Inman Connect Summary: I call BS on anyone who says the current MLS model is broke

Jan 15, 2010  |  Michael Wurzer

I’m at LaGuardia airport ready to head home after the Inman Connect conference in New York this week.  The conference was great and I applaud Madelyn, Brian, Brad and everyone associated with Inman for putting on another great event.  My biggest take-away from the event is that I’m sick and tired of hearing people say the MLS model is broken.  Last time I checked, we live in the United States of America where competition proves value.  On that fact alone, MLSs are proving their value every day.

For anyone out there who says the MLS model is broken because there are too many MLSs, the answer is straight-forward.  Start your own MLS, write your own MLS software, and put down all those stupid MLSs that supposedly just protect their turf and provide lousy support.  As I listened to Joel Singer from CAR talk about calREDD this morning, I thought I was being thrust into the novel 1984 and that black was now white and white was black.  According to Joel, the MLSs and MLS systems today are antiquated, redundant, and his calREDD system is the solution.  Really?  The market is speaking pretty loudly to refute that claim.

In addition to Mr. Singer, Brad Inman and others repeatedly said that it was ridiculous that there are so many MLSs.  BS.  The MLSs are the ones competing and proving value.  There is nothing to stop anyone at any time from starting a competitive MLS anywhere.  You have a better idea how MLSs should work?  Prove it in the market.  You’ve got better technology and think everyone else’s is lousy?  Prove it in the market.  Until then, I call BS.

I also counter ahead of time comments or responses about how the existing MLSs are barriers to entry and that there really isn’t any competition.  That claim is BS, too.  The fundamental value proposition of any MLS is that they’ve gotten brokers to agree to cooperate with each other in terms of offers of compensation and sharing their listings with each other.  To compete with that, you need to organize the brokers and get them to work with you.  If you can’t do that, too bad, you’re a failed competitor or a cry baby, nothing more.

I’ll put our MLS software up against any system any time.  If you think you’re more innovative, bring it.  I’ll also put the community building power of the 110 MLSs we work with up against calREDD, RPR, Zillow, Google or any other MLS wannabes any time.  Think you can build a better community and attract more brokers?  Bring it.  Until then, I call BS.

37 Responses to “Inman Connect Summary: I call BS on anyone who says the current MLS model is broke”

  1. Dan says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more Michael though I think a bit of consolodation and standardization at the technology level would benefit the industry (and create a nice business opportunity for the smart players)

  2. Doug Garner says:

    The whole system has become clouded when it’s viewed from the outside. What I’ve witnessed in comments regarding “too many MLS’s” are usually from people looking at MLS from the outside, (including the DOJ) and the blarring thing you see when you look from the outside in, is a database. MLS is far beyond a database. If it were simply a database it would be fairly easy (not cheap) on many levels to create a “national”, all encompassing, database of all properties. (it’s been done already with county tax records). However, MLS is not about the database. If all computers were taken away tomorrow would MLS still exist? Yup. It existed long before computers. Computers just made it quicker to disseminate data.

    So then, what are the road blocks to truly creating a 1 system, 1 database, all encompassing MLS system? Of the 6 MLS’s that I’m within 90 miles of, we can agree on all things that make an MLS function, like unilateral offers of co-operative compensations rules, etc. NONE of them agree on how to disseminate property data. Do we display Sq Ft or no Sq Ft, schools or school districts, parochial and private schools included? How many days to submit a photo? What to do if there is no photo submitted? Fine them? how much? who collects the fine? Etc, Etc, Etc.

    Am I happy with my local MLS procedures? yes i am. Would I want someone to take away the rules that I’m comfortable with and dictate “their” new set of rules on my comfortable way of procedure? Of course not. And neither would anyone else.

    Michael, your very correct. MLS is about community, it’s local. If I’m not satisfied in the way things are going at my MLS, I have a voice in changing it the same as my competitor down the street has a voice. Take away my voice and my only choice is to seek out services elsewhere. Pretty soon, when enough start looking elsewhere the wheel falls from the spokes and you have……… Chicago (oops, that just slipped out)

    I believe there can and will be some day, 1 database of all MLS information ( Sorry Michael, I know this goes against your thinking) but it will never happen unless each and every MLS is ran and operated locally.

