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Should the MLS care about what their members think?

 

Do they REALLY care 2For me the answer is yes! For others the answer is no, in certain situations.

For example, when my MLS made a decision to give Zillow our listings, they did not do a poll to see if their members wanted this service, they just did it. My guess is those that make money from Zillow leads would want it, those that do not would not. I believe that more members do not make money from Zillow vs. those that do, so taking a poll might show a clear majority of members do not want Zillow to have our listings.

Those that argue it does not matter what the member’s think might use as an example a company such as Apple. They say that Apple just innovates, they don’t ask their customers what they want, they feel they know what they want, and the market has proved them right.

My counter argument on this is Apple is a lot more innovative than an MLS. Also, an MLS is a monopoly, Apple is not. When Apple comes out with a product which is not popular, the market lets them know. In the case of the MLS, if you do not like what they are offering, it does not matter, there are no other options. There is no Android MLS, no Microsoft MLS to turn to, so you continue to use the MLS no matter how you feel.

Another example is the MLS promoting their own public facing website. In this case, I would guess that members that make money from their own website, or brokers that spend millions per year on their own website, would prefer to get as much traffic as possible. So they would say they would rather get those leads than having them go directly to the public website of the MLS.

Those that have no website and no website offering from their broker probably like the idea of the MLS providing a place for their clients to view listings.

Some buyer’s agents might not like it because the MLS gives the listing agent contact information for every listing, so it is a great place for buyers to go to eliminate the buyer’s agent in a transaction.

The bottom line is I believe the MLS should care about what their members think. If you read the mission statement from the MLS or your Board of Realtors, their mission is to best serve their members. The best way to serve members and understand what they want is to ask them.

About Bryn Kaufman

Principal Broker and creator of OahuRE.com, one of the most popular websites on Oahu. I enjoy working with PHP, MySQL, jQuery, JavaScript, HTML5, Ajax and more. I am always looking to improve my Website and business. When not working, I enjoy spending time with my family and doing anything on or in the Ocean.

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  • “My counter argument on this is Apple is a lot more innovative than an MLS.”

    Why do you think that is? I believe it’s virtually impossible to innovative if you ask for input from thousands and re-evaluate decisions based on responses every step of the way.

    MLS’ should care, since their revenue model involves subscriptions from its members to operate. How they show they “care”, and how much/little to let members into decision making is likely a constantly moving target.

    • Honestly, I don’t think the MLS can innovate whether they ask for input or not. They are not really focused on innovation nor hiring the type of people needed to do so. Every technology solution my MLS provides to us is outsourced.

      I believe you agree with me on this as you questioned their attempt to build a better portal than Zillow and if they really have the programming chops to be able to do it.

      Also, the type of input I am suggesting above is not really regarding some innovative solutions. The first case is whether to give Zillow access to our listings. There is nothing innovative about either giving them access or not giving them access.

      Same with the 2nd issue, they either make a decision to compete against their members who have websites, or not.

      They say they are their to serve members, but they have no idea if those two decision are good or bad for the majority of their members.

      In my specific case those are two horrendous decisions that create my toughest competition. Perhaps I am not in the majority on this and the only way to know for sure is to do a poll.

      • “In my specific case those are two horrendous decisions that create my toughest competition. Perhaps I am not in the majority on this and the only way to know for sure is to do a poll.”

        I believe you’re in the minority. Most agents don’t spend time/money driving online traffic/leads so anyone telling them they are going to do something to help drum up business/leads that won’t cost them time/money — of course they will be a fan of it.

  • rolandestrada

    There is so much history here to cover. Suffice to say that neither AORs, MLSs or Brokers did very much to innovate over the last ten years. The sole shining exceptions to that are HAR and Redfin. They all failed to innovate because of control, greed or both.

    We were already giving listings to Realtor.com so it’s pretty difficult to argue that we should not give our listings to Zillow or anyone else.

