The MLS can’t replace the broker, but our MLS is now providing some of the software and services that agents could get only through large brokerages or on their own.

For example, our MLS now has real estate contracts built in and the fields are populated with data from the MLS. Instead of relying on a brokerage for contract forms or using the electronic forms that we used to have to buy yearly subscriptions to, forms are now a part of our MLS fee. Electronic forms are not all that expensive, but they do cost money.

The MLS can’t replace the broker, but our MLS is now providing some of the software and services that agents could get only through large brokerages or on their own.

For example, our MLS now has real estate contracts built in and the fields are populated with data from the MLS. Instead of relying on a brokerage for contract forms or using the electronic forms that we used to have to buy yearly subscriptions to, forms are now a part of our MLS fee. Electronic forms are not all that expensive, but they do cost money. The paper forms were very expensive, and we relied on our offices to provide the six-part carbon forms.

We can now make appointments to see listings through our MLS. It used to be that real estate offices had a front desk and an appointment line. Now thanks to our MLS provider, neither is needed for buyer showings, and I can make appointments very quickly without having to make and receive a ton of phone calls. That feature alone has saved me countless hours. The MLS also allows us to keep a record of the homes that we have shown buyers and sends reminders asking us to provide feedback for the listing agent.

When I started in the business I worked with a big brokerage. They had special software that they encouraged the agents to buy. The software enabled us to create some nice-looking reports and comparative market analyses (CMAs) for our clients. Today that same capability is built into our MLS platform, Tarasoft Matrix.

My experience with the proprietary software products made for Realtors and deployed through major brokerages has been dismal. Every company in my area states that they use the latest technology in their recruiting advertisements.

As an agent, I am not all that concerned about the technology used by the real estate company. I am more concerned that I am using the best technology solutions for my business. I am also interested in providing the best experience for my clients. …CONTINUED

The most innovation I have seen in our industry in the last year has been the changes that have taken place in our MLS system, NorthstarMLS, which is operated by the Regional Multiple Listing Service of Minnesota Inc. The MLS is one of the few areas where there is agent input and more of those agents are with very small companies or are going solo. The changes and enhancements have enhanced my business by giving me more time and saving me money.

When we are asked what we need to run our businesses, we don’t ask for a new real estate-related social network with a catchy name where we can interact with buyers and sellers from all over the country or a new template Web site that we can put photos of ourselves on. Instead, most of us are looking for ways to use technology to save time, cut costs and streamline simple tasks that are tedious and time consuming.

Maybe next year there will be some new products that will help agents get the job done. Products that we would create for ourselves if we knew how or that experts would create for us if they knew what we wanted as well as our MLS provider does.

The changes in the MLS are the only technological innovations for real estate that I have seen in the industry that have wowed me this year. Maybe next year someone will come up with that application I have been wanting that connects the MLS to my GPS instead of a new social network built around real estate or a new site for advertising listings. Better yet, how about a robot that shows foreclosures to buyers?

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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