Should there be a National Association of MLSs?

Jun 3, 2011  |  Michael Wurzer

I’m at the MLS Cloud conference in Houston, where Bob Hale did not propose creation of a National Association of MLSs but I think the idea is pretty interesting.

The topic has been raised because the NAR has been creating some pretty crazy policies related to MLS lately, leaving many to wonder if MLSs themselves should be more in charge of their own destiny. I’m not sure I understand all the ways NAR helps MLSs today, but the main way the NAR incents MLSs to comply with their rules is errors and omissions insurance coverage. Could MLSs create a separate association (e.g., the Council of MLSs) to collectively purchase their own insurance? Would such an organization be useful? What other benefits does the NAR provide MLSs?

24 Responses to “Should there be a National Association of MLSs?”

  1. I think having a separate national association for just MLS is a great idea as NAR is really geared towards the associations/boards. I am in the process of getting my RCE and so much of what I am studying is not necessarily what pertains to the MLS. I would love to see a certification for MLS AE’s.

  2. Actually, there’s been a significant attrition of MLSs from the NAR fold toward broker-owned. Many already carry their own errors and omissions insurance, even when they fall under NARs, as an additional backup should they not want to comply with every NAR mandate. Also, I think the strengthening of conferences such as CMLS and of Hale’s product are indications that MLSs are wishing to have a bigger hand in self-direction of both management and policy in order to better serve their customers. The handwriting is pretty clear, it seems to me.

  3. Sounds good to me… Does this mean I can be a MLS Broker and elect to be a REALTOR® or not… With a separate code of ethics, I do not have to be a R®. Interesting….

  4. John Mijac says:

    I tend to agree. We spend an amazing amount of time (and legal expense) trying to decide what one rule or another means so we don’t jeopardize our E & O. We do have bifurcated governance in my area, one Board for the Association and another for the MLS, so I already lean in this direction, but this makes perfect sense to me. The issues which a REALTOR association deals with are completely different in kind to the issues which confront a MLS

  5. ron stephan says:

    While I dont disagree that a National MLS is a certainty at some point in time it is clear to me that some markets still hold on to the old theories that “we dont want someone else selling our listings” Having said that, either direct additions to a national data base or feeds from a local (city,county,state) based collector of listings is inevitable.
    we are very close to that now. REALTOR.COM’s FIND product for private member only access, like their public site is a wonderful resource for MLS memebers to use. It is much more accurate than other national databases, and has much more detailed information. The mentality of NAR wanting to design and own its own products has (at least historically) never resulted in a success. NAR is spending millions of dollars at a time when they are asking its members and now its MLS’s to pay for in-house created products and payoffs of outrageous legal claims. (and yes left with few options we will be paying our share) The lack of transparency coming from NAR and its committees and workgroups became crystal clear during this last national meeting. While the heart of the Franchise issue can only be resolved broker to broker MLS’s and their vendors are left once again trying to figure out how to program and pay for a fix to a policy that could have been avoided with broker input and technical assistance. Its time for CMLS, like MLS Domains to take back MLS.

  6. Tina Fine says:

    Speaking as an Economist who wrote her Ph.D. on Competition, Innovation and Real Estate Brokerage, and given the revolutionary changes in data storage costs and user access to data on the net, if I were a broker/agent I would want one national buyer/seller MLS rather than spend all my time and money on ads on Zillow/ Trulia / syndication…..

  7. Michael Wurzer says:

    Just for clarity, the post wasn’t regarding a national MLS but rather a national association of MLSs, which could help create national standards and policies for MLSs as well as provide E&O coverage and other good things MLSs need.

  8. Ron stephan says:

    I understand we are not talking about a national mls but the concept in the early years of r.com was to have a public and private side fed by data from localized collection points. We could then also eliminate 800 sets of rules bylaws policies and procedures and focus on accurate and timely information from one reliable national source pointing back to local sites with local market statistics metrics and data focused on the consumer.

  9. Has it occurred to anyone else that a national association of MLS could literally be called Nameless? (NAMLS)

  10. Why is the answer to issues always to have more regulations? We already have NAR which provides many great services and we have our Code of Ethics. We pay for all of this with increases coming next year.
    Do we really need another organization with a new Code of Ethics and another set of rules and regulations to follow? And additional costs to Realtors. Why not get your voices heard at NAR and fix whatever it is you don’t like. Get involved!

  11. John Mijac says:

    Hi Connie,

    While I appreciate the sentiment, I would guess many of the people commenting here are involved, one way or another (I certainly am, as much as personal life and my business will allow). The question here really is one of expertise and area of concern. I would say this is more about replacing one area NAR is involved in (whewre perhaps it should not be) with a more appropriate body. I am all for NAR and I am proud to be a REALTOR, but a MLS may serve many more folk than just REALTORS.

  12. Bill says:

    “Speaking as an Economist who wrote her Ph.D. on Competition, Innovation and Real Estate Brokerage, and given the revolutionary changes in data storage costs and user access to data on the net, if I were a broker/agent I would want one national buyer/seller MLS rather than spend all my time and money on ads on Zillow/ Trulia / syndication…..”

    Perfect example of book learning theory vs. reality of practice. What should make sense often doesn’t in real estate. Your Ph.D. hasn’t helped your cause one iota wouldn’t you say??