  3. mwurzer says:

    Dan, I agree – consolidation is an example of the market responding. Maybe the market doesn’t produce the result in the time or manner some want, but the proper response is to participate in the market.

    Doug, I have no problem with a national real estate data repository. In fact, I recommended that a few years ago. I’m also in favor of national data standards, which could eliminate the need for a repository. I’m also for terms of use that go beyond IDX and VOW by segregating a variety of uses of the data such as analytics to allow more innovation. I am against state or national associations trying to impose a single, monopolistic system on all members, because that will stifle competition and innovation in the long run.

    Of course, many claim that the current MLS structure is a bunch of little monopolies, but this is mistaken on a couple of levels. First, as mentioned earlier, there is nothing to prevent anyone from starting their own MLS. Presuming the existence of the cooperation ignores the value the current MLSs have created. Without them, you’re starting from scratch. Second, with IDX and VOW APIs, there are ample opportunities for innovators to access the data. Could those APIs be improved? Sure. The idea that today’s MLS’s are locked silos is dead, and has been for some time. Of course, there are still those who whine that the terms of use for IDX and VOW are not acceptable, but, again, they have a choice — create their own MLS and show everyone how great it is to have different terms of use. The market will prove whether you’re right or not.

  4. Oh man Michael, when I gave you shit for not blogging enough I never expected this whopper!

    All I can say is Boom Baby!

    I agree with you 1000%

    Bring it!

  5. Wow…it’s terrific to hear the opinions of Old Timers like myself. I’ve heard for SO MANY years about one national database. If it were simply a list of data as those outsiders see, it would have already occurred. As we all know, handling each detail of a real estate transaction is a very personal process, done in different ways in different communities for different clients. The listing of a property includes many details that are called by different names and have historically been stored in different ways for different reasons. I am finding in my new gig in a fairly isolated marketing area that there are reasons for local control of the rules, etc. and that, for now, a national (or even regional) MLS is not the answer. Maybe someday when we all speak the same language (BR, BDR or SqFt, SFT, SF, indicating I agree with all the previous comments). Nice to be in such esteemed company!

    Michael, good to hear your voice among others’ I respect. And, I say that when Greg gives you ‘shit’ you have arrived!!!

  6. Lin mcintosh says:

    If there were true competition in the delivery of MLS services, each broker would be able to choose the system that best suits their needs & not be bound by the decision of their “peers”. Until then the MLS that does not offer the members a choice (including my own) is a monopoly & a monopoly is NOT competition. In this regard the current MLS model is broken … except if you’re a member of CARETS

  7. Mike Sparr says:

    Wow Michael, that insane security line at LaGuardia really lit a fire! It’s funny you mention this because on Thursday I had a lunch meeting and a lot of the discussion (another person) hit on these points. A great point another person made is that a national MLS was bad for brokers and the larger one becomes, the less “voice” the brokers have in how it’s run and serves their businesses.

    As a matter of fact, many of the multi-regionals came about because of the power of the brokers who said “if you don’t fix it, we will” so the current makeup is a direct result of listening and delivering what the market wants, or else. The market forced data sharing, and will also control how big the organizations can get before yet another “if you don’t fix it, we will” ultimatum which may even force downsizing. This almost happened in Denver recently.

    Recently we saw MetroList in Denver, who has their own MLS system, change their pricing model to a fixed-rate plan. At NAR I heard some of the Colorado Associations talking to MLS vendors as they were upset with the “metered rate” billing, etc. MetroList did a great job and obviously listened to their market, made adjustments and life goes on.

    That’s what it’s all about and you hit the nail on the head – market efficiency will win every time, and to survive and thrive, you have to listen and evolve. It’s constant, and not broken, and even changes we’ve seen in the past year all around the US are evidence. 😉

    I was going to recommend you fly into Newark next NYC trip, and avoid the chaos and security lines, but seeing LaGuardia’s chaos light the fire, I think I’ll refrain.

  8. mwurzer says:

    Lin, you make a good point: Even the local MLSs might not be “local enough” and that what would be better is some sort of “app store” approach where each individual agent or broker could pick and choose the software they want. Matt Cohen talked up this idea at the Future of MLS panel I moderated at NAR in San Diego and it’s also at the heart of what CARETS is doing as you mention.

