OpinionBrokerage

Opinion: What do Upstream, broker portals and the hacker kid in the basement have in common?

They are the ones to watch because there is more to come

In a series of stunning moves starting with the 2014 “Core Standards” strategy, the National Association of Realtors broke the mold on 100 years of cozy relations with Realtor associations and multiple listing services and moved organized real estate directly onto a path that will promote everyone’s best business interests.

Historically, the words “location, location, location” have guided the real estate industry. But today, a strong argument can be made to suggest that “portal, portal, portal” has replaced location as a symbol of mysterious change and almost certain disruption.

Forecasters and trend watchers such as Stefan Swanepoel, Jeremy Conaway and Steve Murray have, for several years, warned us we were witnessing the final unraveling of our increasingly dysfunctional status quo.

Our collective tone-deafness to broker concerns, including their desire to own profitable businesses and control their listings, plus the endless wave of new third-party portal competitors and the ever-present innovative teen in his parents’ basement all have contributed to this new reality.

Over and above these factors are our increasing connection with Wall Street and the life of American big business with its constant pressures, change and high competition. This is our new world.

One of the most impressive shots across the bow in this transition came from NAR in May of this year.

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Following the stellar leadership of CEO Dale Stinton, the NAR board approved $12 million in funding over the next three years to undertake two exciting initiatives, Project Upstream and Advanced Multi-list Platform (AMP).

Project Upstream is a direct and positive response to the broker community. It creates:

  • A private database of real estate-related information designed to give real estate practitioners control over their data.
  • A data entry and collection platform between real estate firms and recipients of their data that will change the flow of data and make Upstream the starting point.
  • Upstream takes away the MLSs’ need to syndicate and brokers’ ability to protest.
  • Upstream means MLSs will continue to provide the cooperation and compensation rules while brokers are free to experiment with their consumer-direct advertising.
  • Upstream will complement and leverage the Realtors Property Resource (RPR) project in the works called Advanced Multi-list Platform (AMP).

As we watch the emergence of these two critical projects over the next year, look for rules and roles to change. They must, and they will.

On other fronts, watch another project called the Broker Public Portal. This project is designed to provide brokers with their own portal and will allow them to compete with existing portals that have data to attract millions of consumers including buyers, sellers and browsers.

The existing portals are using them as currency with brokers and agents. The goal of the Broker Public Portal project is to build a national consumer-facing listing portal that will offer brokers and agents free leads. Broker control will be the central theme and the basis of its operation as well.

As real estate-related technology portals continue to grow, become even more accessible, attract even more consumers and, imagine this, become profitable, there will be no end to new entrants.

We joke about the 16-year-old in her or his parents’ basement, building the next best tech toy in real estate. But rather than laugh, we would do well to keep our eyes open.

Moreover, keep in mind that we have yet to see even one-tenth of Rupert Murdoch’s potential impact on our industry. Murdoch is the media mogul who owns Fox, The Wall Street Journal, other media properties, and now Move.com, the operator of realtor.com. There will be much more to see.

MLSListings is on top of these developments. Chairman Quincy Virgilio and his leadership team have been tracking these newest developments for the past several months.

In May, he directed a new research and development initiative that will ensure that MLSListings will be in a position to deliver the full benefits of the new reality to its subscribers. Here again, there will be much to see.

Jim Harrison shares his vision on the future of MLSs, the influence Wall Street is having on the industry, and other hot real estate topics in 2015:

James Harrison is president and CEO of MLSListings Inc., one of the largest multiple listing services in Northern California. You can follow him on Twitter @mlsjimharrison.

Email James Harrison.


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