When Is Regionalization The Best Option?
GOAL: Unifying and consolidating multiple, local, and/or regional MLSs into one larger MLS entity. Regionalization enables full market view and access in order to best serve consumers while preventing Overlapping Market Disorder (OMD), a condition that requires agents and brokers to enter listings into multiple systems and pay dues to each of those systems. Additionally, regional consolidation can result in improved pricing (as a result of higher membership) and access to more products, technology, and services for MLS subscribers.
Consolidating multiple MLSs is often a significant undertaking that raises a lot of questions along the way: What will the new system look like? What fields will be used? What rules will be decided? One thing is for certain: consolidation requires compromise, communication, and collaboration from all parties—MLS technology vendors included. Regionalization creates one set of rules and a single robust MLS system—a solution ideal for smaller MLSs wanting to join together for greater negotiating power and an ability to deliver high-value products and services to their members. At FBS, we use expertise to help answer the questions and provide guidance on solutions. Much like in cases of data sharing, our Customer Success team works very closely with MLS admins and staff from the moment they decide to regionalize, through onboarding to the Flexmls Platform—providing insights and expertise gained through years of experience and established best practices. At FBS, the North Carolina Regional MLS was one of the most extensive regionalizations we’ve facilitated.
North Carolina Regional MLS
A complex, large, and unique project from the beginning, the North Carolina Regional MLS (NCRMLS) consolidation began with nine different associations from five different MLS vendors joining together in a single data format and Flexmls Platform. This is considerably larger in scope and scale than the typical consolidation. The key reason for their desire to regionalize was to remove barriers and make doing business easier for their subscribers. Because this was a larger and more-complex-than-usual consolidation, FBS Director of Customer Success, Kendra O’Brien, and Senior Customer Onboarding Manager, Melissa Feeken, traveled to New Bern, NC, to meet with representatives from the different associations to discuss and plan the best path to resolve data inconsistencies and set business rules to meet the needs of the new regional MLS. “There were some obstacles, as is normal with any project of this size. We ran into some issues getting access to data and had to update our schedule accordingly, which we did working in partnership with the leaders of the MLS and associations,” said O’Brien.
Once a plan was established to set up and customize the Flexmls system based on the new NCRMLS entity’s needs, the FBS Data Engineering team was responsible for acquiring, transforming, and loading data from the current platform into Flexmls. With so many associations consolidating, completing the work on time was important. “Our team does the necessary work to change and adapt the incoming data to how the MLS desires to use it going forward. With NCRMLS, we were working with and normalizing data from many more associations than usual. As of today, we’ve brought in over a dozen associations in various formats to support NCRMLS’s expansion in the region,” explained Troy Davisson, Director of Data Engineering at FBS.
The “Flexmls go-live” is usually when the work is considered complete, but for NCRMLS, the first go-live in January 2016 was just the beginning of a long series of projects, which has continued with several new associations added to NCRMLS since its inception. With each addition, the FBS team adds to the overall value and experience for NCRMLS members. With two more MLSs scheduled to join in 2022, we’re still not done!
Flexmls is uniquely suited for consolidation because we have tools that allow each association autonomy through association-level product customizations, while still unifying them all within one MLS system and one set of rules. “We continue to provide the most reliable, best-in-class tools available to support our REALTORS® in achieving their goals. We have always felt confident in our success with FBS as a partner. As new members onboard, they have no problems adapting to the easy-to-use, intuitive technology. It’s the platform that helped make us who we are. Flexmls found a way to give every one of us a voice in its robust platform,” said Daniel Jones, CEO at North Carolina Regional MLS.
Today, North Carolina Regional MLS is comprised of 15 associations and more than 10,800 agents (and counting) united under one MLS.
Through the years, FBS has helped MLSs of all sizes and geographies find success through regionalization, including Arizona Regional MLS, Southern Missouri Regional MLS, Montana Regional MLS, and a current onboarding project with the Great North MLS among others. In 2020, we also helped with the Oregon Datashare which was working to form a regional using the RESO Platinum standard as their field base. The associations made decisions about how their data corresponded with those fields, and the conversion was extra efficient as a result. This hybrid option is a great way to maintain MLS autonomy while sharing one database and set of fields. Matty Epstein, FBS Director of MLS Sales, who frequently works with MLS Leaders as they start conversations around regionalization says, “FBS is a partner with our customers. Partnership is about doing what is best for the MLSs, and their brokers, and agents. If that means expanding the MLS’s footprint, sharing data with other MLSs, or staying autonomous, we have the technical and human experience to help make the market work!”
The Bottom Line
It may go without saying, but Flexmls is super flexible! We’ve always been proud of the product’s ability to conform to the market—not the other way around. Flexmls allows member associations to keep a unique, autonomous space while uniting them all under one MLS and a shared set of rules. In all scenarios, our team works closely with MLS staff to help guide and assist the business strategies of each individual customer. Questions for us? Please reach out! And tune in next week for Tales from the Wild: Part 4 / Independent MLSs. Missed Part 1 and 2? Read more here and here.