The REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo is a mouthful, so we all just call it NAR Midyear. This one was a scorcher: both inside, as Upstream was the hot topic, and outside, as the temperatures were in the 90s in mid-May and the humidity made me remember why everyone leaves D.C. in August (except the tourists).

CMLS Brings it to the Table

For me, this was the highlight of the conference and it really isn’t even officially part of Midyear. It’s a tangential track that the Council of Multiple Listing Services hosted at American University, about 15 minutes north of the Marriott and Omni. The setting was in a meeting room inside its new Innovations building at AU that was so new, it wasn’t even on GPS, so finding it was a challenge for Uber and Taxi drivers.

The content was stellar. Brian Boero of 1000watt introduced this clever, simple slogan to define what an MLS is with “Making the Market Work.” Brian did give me my favorite quote of the day: “No other group of 1 million people could be more different than REALTORS®.,” he said.

Marilyn Wilson, our founding partner at WAV Group was tasked at presenting the results of the MLS Benchmarking survey that WAV Group conducted for CMLS. The benchmarking survey sampled the behavior of more than 200 MLSs representing over 1 MillionREALTORS®. There are certainly opportunities for improvement and CMLS best practices education leads the way.

  • Fewer than 1 in 5 MLSs do an annual technology review
  • Fewer than 1 in 3 have a marketing program, yet 2 in 3 say they promote products regularly
  • Less than half measure customer satisfaction
  • 40% use customer satisfaction benchmarks
  • Fewer than 50% track calls
  • Only 40% require board training for understanding financials
  • 58% have no written succession plan

Throughout the day, some of the best minds of the MLS industry shared their thoughts and visions, candidly, including Lauren Hansen (consolidation), David Charron (consolidation), Kathy Condon(broker engagement) and Chris Carrillo (The Grid). I loved what David observed: what prevents consolidation is a clashing of cultures. How true!

It was at lunch that Upstream’s Alex Lange made the announcement that was heard around the industry almost immediately, creating an instant debate among PR people about whether the word “pivot” should have been used – or not. Upstream will now integrate with MLSs like a data share – allowing brokers a choice of inputting data in MLS or Upstream.

IDX became the old/new hot topic during the NAR Policy Group discussion, as they noted RESO is working to advance new standards around IDX. CMLS spends a lot of time discussing the MLS Policy Committee issues ahead of the meeting. There was healthy conversation around how the IDX policy can handle voice search solutions (think Amazon Echo/Alexa) where there is no “display” of IDX information, and how to deliver broker attribution through voice.

Two other great highlights came from Mitch Skinner, who talked about Copyright law. He actually made it easy to understand the difference between registering for copyright protection (offense) and the DMCA Safe Harbor Act (defense).  Kudos to Mitch for that. Then Jeremy Crawford, CEO of RESO, did a masterful job leading a panel discussion on what’s broken for brokers around data feeds that included Heidi Ellyn from Redfin, Tim Dain from ABoR, and Joshua Lopour, who founded RETsly.  Heidi made a profound statement. She said that there are markets that REDFIN avoids because it is too difficult to secure data from an MLS.  Apparently, most MLSs are RESO certified but adoption has been slow.  That’s why they have launched their new RESO Marketing Toolkit. If you would like to get materials to promote RESO at your MLS you can request the FREE toolkit here: (Marilyn to send link)

The one thing I can say about CMLS, it is never boring. You think it could be boring, but it just isn’t.

Trade Show Schizophrenia

The problem with Midyear’s Trade Show floor is that it tries to be a junior version of NAR Annual and it should not be. I’m sorry, but this really is not a place for the scarf king or the jewelry vendors. Matt Cohen of Clareity quoted one software vendor “thought it felt like a ‘flea market’ down there” and Matt posted a booth that sold – snowmen – I kid you not.

There were a few highlights on the show floor, however.  REALTORS struggle with simple tasks with their email, mobile phones and social media that slow them down from serving the needs of their customers.  Florida Realtors, providers of the Tech Helpline, were there to show Associations/MLSs how to address that problem at the Tech Helpline/Form Simplicity booth.  RatePlug was showing its new Dashboard that makes it instantly easy to see a list of homes and condos and which ones are eligible – or not – for USDA, FHA, and Fannie/Freddie financing. I wish I had that when I was a loan officer.

RESO was on the floor providing tangible support to MLSs by troubleshooting Certification questions at its booth.

The Reach Class of 2017 was in their same location, around the corner from the NAR exhibits – but they were left off of the NAR Trade Show’s online directory for some reason. HouseCanary, Centriq, Notarize, Occly, Pearl Certification, Relola and TrustedMail were all there with some really cool stuff.

RISMedia PowerBroker Forum

I also enjoyed the RISMedia session at NAR Midyear. John Featherston always makes me laugh and keeps things interesting. Verl Workman did a stellar job on this panel, with sage advice like: don’t just make an ad buy or marketing spend unless you can measure it. If you can’t quantify, then it’s just noise.

The panel discusses the importance of a strong ROI – and Vern argued for at least a 6X average. My guess is few agents see anything like a 6X average and few measure. But to hear these pros – Burke Smith form Realty ONE, Matthew O’Connor from Terrie O’Connor REALTORS® and Scott MacDonald from RE/MAX Gateway harp on the importance of these fundamentals and how they each practice it and gave specific examples – as a Marketing guy, I was thrilled.

The biggest takeaway for agents was no surprise: the biggest ROI, hands down, is Facebook. Nothing comes close. The out-of-the-box idea of the day was doing a real estate print ad: but in the Sports Section, and running it like a box score – how many transactions the firm has completed, etc. Scariest comment of the day: One broker admitted they used to spend $1,000,000 a year on print advertising with the Washington Post.

MLS Executives Meeting

Brad Bjelke and Matt Consalvo hosted my final favorite meeting at Midyear. Redfin founder Glenn Kelman stole the show. He was candid and passionate and funny. He simply lobbied for a better partnership to find a way to give proper credit to the listing agent with back links. Kelman pleaded for brokers to link to the listing broker’s website in the IDX listing broker attribution area of the IDX display.  He also believes that MLSs need to push data to brokers faster than every 15 minutes: “Why can’t we fix this desire for someone to see a home instantly?,” he asked rhetorically. It was classic Glenn.

This also was the session when Michael Wurzer challenged those who say “RESO takes too long” as not supporting RESO and that MLSs must support RESO. He said, “You are part of RESO – it’s not an external thing.” It’s tough to argue with that when nearly 95% of all MLSs are now RESO certified.

And it was later, when one of the panels said: “We are RESO.

Now after three years of working with RESO from near obscurity, to hearing that phrase – that made my day.