    Drew is right about innovation at the AOR/MLS level. Democracy would create chaos. You need a singular Jobsian vision for better or worse. I was frustrated for years with the direction of our MLS and AOR. So a few years ago I joined our AOR MLS committee and the tech review committee for CRMLS. I’m still not going to get everything I want but I at least get a to voice my opinion.

    BPP is a daunting task but we need to at least try. It will either sink or swim. To agents I put it quite simply. Would you rather pay $12 per year as part of your dues to get your own leads or pay third party portals hundreds per month to buy your leads back.

    Bryn’s fear of BPP taking leads away from agent or broker sites is not well founded. BPP is not an advertising site for buying leads. It’s founded on the HAR model of “your listing, your lead”. Every lead inquiry goes to the listing agent, period. It’s not a zero sum game.

    Besides, agent sites are like business cards. They are just a cost of doing business. The reality is that most sites don’t get traffic unless the agent is working on getting organic SEO or paying to for SEO. They are basically just electronic business cards.

    • Roland, what fear of BPP? I did not mention that in my post and honestly am not following it at all. If I do a post on BPP I will let you know.

      I have no fear of BPP as our MLS already has a public facing website they are constantly improving, so BPP if they decide to use it would just be another potential improvement, not something much better than what is in place right now. Same for Project Upstream which our MLS already told me is not relevant in our market.

      Where did you get your data that agent sites are like business cards? Please share with us the research you have that has lead to that conclusion?

      Most agents I know, especially those that use many of the popular website providers like Real Geeks, Boomtown, Commissions Inc., etc. say they get a ton of leads from their website.

      I really hope you have very solid data to backup that claim, otherwise you are making dangerous and possible false assumptions which is exactly the problem I have with what the MLS is doing.

      • rolandestrada

        You made this comment on Inman regarding Florida’s public facing website.

        “This will attract a lot of leads that would have used agents and brokers websites, so those agents and brokers will no longer get those leads.”

        I imagine you would fee the same view about BPP since BPP is the exact same thing as the Florida site but on a national level. If I’m wrong on that, well then I’m wrong.

        The services you mention like Boomtown are exactly what I meant by some agents making the extra expense to boost their online presence. But the reality is that those agents are in the minority. Most agents that have websites have the free or $35 per month type of site. And there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just part of the arsenal. And quite frankly I seriously doubt you can statically prove otherwise. Do you rally think that vast majority of agents that have websites are shelling out the kind of money it take to have a boomtown site. I don’t think so.

        • Interesting article, but this is not data supporting your claim. The one take away I got from this article is if we stopped feeding our listings to Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com it would more than double the traffic to local websites. That is a very attractive number for anyone who has a local website.

          Your last comments are exactly why I think a poll should be taken. You don’t really know. You are guessing. You assume it is logical and makes common sense.

          Why not find out for sure? What is the harm that will be done by actually finding out what members want?

          The MLS does not have to guarantee to take some type of action based on the results, but at least they know where members stand.

          Perhaps those that do not have a good website get leads from their Broker’s website, and would love to get twice as many leads.

          Anyway, until someone actually takes a poll of the membership, everything you and I are saying is just a best guess.

          • I don’t really believe polls. Isn’t the presidential election proof they can be wildly inaccurate?

            What is the resulting action that will come from “polling members” about everything?

          • Roland, you said “And frankly you’re just guessing. So prove your stats.”

            You probably did not read my previous comment in detail because I already said we are both guessing. If a poll is done, it will become very clear what the members want. Other than that, everyone is just guessing.

          • Drew: I knew you would not agree with the polling issue. I took a lot of flak from you and Sam on the idea of polling before, but I decided to make this post anyway. LOL

          • Drew, I am not suggesting polling about everything. That would be counter productive.

            However, there are some big decisions where understanding what the members think could be helpful to making the right decision.

            I don’t see the USA not voting for who will be our next President. Also, the recounts have shown the polls to be accurate.

            I think the MLS could take an accurate poll. Everyone has a unique password to get into the MLS. If you have to enter your password to cast your vote I think the results would be accurate.

            They already have a reasonably secure method of collecting our votes for our board members.