    More generally, I believe this type of broker choice is pretty much possible today with a VOW feed, to which every broker is entitled. However, the market hasn’t responded yet to fill this need for two reasons: (1) the lack of data standards makes it expensive to build systems out across the country; and (2) there isn’t a huge demand, because most brokers and agents won’t switch from their current system.

    All of that being said, my main point remains that those who complain about there being too many MLSs and that what we really need is one are wrong, because that would lessen competition and not increase it. As you point out, instead of more consolidation, we need more choice, not less. Data standards can do this, monopolies won’t.

  9. mwurzer says:

    Lin, one further point: Though I agree that an app store would be cool, training and support is a big part of what the MLS does for their membership and that clearly wouldn’t be possible with such varied choice. I don’t think that’s a show stopper for an app store by any means, because support can be provided directly from the vendor to the agent, but it is a consideration for those MLSs who provide direct support to members.

  10. mwurzer says:

    Mike, I usually fly in and out of Newark but the best flight times for me this time were from LaGuardia. As it turned out, the security line only took about 35 minutes, even though it stretched out for a long, long way and looked really scary.

    You summed up my point really well here: “That’s what it’s all about and you hit the nail on the head – market efficiency will win every time, and to survive and thrive, you have to listen and evolve. It’s constant, and not broken, and even changes we’ve seen in the past year all around the US are evidence.” I’d only add that the mistake so many people make in complaining about the MLS is they presume it’s existence. They presume that somehow the cooperation among brokers just magically happens and that the rules, choices, governance structure, size, coverage area, etc., have nothing to do with creation of the cooperation in the first instance. The only way to truly understand this point is to imagine that there were no MLS. In doing so, many say that if there were no MLS, a national one is the obvious answer. My response is that market forces will either create it or it’s a wrong answer, but what’s really a wrong answer is for the state or national associations to presume they know better than the market.

  11. There are really two areas of concern in this discussion: one is the business rules and practices, which indeed are ‘local’, and should undoubtedly be preserved. The second, however, is access to a professional database for serious practitioners in the real estate business (and not just sales). The latter is not local, and is not static.

    At issue, then, is whether these two concepts can be combined to preserve local business without sacrificing our increasing need for information. Of course that’s possible as far as technology is concerned, but politics makes it a pretty bumpy ride.

  12. Brad Tertell says:

    Michael: Great response, couldn’t agree with you more. If there are too many MLS’s out there, it’s not the vendors fault. It’s the brokers that continue to support small assocaitons/boards when they should be demanding consolidation, to better service eveyones needs.

    Thank god for the many MLS vendors out there. They are the innovators, that thrive off of competition, which in turn benefits everyone.

  13. mwurzer says:

    Judith and Brad, if I’m reading you correctly, you both make what I believe is the same mistake I decry in the post, namely that you presume the existence of the MLS or broker cooperation. Judith, could it be that the data aggregation you believe is not local is inseparable from the local business rules and practices. In other words, if you make the one national, the local cooperation evaporates? Brad, could it be that the brokers do not support consolidation because they want to preserve the business rules and practices that engendered cooperation in their area in the first instance?

    That brokers across the country cooperate with each other, at least locally, is not something I think should be taken for granted, and certainly not by would-be reformers of the current MLS model. Reform of the MLS model is happening every day and will continue through competition. For those who want reform to happen faster, they should seek to increase competition in the space, not decreases it through consolidation or monopolies.

  14. Sorry, Michael: I don’t ‘presume’ cooperation. Quite the opposite. And in fact I have long believed that if MLS’s don’t make it easier for brokers to operate their brokerages without multiple memberships and back office interfaces and obstacle technology, brokers and salespeople will be tempted by low cost (free, even) access to information, and building cooperative business networks outside the current MLS as we know it. Does that put me in agreement with Brad Inman and Joel Singer? Probably.

  15. mwurzer says:

    Judith, how long do you think it would be before a single, national MLS system would atrophy into the biggest “obstacle technology” brokers have ever seen? I’m also curious about the “free” software that responds to the business rules brokers require of their MLS? This kind of vague discussion is exactly what I find frustrating. First, the discussion treats all MLSs as if they were the same. Many MLSs among the dreaded 800 have no market overlap disorder and provide excellent value to their members. Second, we’re not talking about specific software or competitors actually in the market serving MLSs but rather the idea of some idealized free system that makes everyone’s life peachy. Every system will have rules and limitations and the idea that the rules and limitations of the “next best thing” are going to respond to brokers is, at best, questionable. However, debating this issue in the abstract, about some system that doesn’t exist and so no rules or limitations exist, makes it impossible to say whether such a system would be more or less of an obstacle technology for brokers. However, what I’m confident about is that having more systems and options for brokers in an open competitive market is much better than a consolidated system that restricts competition.