  13. Tina Fine says:

    The opera ain’t over til the fat lady sings. Just launched and started spreading the work about homingCloud so still too early to tell. Even if homingCloud isn’t the matching social platform that ultimately succeeds, I believe a Google or a Trulia or a large MLS will create their own “homingCloud” and I offer them HomingMatch “an open buyer and seller matching platform” — one site where owners and seekers meet and match up. I’m sticking to the value of my Ph.D. in this instance.

  14. At this time I’m opposed. I work in a small rural area and my concerns are that one national MLS would become cost prohibitive. Also, we now have a very active and responsive board controling the interests of our local members. I’m not convinced that losing our MLS in favor of a national network and database would be in our best interest overall. Bigger isn’t always better.
    I would hae to ahve more details about how this would play out on the local level before I could be fully onboard.

  15. Robin Miller says:

    So far is sounds interesting to me and would love to know more. I would ask that the scope would include International Flex users. There are hundreds of us using Flex here in Mexico and I speak for myself, that I would want to be included. There are also many of us that are Realtors/NAR as well. Again, speaking for myself, I want to be included, I don’t want be the “outcast”. It is an opportunity to bring agents closer together Internationally, networking and referral opportunities too!
    That’s my 2 pesos

  16. Tina Fine says:

    I think the real point everyone is missing is that People, buyers and sellers on their own can upload all the data that an MLS has, on their own, with pics and video, and if the MLS system doesn’t do it, create one, someone will do it and the MLS will no longer be needed. Personally, I bet on people realizing the benefits of homingCloud, and it is live and national right now. But Google and Facebook have the power to do it tomorrow. I don’t like giving away the store, but it’s gonna happen. I am happy to talk to any MLS about giving them a HomingMatch platform to try out for a while.

  17. Tina, the MLS wasn’t designed for public consumption, it was designed for brokers to offer compensation and cooperation. The real question is, do brokers (and by extension, their agents) still need a cooperative business tool? And if they do, what should it look like?

  18. Tina Fine says:

    Yes, Judith, totally understand that the MLS was not meant for public consumption. But a “public MLS” is totally feasible and viable now. If dating sites can match people via posts that people post on their own, no reason why people can’t post on homingCloud — buyer and seller profiles — and get matched up. While the MLS served a very valuable role and created efficiencies pre computers/ pre internet, the way information is shared is now different. As an outsider to the industry and as an economist studying innovation and competition, I believe the information marketplace (the MLS and syndication etc.) is ripe fro disruption. I believe the only way the local MLS’s will survive is if they merge and take the wind out of the sails of Zillow/ Trulia or any other national site.

  19. i think we’re probably preaching from the same verse: I just object to it being called an “MLS”. It’s a public listing site. ANd yes, it will be national in scope, match buyers and sellers, and provide all kinds of fancy stuff that the consuming public expects (and gets) from other sites. It’ll be a function of Google, Facebook, or some other large entity that isn’t burdened by the infrastructure of committees and manging boards and such, the way MLS’s currently operate. Decisions will be made by experts, and will be made quickly and within a profitable business model. I think all that will happen, and it won’t happen under the scenario of a merger of a bunch of bad business models and inefficient infrastructures. And we shouldn’t call it an ‘MLS”.

  20. Bill says:

    Tina,

    With all due respect, you need a reality check on your business model. Not saying disruption isn’t needed or going to occur, but MLS’s and brokers with the listings and buyers could care less about your service. Tough love.

    The problem is adoption. That’s what others have run into and as long as agents & brokers control the data and process it’s going to be their game.

    Things are going to get interesting real soon as equity dries up and rates rise. Consumers will be looking for other options. MLS’s will survive with or without a new council or organization only if they provide value where it’s needed.

  21. Tina Fine says:

    Take a look at Google+ — ok, my site is the basic simplest framework for a real estate information matching site for owners and seekers to match directly. But what if Google creates a home profile for sellers, and a home “dream” profile right on your google profile page. What if the drop both of those down on their awesome google maps, and then what if you create a circle in Google+ just for people you are discussing your homing needs with. MLS’s need to open up to both buyers and sellers, if they don’t they will become irrelevant in the information market. Just saying….. Google can do it. I may not have adoption, but if Google just creating a homingCloud platform, they would have immediate adopters just by being so big and so recognized. I think however the MLSs are able to do it if they just looked a little ways down the road.

  22. John E. says:

    We already have a couple of national MLS’s. They’re called Realtor.com and Zillow.com. We feed our local MLS’s and they feed those national MLS’s. Zillow began by getting info from the tax data, now they rely a good deal on IDX feeds.

    When our customers want to see a listing, they go to independent sources such as Zillow and Realtor.com. If I want a listing halfway across the country, those are the sources I use. As a Realtor I am encouraged by Zillow to update my profile, load my listings, and make sure they are accurate and this is no different from what my local MLS is asking.

    We have a national MLS. What about it would you change?

  23. John Mijac says:

    Hi John,
    Neither of these are MLS’s as neither includes any offers of cooperation and compensation – a core of the mls system. Also, I am glad that you keep your listings updated, but since the primary function of Zillow is to sell ads, they don’t worry too much about the timeliness and accuracy of information, both of which are core principals of how our local MLS is handled. I cannot count how many clients have come to me with the “perfect house” found on Zillow that has already been sold…in one case three years earlier! As far as REALTOR.com goes, it is also an ad vehicle, but at least the info is timely.

  24. Richard Croak says:

    Yes, I’m for that. I am princiably a RE residential appraiser in PA. I have very little interest in belonging to NAR, but at present I have to to access MLS for data on sales. It is great, give us a break. Thanks, DickC