MLS & AssociationsTechnology

Broker Public Portal takes steps closer to reality

Victor Lund: Cost estimates to build the site have come in lower than expected
  • Come January, the Broker Public Portal will show multiple listing services what it has in mind for the first national consumer-facing MLS website.
  • MLSs will each pay less than $10 per subscriber per month to offer BPP as a benefit to their members.
  • BPP has come up with ways to promote buyer's agents as well as listing agents.

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A national listing website controlled by brokers and multiple listing services may soon be within sight.

The company created to make that site a reality, Broker Public Portal LLC, has been hard at work coming up with the data license agreement it hopes to sign with MLSs participating in its site, as well as the site’s branding, technology and pricing.

By January, BPP will present all of these elements of the project to MLSs as a package so that they can decide whether they want to fund it, Victor Lund of WAV Group told Inman. WAV Group provides consulting services to BPP.

Victor Lund

Victor Lund

“We want to be able to go to an MLS and say … here’s how it benefits [listing] agents, buyer’s agents, how it’s going to benefit the MLS and here’s the cost to the MLS,” Lund said.

Although the final cost has yet to be determined, it will be less than $10 per user per month for an MLS to offer the site as a member benefit, he said.

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Lund anticipates that MLSs will dip into their reserves rather than raise dues to cover the cost, especially if they reallocate funds they are currently using for their own local public-facing MLS site to BPP. Still, he acknowledged that decision would be “market-dependent.”

So far, BPP has raised over $500,000 from 104 MLSs and brokers and is asking more to join its effort.

Benefits for buyer’s agents

One question that has come up repeatedly since the project was announced is whether BPP will benefit buyer’s agents.

The benefits to listing agents are clear: The site will be governed by display rules that do not allow other agents to appear on a listing’s property details page and require the site to provide free leads to listing agents and brokers.

Listing agent and broker contact information will be displayed “in plain sight” and include a redirect link provided by a listing broker.

But there will be benefits to buyer’s agents as well, according to Lund.

Every U.S. home will have a page on the site populated with public record and sold data, whether the home is for sale or not. The sold data will include the names of the buyer’s and listing agents involved and link to profile pages on the site where agents can detail their services, Lund said.

The BPP site will also display differently if consumers register and indicate they already have an agent, he said.

He declined to specify how the site would look different to consumers who already have buyer’s agents because the design has not been finalized.

Buyer’s agents will also have their own branded BPP apps for consumers, Lund said.

He noted that the listing notifications that buyer’s agents sign their clients up for in the MLS are “pretty ugly” and said that BPP could potentially offer a better experience.

“If you’re working with an agent, you want the agent to not only have listing information but to be able to use it as a communication vehicle,” Lund said.

Leads on the BPP also won’t necessarily be restricted to listing agents — unless that’s the broker’s choice.

“We send them wherever the broker wants them to go,” Lund said.

“It’s broker-controlled, and that’s the way MLS consumer sites are today. We’re not reinventing anything. We’re just following those practices.”

The majority of brokers will send leads to the listing agent, but some have business rules that route the lead elsewhere.

“Where this actually plays out is with teams. Often the team leader would be represented as the listing agent, but the lead-routing solution would allow the team to decide who gets the lead,” Lund said.

“What you display on the screen and where you send the lead is different.”

Technology and money

BPP has reviewed more than 14 different proposals from companies that want to supply the technology for the country’s first national consumer-facing MLS listing portal. BPP is in the process of narrowing its requirements and will ask companies to refine their proposals.

But the results so far have been encouraging, according to Lund.

“The pricing that we have from the vendors is far less than anybody imagined,” he said.

“In fact, it’s only incrementally more than the cost of building and maintaining any other national franchise website.”

BPP supporters originally estimated that the cost to build the site would be $15 million, and the proposals have been coming in at less than that, Lund said.

“They found that the numbers came in significantly lower than what was expected,” he said.

“The pricing that we have from the vendors is far less than anybody imagined.” – Victor Lund, WAV Group

He attributed this partly to data companies moving to the cloud and therefore freeing themselves from the expense of maintaining servers.

He also noted that the vendors that have submitted proposals already handle and store most of the data that would potentially be sent to the BPP site. Therefore, those database storage costs would already be paid, and it would be easy for those companies to deliver the data to yet another source, Lund said.

Nonetheless, BPP has not ruled out building the site itself rather than using a vendor.

Merle Whitehead

Merle Whitehead

“Our workgroup will now begin the effort to create a detailed specification for the product for both mobile and responsive Web development,” said BPP Chairman Merle Whitehead in an email update of the project. Whitehead is also president and CEO of Realty USA.

“The board is considering a Build vs. License scenario. On one hand, using an off-the-shelf product will accelerate speed to market. On the other hand, developing the site from scratch has many self-preserving benefits, too.”

Less is more

BPP’s aims are not those of every other third-party portal out there, according to supporters.

Because BPP’s goal is not to generate revenue and profit, it can focus on user experience, which is “actually quite liberating,” Lund said.

“I think for this site, less is going to be more. It’s not going to be polluted with all kinds of ads and offers, bells and whistles,” he said.

Whitehead said BPP wants “to deliver what consumer home search was supposed to be.”

“I think for this site, less is going to be more.” – Victor Lund, WAV Group

“For 20 years, how people find homes online has been imagined and defined by those who sell ads, not homes. This is our turn to speak, to imagine and to deliver a better experience,” he said.

What that looks like will be presented to MLSs at the beginning of next year. BPP will make a push for MLSs to sign up to participate before the National Association of Realtors’ midyear conference in May.

Through research and focus groups, the company in charge of BPP’s branding, 1000watt, has whittled down possible names to four options currently being considered by the BPP board.

The final review for the data licensing agreement will be by the Council of MLS Legal Workgroup next month at CMLS’ annual meeting.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.