  16. I don’t think I’m talking about one big giant MLS: I am talking about NO MLS. Or at least, as we know it today. My point is, unless the MLSs can accommodate Realtors better than they are currently doing, our members may find they can do without them. Don’t think I can be more clear than that.

  17. Ira Luntz says:

    Great thread! Kudos Michael!!

    Having personally worked with many MLS organizations in helping “design their MLS system” you know well that the local data and business rule requirements are just that- provincial things that have been in place for many, many years, handed down from generation to generation of REALTORS. It is usually not about market efficiency or competitive protection but more about “this is how we have always done it”. It is this provincial nature that makes the MLS model both unique and frustrating. The MLS creates and enforces a basic content meaning foundation for their local market (i.e. SQFT in Sarasota is really “Living SQFT under air”)- and this makes each market unique. Does the consumer really care- probably not. But they probably would if the definition was not there. Aggregating and serving up cleansed, standardized, national MLS data is an important and a costly endeavor- and believe me is being done- but collecting it is the real trick- and those local collection systems are an important part of the marketplace!

  18. mwurzer says:

    Hey, Ira, thanks for commenting. There’s no doubt a need for more data standardization in the MLS industry. I’ve been beating that drum for years. This is the one area where I agree with those advocating consolidation, in that the complexity of getting data standards in place often makes consolidation one of the only remaining options. By the way, congratulations on your new gig with LPS.

  19. I can’t really say I disagree as I’ve been out of the Real Estate business for a while but what I can say is I think you are missing the point.

    You’re stating emphatically that those who want to compete should and that the market will pick the winner. Well I think what’s happening with Zillow, Google, calREDD, RPR, and any one else throwing their hat in is a direct response to the market. The market doesn’t like the current MLS system. That isn’t debatable or else the aforementioned technologies and companies wouldn’t exist. End of argument. So I guess, it’s being brought?

    It may not be perfect and the paths to replacing the current MLS system is mired in obstacles that are sometimes almost insurmountable. But I have little to no doubt that at some point, they will be overcome. I think the appropriate response for the MLS’s should be to sit back and say “build something better and steal our business” but instead “what can we do to provide what the market is quite obviously requesting”.

    I understand your “BS” response to the market, I’m just saying I don’t think the market cares. As a potential client of your client (a home buyer), I don’t like MLS’s and the experiences I’ve had with them in my area of California have been terrible. I would love nothing more than to go to a central place and look for houses.

    Does that mean I’m wrong? Does that mean I’m a horrible example? I’m not sure, but it’s quite obvious to me that if there weren’t more people like me, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. No?

  20. mwurzer says:

    >>Well I think what’s happening with Zillow, Google, calREDD, RPR, and any one else throwing their hat in is a direct response to the market. The market doesn’t like the current MLS system. That isn’t debatable or else the aforementioned technologies and companies wouldn’t exist.< < The only one of those that would claim to be competing with MLSs is calREDD. All the rest are working with MLSs as the data source, confirming the value of the effort it takes to aggregate data from competitors. >>I would love nothing more than to go to a central place and look for houses.< < As shown by the above sites, the distribution of listings from MLSs is incredibly prolific and there are sites all over the Internet that allow you to do this. >>the experiences I’ve had with them in my area of California have been terrible<< I'd love to hear more details about the negative experiences you've had with MLSs.

  21. Rob Hahn says:

    I’m not sure why you’re such an opponent of consolidation on the one hand, but such a fan of data standardization on the other. Seems to me that the latter is more or less impossible without the former. I can’t imagine the finance world with its relatively standardized data formats if the NYSE did not achieve preeminence. Imagine there being 900 separate stock exchanges, all with weird local rules and traditions.

    I think the real barrier to innovation in the MLS business is that there are hundreds of local rules and quirky (and quite unnecessary) data fields that make it difficult for developers to innovate on a scale that makes it worth their while.

