Promoting Good Works in the MLS

Jul 30, 2007  |  Michael Wurzer

Last week (which seems an eternity ago), I posted about Clay Shirky’s article called A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy and how the principles discussed apply directly to MLS in this web world. I said then that “I truly believe this is the framework for reinventing the constitutions of the MLSs” and I believe that statement even more now than I did last week in the rush of reading the article and writing my post.

To back up my statement, I intend to delve into the Shirky principles for developing social software in more detail in several posts, starting with this one. Shirky lists four issues you need to design for in social software, and I’d like to focus on the first two:

  1. ” The first thing you would design for is handles the user can invest in.”
  2. “Second, you have to design a way for there to be members in good standing. Have to design some way in which good works get recognized.”

These two things seem to me to be very related. The user can invest in their “handle” (who they are on the system) if their good works get recognized. These two things combine to create a reputation.

Historically, in the MLS, reputation has centered on sales statistics, which certainly are important, but limited, as Mark Twain so aptly described. If you slice and dice the sales stats enough, everybody with even one sale is number one somewhere for some market.  (Which might be one reason MLSs often don’t allow members to run system-wide sales rankings; that, and the myth that brokers will use such stats (as if they don’t have them anyway) to poach the best agents.)

Also, are sales statistics the only “good work” in real estate? The idea of teams has put that question into high relief recently, as team members each bring their talents to the equation. Of course, team sales are the ultimate objective, but how do you slice and dice those stats for the individual team members?

I would suggest that MLS social systems could benefit greatly from expanding the good works of real estate beyond sales to any content created in the system. Athol Kay keeps his blog running with the Bad MLS Photo of the Day. Could there be a virtuous cycle created by allowing agents to promote their photos better in the system? How about photo ratings within the MLS, creating reputations around excellent photos? Or how about the best CMAs? Or the most knowledge about a particular neighborhood? Or the buyer’s agent with the most prospects? Or the best blogs?

The bottom line is that there are many types of content added to the MLS system all the time that are never tracked or promoted as they could be. The “hot sheet” in the MLS could become a lot hotter if some of these additional good works were better promoted and allowed the members to garner reputations around them. This could lead to more segmentation of services and allow agents to focus on particular talents as opposed to only rewarding the ultimate sale. In turn, that could raise the professionalism of the MLS members as a whole. Okay, maybe that’s going a little far, but, again, there’s a seed here, I think, and it needs growing.

7 Responses to “Promoting Good Works in the MLS”

  1. Athol Kay says:

    A thoughtful post Michael. I would like to see us heading towards this sort of system. The underpinning of it is that it would have to be open to the public for any meaningful ratings etc.

    As it stands the MLS of today tries at least to be a neutral party, which would be lost somewhat if realtor get rated on it. Why pay $xxx a year to a service that has you flagged as sucking for example.

    For my part with the bad photos, well it’s a damn sight easier to nail down a bad photo as a bad photo, than nail down a good photo as a good photo. you start glossing up your photos too much and people think it’s a bait and switch once they get to the house for a showing.

    I’m just trying to raise the flag that people actually look at the photos. 🙂

  2. Aye, there’s the rub, needing to establish rules that don’t make the group its own worst enemy. Is there a rating system that can reward the good without castigating the bad?

  3. Matt Cohen says:

    I’ve been thinking about agent rating for a long time and I’m also not sure that the MLS is the best place for it for the reasons mentioned by others.

    While there are several agent rating sites out there I think it would make more sense for a central organization (NAR, the MLSs, ??) to lead rather than follow this trend, creating a consumer accessible system that copies one of the most robust systems for rating on the Internet – eBay. Such a rating system is based on the number of transactions performed as well as consumer – and in the case of the Realtor, possibly a separate rating by other real estate professionals. Most importantly – and the reason I suggest centralization of this rating system – there has to be a way of dealing with disputed ratings and comments, holding the disputed rating off the system until the dispute is settled. Think a Better Business Bureau approach here.

    One of the interesting offshoots here could be a cross-MLS system referral system where Realtors could help their clients find an out of area Realtor with the appropriate level of experience and capability helping buy or sell the types of properties the client is interested in via statistical MLS analysis bolstered by rating/reputation.

  4. We actually allow inter-Realtor feedback on our system for listings, and I’d often considered munging those numbers into some sort of listing quality score. Additionally, I’ve considered scoring consumers’ listing ratings (which they share with their Realtor) as a publishable number.

    Unfortunately, every time I consider social scoring of any kind, I envision “revenge” scenarios, resistance to score low among peers, listing assassination, inflating a team member, and so on.

    Given that they are, of course, a collection of competitors, it’s very difficult to create a system that absolutely prevents the tanking of another member.

    If you do come up with it, though, let me know!

  5. Matt Cohen says:

    There are lots of ways such a system can go wrong – I think we just need to look at systems (eBay, Amazon, Better Business Bureau and others) where they have figured out how to deal with it – and perhaps have a more robust system given the seriousness of what is being dealt with.

  6. Actually, I think I diverted the conversation by mentioning ratings of photos in the post. I agree with all the complexities both Matts have mentioned regarding rating systems.

    In the post, I was thinking more of an enhanced profile than a rating system. Currently, in most MLS systems, listings are the only thing that matter. Yet, I think there are possibilities for members to promote their other works, too. Current content in the MLS are CMAs, presentations, custom reports, photos, and soon to be videos and other media. An analogy would be blogs as a great example of content being promoted without an explicit rating system — people either read or they don’t. The same could done within the MLS with a wide variety of content that is not “rated” per se.

    Importantly, there could be benefit to this without exposing it to the public, because members promoting themselves to other members is a primary function of the MLS system. This is why I mentioned the hot sheet in the post, which is solely a tool to promote listings to one another. The hot sheet at times seems like an old tool for an earlier day, but I think it could get a real kick in the rear with some new content, especially if it focuses attention on new media like video, high-res photos, etc. I also agree that promotion to the public is important, and extending the reputation of the agent to the public is next natural step of building it within the MLS.

  7. Kevin Boer has a post today mashing up some stats with mapping. This is a great example of additional content that could be promoted within and outside the MLS. There are many agents who love to delve into the stats part of the MLS system. The MLS system could (or should) allow that analysis to be promoted, which would give the publishing agent an opportunity to show their expertise in that area.