MLS & Associations

Brokers will call the shots for first national MLS listing portal

New board will develop initiative's technology strategy

A group of notable multiple listing services (MLSs) and brokers have taken the next step in their mission to build the first national MLS consumer-facing listing portal: choosing the group’s decision-makers.

The initiative’s organizers elected a board of managers comprising mostly brokers at their first in-person meeting in Dallas last week. Dubbed the “Broker Public Portal,” the initiative’s backers include 37 MLSs and 39 real estate brokerages representing 826,000 agents, according to project facilitator WAV Group, a real estate consulting firm.

The portal will follow display rules that favor listing brokers and put more control of listing data in brokers’ hands without charging them for leads, proponents say.

“There is a tremendous amount of support and momentum throughout the MLS and brokerage communities to create a new choice for how and where to display their listings,” said board member Robert Moline of Home Services of America in a statement.

“And the formation of our board of managers is a significant step forward in our ability to deliver on that goal through the creation of a national broker public portal.”

The new board members will be included in the project’s corporate filings to become a Delaware limited liability company (LLC).

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The board’s first action will be to tackle company strategy, including its technology strategy, WAV Group’s Victor Lund told Inman.

Organizers have already submitted a request for information (RFI) to numerous vendors in order to gauge their capabilities and to begin a dialogue for constructing a request for proposal (RFP) with the board’s requirements, he said. The portal is currently slated to launch in 2016.

The board comprises 15 members, four of them MLS execs and the rest broker execs. Two of the MLSs, Chicago area-based Midwest Real Estate Data LLC and Connecticut MLS, are jointly owned by brokers and Realtor associations. The other two are owned by Realtor associations. Board members will serve one- to three-year terms.

Large Firms – 5
Robert Moline – HomeServices of America
Merle Whitehead – Realty USA
Hoby Hanna – Howard Hanna Real Estate
Chris Heller – Keller Williams
Joan Docktor – Fox and Roach

Multiple Listing Service – 4
John Mosey – NorthstarMLS
Cameron Paine – Connecticut MLS
Rebecca Jensen – Midwest Real Estate Data
Kirby Slunaker – REColorado

Midsized Firms – 3
Craig McCelland –Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers
Richard Haase – Latter and Blum
Drayton Saunders – Michael Saunders

Small Firms – 3
Mitch Ribeck – Tropical Realty
Paul Wells – Re/Max Barrington
Christina Ishabishi Bonner – Pacific Union International

Last month, the Broker Public Portal announced it had raised more than the $250,000 it needed in startup capital in just 10 weeks.

WAV Group has said that contributors will determine the final governance of the site and participate in guiding the budget and design, though they will not receive equity for their contributions.

Real estate consultant Rob Hahn of 7DS Associates has criticized the project’s governance structure, which he said appears to be patterned on that of large regional MLSs and Realtor associations and will therefore likely succumb to the same bureaucratic red tape that causes frustrations for the tech companies they work with.

“Slow-and-steady, consensus-based decision-making is fine for associations and rule-making. It’s a death sentence for commercial competition,” Hahn said in a blog post.

“Even large corporations move much, much faster than does the world of associations and MLSs.”

He advised the project to adopt a corporate governance model with a small board of directors that gets involved only with major corporate decisions and a powerful CEO who has both strategic and operational control and is held accountable to clear, measurable objectives.

Without those objectives, the broker portal “will quickly get mired in internal politicking and board jockeying in the name of ‘control’ while its nimble, focused commercial competitors will outmaneuver them time and again,” he said.

“That isn’t competition; it’s symbolic gestures of defiance at best.”

Lund declined to comment on Hahn’s criticisms other than to say, “The opinion of the organizers and their deliberate actions demonstrate their resolve.”

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that MRED and CTMLS are owned by brokers and Realtor associations, not just brokers.