    -rsh

  22. The biggest problem with MLS systems is the local boards and politics, committees, and agenda’s tasked with selecting MLS vendors. Plenty of great choices with some really unqualified folks making the wrong choices.

    In the market where I work we have a regional MLS that does not even support Mac’s and has become so complicated that only a software engineer would really understand all its abilities. Yet basis functions like CMA, data-export, and search abilities are awkward.

    As Rob states I think that data standardization is key and having MLS vendors competing for business is a good thing = innovation.

  23. Steve Byrd says:

    Hi Mike,

    I attended the same sessions and couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, you’re my new hero. If I only had a dollar for every member that said to me “my husband/wife used to work for IBM and he/she could build a better system”. My answer is usually “good luck with that”.

    I think you nailed it by calling BS. The underlying problem is that many MLS members, the general public, and even many of the so-called “industry experts” simply do not understand what it takes to run an MLS. It’s not just the technology — it’s also the rules, the compliance and enforcement, the education and training, the staffing, the Help Desk, the responsiveness, the maintenance, the disaster preparedeness, and the showing service, and the data distribution, and the lockboxes and keys, and the management, and billing, and most importantly the community. More recently, we’ve had to add subpoenas, depositions and legal fees to our list. I could go on.

    In any other job, I would say I am an IT professional. As CIO of Carolina MLS, I consider myself a situation manager. MLS leadership and staff walk the fine line between member wants and member needs, between member requests and member demands, all while considering local influences, vendor capabilities, local and state laws, state commission regulations, NAR model rules, pressures from competing and non-competing markets, and now of course third parties from other markets demanding access and claiming to have the “DOJ on their side”.

    As you said, if anyone thinks they can implement a better MLS in our market, bring it. It might bring some excitement to my life.

    Ira, I must respectfully disagree with your comment: “provincial things that have been in place for many, many years, handed down from generation to generation of REALTORS. It is usually not about market efficiency or competitive protection but more about ‘this is how we have always done it’.” Maybe so in some markets, but not in mine, and not in the larger markets that regularly attend MLS conferences. In our market we take great pride in proactively changing our rules to meet with modern demands. We spend a good deal of money hiring MLS consultants to help us make these changes. We consistently challenge the “that’s the way it’s always been done” mentality and I think we’ve kept up quite nicely.

    Jesse, you are way off with your “Zillow, Google, calREDD, RPR” comment. IMHO, calREDD isn’t going to survive (sorry Joel) and the others aren’t in the same arena. If you gave me ten million bucks and told me to build the best public portal I could, oh and by the way, no need to follow NAR rules, guess what, I’d build you something very different from an MLS, and that’s exactly what they’ve done.

    The crappy part of this equation is that I estimate a full 5-10% of my MLS Help Desk calls go something like this:

    Realtor: Hey, my seller just saw their listing on Zillow/Google/Trulia and the number/sqft/bedrooms/bathrooms/etc. is wrong, can you get that fixed for us?

    Me: As I’m sure you know, your participation in Zillow/Google/Trulia is completely voluntary. While I’ll be happy to call their rep for you and suggest that they fix their data, they may or may not respond to me. Your ultimate solution may have to be to withhold your listing from them.

    The number of these calls will increase proportionally to the number of portals in existence. To get an idea of how many there are, look here: http://www.listhub.net/ (Also my plug for ListHub, an awesome service!).

    Rob, your stock market analogy doesn’t fly with me. If buying 100 shares of Microsoft meant the purchaser had to live in Redmond and was stuck there until they could sell, then I think we’d still have numerous exchanges. Consolidation works for their product more readily than it does for ours (see my partial list of services above). I am for better data standards, but as for national consolidation, I think Doug Garner said it best above –“Would I want someone to take away the rules that I’m comfortable with and dictate ‘their’ new set of rules on my comfortable way of procedure? Of course not. And neither would anyone else.”

    To have a national MLS, there would have to be a lot more bargaining than just killing hamsters, using Art Carter’s anaology. (Or was it Bud Vogel that first came up with that?) A national MLS would mean that everyone would get a letter stating that whatever pet they had, cat, dog, hamster, whatever, would have to be turned in immediately to authorities, and as a replacement, you’ll receive this handsome Homer Simpson Chia Pet. Learn to love it, because you’ll never have another pet again.