          • rolandestrada

            You need to get over the whole poll thing because it isn’t going to happen. I could go to the trouble of looking on the net for the stats on personal agent websites but I don’t have inclination to do it.

            And frankly you’re just guessing. So prove your stats.

            BPP is likely to happen at this point, which good for listing agents. As it should be. They will have to prove themselves in the market like anyone else. Hopefully they do.

          • For decades our MLS called a property in escrow as Active Continue to Show. On February 22nd, 2016, I put out this very popular post on Facebook about this issue and suggested they call it In Escrow instead.

            https://goo.gl/A4zpBD

            In January of 2017 after decades of use, they will no longer call it Active Continue to Show and call it In Escrow as I suggested.

            In addition on February 4th, I had a very popular Facebook post talking about why the MLS should not give 15 days to mark a property as in escrow

            https://goo.gl/iqzphr

            As of January 2017 they will no longer allow 15 days. They will only allow 4 days which is more reasonable.

            In September of 2015 I received a notice from the MLS to remove pending, withdrawn, and expired listings from my website. I reached out to the public using Facebook with this post.

            https://goo.gl/KFqBMd

            After thousands sent emails to the MLS and commented on Facebook in favor of my website being able to keep showing these listings, the MLS changed their position, and as of November 2015 decided to let me keep doing what I have been doing for years.

            I am sorry, but I don’t accept the “isn’t going to happen” attitude. If I had that attitude, none of the above improvements would have taken place.

            While I can’t guarantee you the MLS will ever care enough to ask their members what they think on certain policies, I don’t see that as a reason not to try to shed some light on this issue.

          • Roland, for decades our MLS called a property in escrow as Active Continue to Show. On February 22nd, 2016, I put out a very popular post on Facebook about this issue and suggested they call it In Escrow instead.

            In January of 2017 after decades of use, they will no longer call it Active Continue to Show and call it In Escrow as I suggested.

            In addition on February 4th, I had a very popular Facebook post talking about why the MLS should not give 15 days to mark a property as in escrow.

            As of January 2017 they will no longer allow 15 days. They will only allow 4 days which is more reasonable.

            In September of 2015 I received a notice from the MLS to remove pending, withdrawn, and expired listings from my website. I reached out to the public using Facebook with this post.

            After thousands sent emails to the MLS and commented on Facebook in favor of my website being able to keep showing these listings, the MLS changed their position, and as of November 2015 decided to let me keep doing what I have been doing for years.

            I am sorry, but I don’t accept the “isn’t going to happen” attitude. If I had that attitude, none of the above improvements would have taken place.

            While I can’t guarantee you the MLS will ever care enough to ask their members what they think on certain policies, I don’t see that as a reason not to try to shed some light on this issue.

          • “The one take away I got from this article is if we stopped feeding our listings to Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com it would more than double the traffic to local websites. That is a very attractive number for anyone who has a local website.”

            If every single agent/broker stopped putting their listings on Z/T/R at the same time — yes, buyers would go elsewhere. But it would need to be a massively orchestrated effort per geography by the entire agent community.

            And the reason I don’t think it will happen is it’s not in the best interests of sellers. Why would a seller NOT want their listing to show up on Zillow — particularly when doing so costs them nothing?

          • Drew, to shut down a data feed is not a massive effort. I believe it can be done in a few seconds. Even if they shut down just Zillow, or just Zillow and Trulia, that is a large amount of business coming to member’s websites.

            Brokers could still put their listings on Zillow, but not all would take that time to do it, nor would they all do it right away, and eventually buyers would realize they are missing a lot of listings by using Zillow, so they would use a local and complete source.

            Regarding if it is the best interest of the public, that being sellers and buyers, that is a whole different debate.

            Some will argue it is because Zillow has a lot of inaccurate information, and all agents currently tell their buyers to use their website as it is 100% accurate where Zillow is not.

            In the case of my MLS all the photos Zillow posts are distorted. As photos are the number 1 thing buyers look at having all the photos distorted is not in the best interest of the public. Others will argue and present other sides.

