• Brokers are no longer leaving others to run MLSs without their input. Mergers may stave off a comeuppance for MLSs.

NEW YORK — Some in the real estate industry believe the industry’s MLSs are due for a comeuppance. Still others see it coming and want do what they can to adapt before they’re knocked over by it.

Three such forward-thinkers spoke to Inman Publisher Brad Inman at Inman Connect’s CEO Connect today.

“Is the MLS industry under seige?” Inman asked.

“I think it’s our turn in the barrel,” whether that was caused by technology or consumer preferences, said MRIS President and CEO David Charron.

MLS consolidation has been stymied by “human and political” factors rather than technology, he said.

In the past, “the brokers abdicated their responsibility as it relates to MLS to others while they went off to run their business,” leaving the MLS to be run by “lots of other well-intentioned people.”

Now, that tide has turned, he noted.

Brokers didn’t pay attention then because they didn’t feel they needed to, said Joan Dockter, president of Philadelphia-area Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, Realtors.

“Many MLSs do a wonderful job and they have paid attention to what we need,” she said.

“Our big MLS, TREND, has done a wonderful job for many years.  They were pressured years ago to consolidate.”

That meant her brokerage didn’t have to pay as many MLS fees and didn’t have to pay as many employees to deal with multiple data feeds. But her firm still belongs to several multiple listing services and there are some agent-run or broker-owned MLSs that do not want to consolidate, she said.

“There are some that just like the power. Some are protecting their jobs. It varies,” Dockter said.

But when agents and brokers realize that it’s costing them money to protect these fiefdoms, “that’s where it gets under your skin.”

“With Zillow and with realtor.com, the consumers can see everything. There’s no boundaries, no lines in the sand. The consumer is not stopping at the county line anymore,” she said.

Perhaps smaller MLSs need to be told that MLSs fees are not necessarily required to run an association and associations can have other revenue streams such as education, Dockter pointed out.

“Is there any defense at all of a micro MLS?” Inman asked.

“I don’t think so,” Dockter said. But she noted that some small MLSs, especially ones in high-end coastal markets, don’t want competition from other agents coming into their market. They don’t realize that their customers are in TREND’s market, she said.

“We all think we’re unique,” Charron said — but that doesn’t mean doing nothing. “Just entertain the conversation. What is it we could do today to effect some responsible change?”

Charron himself has put his money where his mouth is. MRIS and TREND have signed a letter of intent to merge.

“Who gets to to keep the job, you or [TREND CEO] Tom [Phillips]?” Inman said.

“These good people will decide that,” Charron said, gesturing to the audience.

“If my customers go out of business, what good am I?” he added.

Lynette Keyowski, executive director of the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board in British Columbia, noted that agents don’t need MLS services to be local, but they do need them to good.

“Inconsistent delivery of service to the agent … leads to inconsistent delivery of service to the consumer,” she said.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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