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Behind "Door #1" at Inman Connect … "Fear & Embarrassment"

“This is not my Locker”

I know it is inevitable that I will be asked (perhaps 100’s of times) “What did you learn from Inman Connect SF this week”? or “What was the most interesting thing you learned at Inman Connect SF”? or some variation of that general question. In years past I may have made something up to illicit a response like “That’s Nice” or “Wow, that’s great!”, but NOT this year!

This year something very accidental, yet incredibly enlightening happened and it all began with me accidentally walking into the wrong “MeetUp”…

It was like a Bad episode of “Reality TV”

Wednesday at ICSF was jam packed! Stuff happening from the morning bell to the 5pm cocktail call. I was constantly looking at my playbook, trying to decide where I was going…What topic? What room? What subject? It was crazy! So right after lunch I knew I wanted to go to a “MeetUp” of Real Estate Tech Vendors in Continental Parlor #2, that started at 1:00pm. Now the MeetUps were not necessarily open to the public, though they were not marked “Private” or anything, but they were designed for the Vendors to congregate and talk amongst themselves regarding what they were experiencing in the market. This MeetUp was Facilitated by a friend of mine, Greg Robertson from W&R Studios (Cloud CMA), so I knew he would let me “Sit in” on it. After all, I am a Techy!

So off I went on my merry way at about 1:10pm, feverishly typing away at Twitter on my phone, into Continental Parlor #1 ( for those of you who have had your morning Starbucks you probably got it, but for those who have not…I said Parlor #1!). Now in Parlor #1, I was not sitting in on my intended MeetUp, Real Estate Tech Vendors, but instead I was “Transported” to some unknown geographical location somewhere in the 1950’s … It was titled “MLS Operators, Vendors, and Staff” DA DA DUMB! (Cue the music from the 1950’s classic TV show, Dragnet!)

“Son-of-a-bitch!” I thought, I gotta get outta here! but I couldn’t. Something was mysteriously keeping me from moving, it was as if I were paralyzed. The conversation was about the “Consumers” (Keep this meaningless term in mind, it will come up again) perception of our Industry. Specifically, at that moment, about how when they see Listing data in multiple sources (MLS, Trulia, Broker Sites, Agent Sites ect…) that is not the same (different price, Sold vs Active ect…) they say “How stupid is this?”

That’s when it got interesting ….

Think Hatfield’s & McCoy’s, Shark’s & Jet’s, Snoop Dawg & Puffy!

Ok, so I will be the 1st to admit, I have a limited knowledge of the inter-workings of the MLS’s. I am however a keen observer of human behavior, and the overall atmosphere in this room was … hmmmm … What’s the right word? Depressing? no Frustrating? no oh wait… I’ve got it! EMBARRASSING!

Though the Facilitator, Marilyn Wilson a Partner at WAV Group (@marilynwilson), did her best to mediate, like a Beverly Hills divorce case, this was no small task. Don’t get me wrong, there were no punches thrown, no “F” bombs were dropped, nothing uncivilized, Though two MLS operators (one who resembled that Scottish Guy from Austin Powers movies & one who looked a bit like Santa Claus in the off season, ya know, beard was trimmed dropped a few pounds, but the whole grey thing was working for him) felt it was an appropriate venue to make off-color remarks regarding their sex lives. Then there was the MLS guy (who looked a bit like a character from The Sopranos) who felt very comfortable stating that “Brokers are the REAL problem, they refuse to fire the 53% of their REALTORS (c) who are a bunch of Morons and haven’t done a single transaction in over a year” that was kinda weird, being it had seemingly nothing to do with the conversation…other than that…oh wait…

The reason we are headed for Government regulation of our Data

… The room also had a number of bright young minds, from Tech start-ups, some Exec’s from 3rd Party Aggregators, and a few representatives of the Broker/Agent community. These folks were asking for some cooporation in areas like:

  • Sharing of Data in more Open fashion
  • Involvement by the MLS’s in a Rating system for Agents/Brokers/Affiliates/Aggregators
  • More “Open-Mindedness” to new Technologies & Ideas
  • An Intranet for the MLS’s to communicate with each other about questionable Vendors
  • A more “Open” forum for New Vendors to present ideas

Ya know, Stupid stuff like that!

Each and every time a bright young mind in the Vendor community, or a Consumer Advocate, or a Forward thinking Broker offered a suggestion (some of which, to me of course, were awesome) they were met with the same response from The MLS Boys…”Good Luck with That!” and then came the round of “Belly Laughs” (led by Scottish Guy, Santa, & Soprano Guy)…at first I was amused by them myself. then when I realized that they came from a deeply rooted “Arrogance”, rather than a playful sense of “Humor”, I was faced with the realization that our Industry was “doomed” to be regulated. No one, and I am convinced, No one will be able to get these two opposing sides (Old School & New School) to join together and bring our industry into the 21st century.

The “Straw” that broke the “Consumers” back

It was all made so incredibly clear by a comment from “Soprano Guy”, in response to the statement from Marilyn Wilson “it’s abundantly clear, from all the polls, that the Consumer overwhelmingly wants the Rating System”!

Soprano Guy then blurted out “Who”? “The Consumer”? “That’s not my Customer, The Brokers are my Customers. They pay my bills, not the Consumers”.

In Closing…

You never know what life has in store for you. One minute everything’s all “peaches & cream”. You’re minding your own business, happily “Tweeting” about that nights cocktail parties, or the crazy new Technologies you just heard some Geek talk about on stage and then …. BAM! … Your visions of your industry’s future are shattered by a room full of “Closed Minds”…though it was “riveting” and certainly more interesting than the “Meet The Leaders” segment downstairs, it was then and will forever be my most disappointing “Wrong Turn”

I don’t know how this gets fixed. I just know somebody with the “Schwag” to do it needs to get involved and fix it!

If not, Obama (or the next elected leader of our country) will!

Stay Blogging My Friends!


About TheRECoach & I am Independent Consultant, specializing in the Real Estate Industry, with a focus on The Internet, and it's endless potential for Marketing a business. I have been Blogging since late 2007, an early Adopter on Facebook, and Twitter (July 2007). As you would expect, you can connect with me, "TheRECoach", on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn or even use the more "Archaic" forms of known as email & phone ... or 562.646.6710

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