            However, the MLS very clearly told me they care about what is best for their members. That is their top priority and their mission statement.

            If NAR cared more about buyers and sellers they would not have been sued by the Federal Government.

            So while we could debate about what is best for the public, unfortunately NAR and the MLS do not care about that.

          • “to shut down a data feed is not a massive effort. I believe it can be done in a few seconds. Even if they shut down just Zillow, or just Zillow and Trulia, that is a large amount of business coming to member’s websites.

            Brokers could still put their listings on Zillow, but not all would take that time to do it, nor would they all do it right away, and eventually buyers would realize they are missing a lot of listings by using Zillow, so they would use a local and complete source.”

            Correct. But shutting down one MLS data feed isn’t going to wipe out all the inventory in a given geography. They get feeds from brokers and tech vendors, and some agents probably still manage listings directly one by one.

            This argument has been made for years by many people in the industry. Yet, on the consumer side, what’s changed? Do consumers give a shit enough to switch? It seems, if you measure votes in clicks/use — Zillow is still dominant despite all the listing accuracy issues you gripe about.

          • Drew, I believe if the MLS stops direct feeding Zillow that would be the end of Zillow in that specific area. The MLS does not license others to provide their data to Zillow in my area. Again, agents can post on an individual basis, but many won’t.

            No doubt about it, Zillow is dominating us right now. More leads go to them than any other website.

            This seems to be a hot issue as things like BPP and Upstream seemed to be designed to take better control of our data.

            Roland is a big advocate of BPP because he would like to see agents getting the leads for their listings instead of Zillow selling it to their advertisers. He is probably not alone in that thought process. Only by taking a poll would we know for sure, LOL.

          • “Roland is a big advocate of BPP because he would like to see agents getting the leads for their listings instead of Zillow selling it to their advertisers. He is probably not alone in that thought process. Only by taking a poll would we know for sure, LOL.”

            There’s no need for a poll for this. Listing agents of course would like the direct leads rather than having to pay for them from Zillow. Buyer agents wouldn’t want BPP, because it’s one less way for them to interact with potential buyers.

            But what does the consumer want? That’s the only thing that really matters if you’re talking about “changing” anything in the industry, and what not enough people think about. I still have yet to hear a single argument for BPP that convinces me consumers/buyers will care about their product/portal — and if they don’t care, they will never find BPP in the first place to bypass Zillow and end up direct with listing agents.

          • Drew:

            “Listing agents of course would like the direct leads rather than having to pay for them from Zillow.” – I agree!

            “Buyer agents wouldn’t want BPP, because it’s one less way for them to interact with potential buyers.” – I agree!

            “But what does the consumer want? That’s the only thing that really matters if you’re talking about “changing” anything in the industry, and what not enough people think about.” – I agree!

            “I still have yet to hear a single argument for BPP that convinces me consumers/buyers will care about their product/portal” – I agree!

            I will add one more.

            Agents and brokers that have websites would obviously prefer more leads coming to them through their website.

            It seems the only place we disagree is I believe the MLS is not listening to members so a poll would be helpful to show them the facts.

      • rolandestrada

        Here is a story on Inman form April of 2015. I doubt much has changed since then. The reality about agent websites being mostly electronic business card is logic and common sense.

        How to drive traffic to your real estate website
        http://www.inman.com/2015/04/15/how-to-drive-traffic-to-your-real-estate-website/

        And here is a tasty morsel from the post.

        “Thus, if you have one of the two million or so IDX sites cranked out by some shop calling it custom because you got to pick out a color scheme and put a picture of your head somewhere — you are invisible.”

        • “Thus, if you have one of the two million or so IDX sites cranked out by some shop calling it custom because you got to pick out a color scheme and put a picture of your head somewhere — you are invisible.”

          I agree that’s the reality of the world. A website is useless if you don’t drive traffic to it… and most agents don’t/won’t.

          • rolandestrada

            Agreed.

          • Wow. We just agreed on something..

          • rolandestrada

            LOL, I know. Weird huh. Have a great holiday and a kickass 2017!

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