web API will create efficiencies for technology companies who build to the standard moving forward, but the cost of rebuilding is likely too great for most vendors who get MLS data feeds today. Watch for new companies to sprout up in 2018 that figured out how to leverage the Web API in 2017.
Upstream will be going live in 2017. For the most part, brokers have never taken possession of their data. Broker data is scattered everywhere, including Accounting Systems, Franchise Systems, MLS Systems, and countless applications like CRM, CMA, etc. In 2013 when brokers were thinking about Big Data strategies, they quickly learned that if you do not have your data, you can’t use it. Broker data is not only scattered all over in dozens of different software applications, it is structured differently too – making it nearly impossible to collect and normalize.
The best idea is typically the simplest. And in the case of Upstream, the simple idea is to input broker data into one system, with one structure. Allow anyone that the broker authorizes to access it. Listing data is pretty low on the list of data that brokers need to manage, but probably the hardest. The firm record with employees, offices, agents, and teams is very disorganized today, and the customer record is even worse. How can you really improve company and agent productivity if you cannot follow them easily as they engage with your technology systems? How can you improve the customer experience if you cannot see it holistically? You can’t.
National Broker Portal
In 2017, brokers and MLSs will relaunch Homesnap.com and the Homesnap Pro mobile application as the industry’s first broker and MLS owned national consumer facing website. It will be the first national property search website that is fully controlled by brokers. The agreement between Homesnap and the Broker Public Portal group is finalized and waiting for approval and signature by the Boards of Directors of each company.
Under the terms of the agreement, the cost for participation by any MLS is $1 per member per month or $12 per year. This pricing has been very well received by participating MLSs and brokers. A group of MLSs representing more than 100,000 agent subscribers have already approved support for the National Broker Portal subject to the completion of this definitive agreement.
Third party listing websites have demonstrated that consumers enjoy national sites. For the first time, brokers and agents will have one of their own, delivering an alternative marketing path for listings, and a new search site for consumers. In the early months of the year, every MLS in America will be discussing participation in the National Broker Portal.
It is our pleasure to thank all of you who have worked with our companies in 2016. As in years past, in lieu of cards and gifts, Marilyn, Kevin, and I are electing to support poor and homeless families by delivering Christmas presents and meals this holiday season. We have also purchased a home for a family though New Story. Our faith tells us that our obligation is to help those in need.
2017 is looking like another great year for our industry. We are blessed to be a part of it and have you to thank for all that we do.