    Imagine a Realtor calling their “national MLS” to complain about another agent’s listing. They’d get the same treatment that most people get from Realtor.com (my rep excepted). “Ok, where are you now, Charleston? Charlottesville? That’s in Virginia right? Oh Charlotte, aha, North Carolina. And what rule is it you say they’re breaking? And you’re saying that’s a violation of NCREC regulations? I’ll have to transfer you to the person that handles that.” What a nightmare.

    Jeffrey, get yourself on your board and help make those decisions instead of complaining about the people that do.

    Bottom line is, there are only 10 or so “real” MLS system vendors out there, maybe less. If an MLS system was easy to build, implement and maintain, then there would be many more, just like the number of Web portals. Everyone just needs to relax and let the cards fall where they fall. It will all work out in the end, I promise. I agree wholeheartedly with Mike’s comments and I firmly believe that running around spouting BS about the broken MLS model is just a waste of everyone’s time and energy.

  24. mwurzer says:

    >>I’m not sure why you’re such an opponent of consolidation on the one hand, but such a fan of data standardization on the other. < < I'm a fan of data standardization because I believe it will increase competition. I'm opposed to national (though not all) consolidation because I believe it will decrease competition. >>Seems to me that the latter is more or less impossible without the former.<< This may be true, which, I believe, is bad for the industry.

  25. mwurzer says:

    Steve, thanks for stopping by. I completely agree: “Everyone just needs to relax and let the cards fall where they fall. It will all work out in the end, I promise.”

    Jeff, I agree with this: “I think that data standardization is key and having MLS vendors competing for business is a good thing = innovation.” My question is, if there’s one MLS vendor, how will it be competing for business?

  26. Rob Hahn says:

    Hey Steve –

    Perhaps we’re discussing apples and oranges. I have to differentiate between what I thought Mike was addressing (data standardization, MLS software, etc. — the backend pipes & such) and what you’re bringing up (training, education, local rules, and the like).

    I don’t know that a “national MLS” has to have a single set of rules; just a single set of data standards, a single database, and a single tech platform on which vendors and others can innovate. Since now, they have scale. Local rules can be handled in separate modules, for example, while keeping data integrity and cleanliness in the main database. Enforcement/compliance, I think, is something that scales with size: a 200 member MLS may not be able to hire personnel for a Compliance Department and have multiple lawyers around — a 200,000 member MLS can, even with local rules.

    Are we sure we’re talking about the same thing?

    -rsh

  27. Steve Byrd says:

    If “a single set of data standards, a single database, and a single tech platform on which vendors and others can innovate” means aggregation for display, enhancement, or redistribution only, a la RPR, then yes, we are talking about two different things, and I agree it can be done — in fact is being done.

    If you are including input/collection of data, bounced off of business rules specific to local areas and states, with compliance and enforcement to guarantee accuracy, then I believe a single entity just won’t be able to handle it. Even if everything is maintained in “separate modules” as you say.

    I just don’t see how you could get around, for example, the fact that different real estate commissions have different guidelines on the measurement of a house. That’s not just the name of the field or the value in the field, but it’s the underlying meaning of the value.

  28. Ira Luntz says:

    Hey Now Steve! Great comments…

    Please don’t mis-understand my discussion of intertia. I was focusing on the data definitions. I completely agree that the MLSs continue to innovate, helping to move, (and in some places-drag), their membership into the future with technology and rapidly changing consumer dynamics (thank goodness!). But some of us real estate technologists have tried our entire careers to bring standards into the industry, supporting organized real estate, maintaining the local flavor of local markets while bringing the data closer to the consumer. It is not for lack of tecnhnological capability (computing power is really cheap compared to ten years ago); it is not for lack of trying (remember DxM?); it is not for lack of desire (RETS); however it may be due to our collective inability to agree on the details- the small things that make the data go ’round. AND- that is the way it is. Would your members ever stand for calling Pending listings “DABOs”? I don’t think so.

    So what we are left with is to identify and maintain these data differences on a national basis. These things can be mapped and reconciled. I believe the time is now for someone/something to jump out front- the “build it and they will come” approach. Make it economical for vendors to innovate by standardizng access and delivery of national listing data (under authority). Create a marketplace “stock exchange” of providers of data and users of data. Make it foolproof to insure that syndicated listing data is current and correct. If we do these things, maybe the “I need a national MLS” discussion would be a moot point.

