Consolidation of multiple listing systems and expanded data-sharing agreements are the key issues facing MLSs as the industry’s dynamics continue to evolve at an increasing pace, according to the latest survey of technology use in MLSs conducted by the Center for Realtor Technology of the National Association of Realtors.

CRT’s fourth annual survey of technology use shows major new trends and emerging issues, including a decline in support for public Web sites, increased concern for information security and accelerating trends in technology use, including major increases in the use of mapping on MLS systems.

The survey of MLS technology shows support from both Realtors and MLS executives for bigger market territories for Realtors. “The rapid pace of change within the industry is likely to lead to further MLS consolidations in the near future,” said Thomas M. Stevens, 2006 NAR president and senior vice president of NRT Inc., from Vienna, Va.

There is strong interest in expanding market regions for Realtors, with 55 percent of Realtor respondents believing the ideal MLS size after consolidation would be a large region within a state or even statewide. A large percentage of MLS executives believe consolidation within a metropolitan statistical area is ideal.

While MLS respondents are in favor of MLS public Web sites and see them as being good for the industry, not as many Realtors share that view; 63 percent of respondents believe MLS public Web sites compete directly with agent and broker Web sites.

The survey reveals there are still significant differences between awareness of information security and implementation of actions to address these concerns. While concerns about information and data security are growing and a significant number of respondents have experienced security incidents, the practice of implementing security and privacy policies has not increased since 2005.

“While over 77 percent of respondents indicated that information security is important, only 46 percent of the MLSs indicated they have a security program in place,” said Mark Lesswing, NAR vice president and director of CRT. “MLS executives must understand that information security is more than a cost – it’s also a business facilitator. That is why NAR has programs like Secure, to educate and assist the industry to understand and improve its security posture.”

Past surveys uncovered a strong desire for data integration with MLS listing information. It now appears that the level of data integration is improving, addressing this important need; 78 percent of respondents report they now have the ability to attach documents to MLS listings, and 51 percent integrate tax data. Respondents also stated that many systems now have the ability to map and export data to third parties.

Mapping is now becoming almost commonplace in most MLS systems; 56 percent of respondents now have street maps included in their systems and nearly half the Realtors believe their clients value the maps provided to them. Other findings indicated the perception that the key to the long-term success of the industry lies in improvements to MLS service and delivery that will put members in the position of offering services superior to that offered by nonmembers.

Some respondents expressed concern that MLSs will evolve into utilities with data virtually open to any person or business. Some believe granting unfettered access to MLS listings could weaken the current MLS model and even the real estate industry as it exists today.

The survey reveals that the real estate transaction system is clearly being integrated within many MLSs and third-party products, and its availability for use as a method to provide listing information increased significantly since 2005.

The number of respondents using transaction management systems increased from 16 percent last year to 22 percent his year. Nearly half stated transaction management helped them strengthen their customer relationship. Many stated that programs are needed to build awareness of the definition and value of automated transaction management systems.

CRT conducted the survey using e-mail to more than 20,000 members and MLS officials during February 2006. The survey yielded 950 responses.

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