Who am I, what have I become?
Two stories hit my awareness overnight that confirm something I’ve been saying for a while.
In 2013, I wrote this:
The second possible unintended consequence is not regulatory, but practical. For a while, I’ve argued that the reason why the MLS has become so important was that in the newspaper age, it was the most cost-effective form of advertising a home for sale. I’ve argued time and again that it is a mistake to call listings “data”; they are fundamentally advertisements.
More recently, I’ve wondered if what the brokers and agents value the MLS for today is that it is the conduit through which they advertise properties for sale on the ultimate destination: the Internet and mobile apps where consumers actually are today.
For years, I worried that without reform, without change, the MLS will cease being the marketplace for homes and become the conduit to the marketplace: the Web. Everyone assured me that I was smoking some powerful herb. Then…
Today, Quill Realty announces that it will be leaving the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. This will allow Quill to sell homes while charging owners only its own, single broker commission of 1%. So home owners will soon be able to sell their houses using the services of a fully licensed REALTOR™ for far less than the 3% to 6% of the MLS.
Quill frankly admits that sellers will lose some market exposure when they forego listing on the MLS. But not much. Ninety two percent of all home buyers used the internet themselves in 2014 when looking for the home to purchase. Quill anticipates being able to put its listings on numerous, highly trafficked web sites, such as Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com, exactly those places where buyers are searching today. All without using the NWMLS and without paying the commission of a cooperating broker who represents the buyer. [Emphasis mine]
Although the MLS is crucial to me as a broker — both for the data it provides and assisting in making dealings between brokers run smoothly — it is no longer my number one marketing tool to get properties sold. Yes, my MLS has a public-facing site, but it’s so ugly and clunky that I’ve never had a consumer tell me they’ve searched with it. The top real estate search portals — Zillow and Trulia and realtor.com — have the buyers’ eyeballs.
Zillow captures almost a quarter of the Internet real estate searchers. If that’s where people are searching, that is where my brokerage needs to be, front and center. That does not mean buyer’s agents are marginalized in the picture. I don’t care who sells my listings — one of my agents or an agent from XYZ brokerage. My goal is to get it sold.
Well then. So much for those assurances. Maybe that herb I was smoking is called prophecy?
In any event, combine those two stories with the fact that the Modular MLS has taken a huge step forward with RPR-AMP. RPR will provide the MLS with a technologically advanced back-end; a whole variety of vendors can and will provide the front-end (including custom broker or agent-specific front-ends that can access the MLS directly).
What then, is the MLS in the post-AMP era?