Creating MLS Networks

Feb 1, 2017 Michael Wurzer

The discussion going on about MLS here at the FBS Blog, Notorious R.O.B.Vendor Alley, and GeekEstatereminds me of the fun from about ten years ago when the was a thing. Seriously, I think the discussion is valuable and hope it keeps going.

First, I want to thank Greg Robertson for including me on his Listing Bits podcast. Greg and I had a great discussion about “the staying power of MLS” and I encourage you to check out our discussion and subscribe to Greg’s Listing Bits podcast on iTunes, as I’m sure he’s going to have a lot of great discussions ahead.

Next, Sam DeBord wrote a valuable guest post on Rob Hahn’s blog, entitled MLS Without Borders, the Consolidation Endgame?, in which Sam advocates for national MLS data sharing. Awhile back, I wrote about a similar idea that I called MLS Data Exchange (MDX), and I still think the core concept is valuable. Of course, the devil is in the details and, as Sam says, we raise more questions than answers, but hopefully the ideas move conversation in a positive direction.

David Charron, Chief Strategy Officer for the newly-formed mega-MLS Bright MLScommented on Sam’s post, saying:

Great post! The objective can never be ‘bigger’. It must always start with faster, better, smarter, cheaper all of which may/may not result in bigger. The important thing here is for contiguous markets to have the discussion. Invite all of the stakeholders (Associations, MLS’, brokers and agents) to chime in. Regardless whether the decision is to create something new or let the band play on, smart people get together, ideally suspend judgement and make the call.

I can’t stress enough the importance of this point from David. There are markets where consolidation makes all the sense in the world and others where it doesn’t, even in markets where the MLS is small or even tiny. In fact, there are tons of markets with small MLSs that are doing an awesome job and wouldn’t benefit at all from consolidation. Analyze, discuss, and make the call. Great advice.

I also want to highlight Drew Meyers’ response to my post, specifically his argument that “agent/broker cooperation (based on trust) already exists, independent of the technology being used to facilitate that cooperation. It would still exist even were a new technology platform to emerge to facilitate the business currently taking place using the present day MLS.”

I definitely agree with Drew that cooperation exists independent of any particular technology, but Drew goes on to presume that the trust created by the MLS would continue even without the MLS. The problem with this analysis is that the MLS works with brokers and agents to create the terms of use, if you will, that outline exactly what it means to cooperate. Without the MLS, therefore, the cooperation necessarily goes away and the question then looms, who establishes the rules on which the brokers will cooperate? Zillow terms of use? Not likely. No, without the MLS, there literally is no cooperation among competing brokers. And, as Sam says, that’s the end game.