    As Dennis Miller used to say: “Of course that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong…” .

  29. Steve Byrd says:

    Thanks Ira,
    I understand your points and recognize the value for sure, I just need convincing that it’s possible, especially the foolproof part! 🙂
    Steve

  30. The fervent resistance to the consolidation desires of the industry and market confuse the heck out of me. Why is it better to have unique rules, politics and unique data fields for the same objects? Have any of you who tout the current model looked at other countries or other systems? I’m just curious because outside of the current MLS system there are some amazing new innovations in the RE sector.

    The reason we can’t do the same thing in the US? The MLS’s and all their unique fields.

    If you don’t want to innovate fine, I think it’s vividly apparent now that you have no desire to and rather than bring each other up to a standard and push innovation, you’d rather sit back and continue the same ol’ same ol’ and call BS that no one can do it better.

    No offense meant, but what a terrible outlook on life and business in general. Working in the internet field, if everyone had built webpages for their community to serve whatever the most popular delivery method would have been the internet would not be where it is, and websites wouldn’t have reached as many viewers as they have.

    Think of the same with MLS’s. Imagine if there was a standard. If there was a single database. Imagine what that would do for RE business. How many more eyeballs would you get on homes for sale? TONS.

    The current MLS system has gone as far as it can go. There needs to be a paradigm change and while it may not start off as great as the current MLS system, it has a much higher growth potential.

    I think it’s great that you have your opinion and you believe what you believe but I’d take the bet that the MLS’s will have some sort of competition for listings and services sometime soon. The afore mentioned sites and services are just the start. They’re gaining footholds, building audiences and traffic.

    I’m all for my opinion to be swayed, I just don’t see any argument that has a shred of evidence in it. There’s no benefit for the RE industry or growth potential in saying “BS” and sitting back and doing the same ol’ tired strategy.

  31. mwurzer says:

    Jesse Biltsen, you obviously have read nothing on the FBS Blog, for, if you had, you would know that FBS is one of the strongest proponents of data standards in the MLS industry. Please take the time to become more informed before coming here and making accusations.

  32. Rob Hahn says:

    Steve –

    I suppose I’m not overly worried about state commissions, since those are basically under the sway of the industry. If the relevant state association (or bunch of local associations) decided to change the regulation to conform to a national standard (as set by major consolidators), I figure that’s easy to do.

    See, e.g., Uniform Commercial Code.

    I just think consolidation (not necessarily a single national MLS, but something fewer than 900 separate MLS’s) will lead naturally to standardization at least of the core records. That in turn should drive innovating within the industry as developers should find that the market they’re developing for suddenly got much larger.

    -rsh

  33. Doug Garner says:

    Rob Hahn says…

    “I suppose I’m not overly worried about state commissions, since those are basically under the sway of the industry. If the relevant state association (or bunch of local associations) decided to change the regulation to conform to a national standard (as set by major consolidators), I figure that’s easy to do.”

    Great comment, although this will seem as a disagreement, I think now we’re drilling down to the root of the problems involved with, what seems to be the popular conception of, a national MLS.

    Oh how it wish your above comment were true. The reality is, every day we fight a constant battle with “national” sellers (REO’s, third party relocations, etc) who consistently send us contracts, procedures and instructions that do not conform with our state regulations as well as instructions for MLS display that do not conform to our local MLS or even NAR’s suggested MLS rules.

    Yearly, we are in constant vigil over our state assembly who consistently try to introduce new legislation that would have an adverse effect, or non-conformity within the industry. Some times we persuade them to scrap the idea, sometimes not. You always here of those “old” laws like it’s illegal in this state to carry an Ice cream cone in your pocket on Sundays. Believe me, some of those laws are NOT that old and if we weren’t constantly shadowing proposed legislation there would be lots of “ice cream”- type real estate laws passing assembly every year.

    Most state assemblies and real estate commissions are not swayed very easily under the premise of conformity. Although the conformity defense does work in some cases, there is always what seems like a sense of pride on their part in being different. (wow, I didn’t expect this to turn political)

    Just look at the agency laws. It’s a train wreak when viewed from state-to-state. There is almost no consistency and agency has only been a debatable issue for less than 20 years ago.

    IMO, Until we live in a world where state legislators are easily swayed in defense of conformity, any version of a national MLS will have to be a model which includes LOCAL as a major factor.

    Wait… I only want my legislators swayed on MY issues, not sure I like the idea of swayed legislation on ALL issues. 🙂

  34. mwurzer,

    I was one of the first people who subscribed to your blog before it even had a template and was just a wordpress default themed blog (remember the stock blue header?) I subscribed to it because of one of your comments on another MLS/RE blog and I was impressed and intrigued to see an MLS company that was forward thinking. I jumped into this particular post because it’s been the very first one I disagreed with thus far.

    I have loved reading all your content and would say that I’m probably one of your longest running readers and biggest sharing components throughout the web design community as well as the RE tech nerds that are so few and far between.

    With that said, it doesn’t change my response to this post nor does it excuse you for accusing me of not knowing about your blog and thus making assumptions and excuses for your post. Telling me I’m misinformed or hinting that I’m not intelligent enough to understand is just a cop out. The questions around MLS’s and standardization are being asked and the problems exist. As I stated before, this post wouldn’t exist if that wasn’t a reality.

    I know that this post is out of the norm for this blog. However, looking at the way you responded to my comments and the way you formulated this post seems to be a common opinion of yours that rather than explain and educate me, you’d rather sit back and call “BS”. This isn’t an attack on you as a person, but rather a suggestion as to how to help implement what you are speaking to: MLS’s being a part of the solution and not the problem. That isn’t the paradigm in place currently nor the one that the rest of us (RE tech nerds) are used to, so if you want me (or anyone who shares my opinion) on board, you’ll need to provide us with some information, preferably visual and easy to consume as we’re not all as well informed as you are being at the heart of a beating MLS.

  35. mwurzer says:

    Jessie, given that you’ve read the FBS Blog from the beginning, what is your basis for this statement: “If you don’t want to innovate fine, I think it’s vividly apparent now that you have no desire to and rather than bring each other up to a standard and push innovation, you’d rather sit back and continue the same ol’ same ol’ and call BS that no one can do it better.” Even in the comment thread on this post I’ve stated several times how important we believe standards are to increasing innovation and competition in the MLS industry, and nearly every other post I’ve written over two years says the same thing.

    I agree with you that this post was out of character for me, but I guess you had to be in the audience at Inman and in my position to know why the rants of Joel Singer from calREDD were so infuriating. I could not just let that stand. I apologize for the uncharacteristic tone and hope you continue to read and know that we at FBS are as committed as ever to standards, competition and innovation in the MLS industry.

  36. My name is “Jesse Bilsten” not “Jessie Biltsen”. It’s just to the left of each of my comments, copy and paste it into your responses. I’m not asking for much here 🙂

    My comment: “If you don’t want to innovate fine, I think it’s vividly apparent now that you have no desire to and rather than bring each other up to a standard and push innovation, you’d rather sit back and continue the same ol’ same ol’ and call BS that no one can do it better.” was in response to your statement that the current MLS model is not broken.

    Maybe I’ve deluded myself into thinking that you agreed with my thinking that the current model is indeed broken while I read all your posts about standardization. I’ve always thought the current MLS model was to cater to their locale and only support the features that specific that locales requests (sqft vs SQFT, counting skylights or whatever the nickle and dime differences are these days). In my opinion this isn’t standardization. That’s continuing the old model and it’s assuring that there will be no one template for a listing.

    I’m a no body but what seems to me that needs to happen is each MLS needs to get together just like all the realtors did in your dialog post before and collectively share listings as well. This would force (just as it did with the Realtors) for them to reach a unified standard.

    I guess I’m looking to the MLS’s to push the new paradigm as they know the most about how this all could work effectively. The first place I would turn to for answers would be this site in all honesty. Now can you see why I had the reaction I did when I read this post? My last hope for a strong MLS with their head on straight to lead the way for all the straggling and in some cases abandoned (read: excel sheet publishing) MLS’s to look up to has called “BS” and is swearing to sit back and do nothing. That doesn’t bode well.

    Am I interpreting this post incorrectly and just having a knee jerk reaction? Tell me I am…

  37. mwurzer says:

    Yes, you’re misinterpreting the post.