The MLS industry is in a state of transition. With new initiatives coming down the pike that could affect MLSs nationwide, priorities for the Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS) this year come down to one central idea: mining the MLS brain trust.

  • The Council of Multiple Listing Services is focusing on sharing ideas between members this year through a new website and education and training.
  • When it comes to trends like MLS consolidation and big initiatives like Upstream, CMLS seeks to inform its members rather than prescribe specific actions. But CMLS will be submitting recommendations to NAR this year.
  • Some MLS execs will get the chance to present a big idea at CMLS's conference in the fall and CMLS will decide whether to adopt the idea and carry it through.

The MLS industry is in a state of transition. With new initiatives coming down the pike that could affect MLSs nationwide, priorities for the Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS) this year come down to one central idea: mining the MLS brain trust.

CMLS has about 200 MLS members representing some 1.1 million agents, brokers and other real estate professionals across the country. Chances are, if someone sold a home last year, it was sold through an MLS belonging to CMLS.

The organization rewrote its mission last fall from “To successfully act as the premier forum and resource for Multiple Listing Service associations” to:

“To bring the real estate industry together and explore issues, provide solutions, advance multiple listing services, and build a better marketplace.”

To that end, CMLS’s priorities this year revolve around sharing ideas between members.

CMLS on MLS consolidation and Upstream

CMLS will be providing recommendations to the National Association of Realtors this year in regards to MLS policy, CMLS CEO Denee Evans told Inman.

The proposals will be decided by a committee comprised of CMLS members and directors on the CMLS board who can tell the organization how a particular policy would play out on the ground.

But when it comes to trends like MLS consolidation or big initiatives like Upstream, CMLS sees its role as more informative than prescriptive.

Denee Evans

Denee Evans

“Specific to consolidation, I think CMLS’s role is to help educate and share what is happening in the market,” Evans said.

“From what I’ve observed, I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all. What we will be promoting this year is that you ask the question. Not to promote the status quo, but to ask the question. How does [MLS consolidation] move us forward, move our subscribers forward?”

CMLS has worked hard to be in communication with the leaders of big initiatives such as Upstream and NAR’s related Advanced Multilist Platform (AMP) project in order to help CMLS members understand what is happening, Evans said.

When it comes to initiatives, “we might say, ‘We encourage this, we think this is better for the industry.’ [But] I don’t see that we would come out and mandate participating in a particular initiative,” Evans said.

“[We want to share] the most correct information and most accurate information so [members] can make the decision that’s best for them, their subscribers, their board, their market.”

Members will be getting a monthly update from Upstream, she said.

The new initiatives have spurred a lot of conversations about how people can work together to create a better marketplace for buying and selling homes, Evans said.

“That’s really what it’s about. [Helping] people actually buy houses. It’s not [just] buying or selling a home. It’s where you live,” she said.

“MLSs don’t interact directly with the homeowners, but we support the people that do: the [broker] participants.”

New website

CMLS will launch a new site sometime around the end of March or early April. Members will be able to log into the site, access CMLS’s association management software, and have their own profiles.

Although the site’s design has not been finalized, Evans said she envisions a forum where members can set up their own discussion groups and share expertise and knowledge with their MLS colleagues.

“That’s one of the biggest things I hear about constantly is people love the networking that happens at the CMLS conference. [On the website], members would come together and share what was happening in their own organizations,” Evans said.

“Ultimately we would want to grow the membership, [and bring] more MLSs in because they see value to the information sharing and networking,” she added.

CMLS will also be offering one webinar a month on timely topics in the industry, such as NAR’s mandate to comply with the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) data standard for a Web API (application programming interface) by June 30.

Section councils

In order to encourage a sense of community, CMLS will revamp its “section councils” (topic-specific discussion groups run by member volunteers) and put them on the new website. The section councils were previously set up as LinkedIn groups.

By bringing them in-house, members will be able to interact with their peers more easily and share documents, Evans said.

The section councils are centered around CMLS’s “Best Practices” publication, which covers best practices for MLSs in regards to leadership and governance; marketing and communications; customer service and support; technical and information technology (IT); human resources; legal issues; and financial management.

An eighth section council will focus on the “green” MLS, which is an MLS that includes data fields for home features that promote energy efficiency. CMLS is part of the charter class of organizations participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Better Buildings Home Energy Information Accelerator.”

The Human Resources section council will be in charge of keeping the “Best Practices” document relevant and updated so that by the end of the year CMLS will have a “Best Practices 2.0” document that incorporates member feedback, Evans said.

“The industry is the one building it, feeding it, and informing it,” she said.

Incubating ideas through training

CMLS offers certification training specifically for MLS executives and this year will be launching CMLX 3 training for C-level executives. The initial class has 20 people, including Evans herself. Participants are required to assess their organization and see how it measures up to CMLS’s Best Practices checklist.

Here are just a few of the items included:

  • Effective decision making process
  • Compensation levels monitored and reviewed
  • Accurate and timely financial statements
  • Process focuses on the value for the customer
  • Do you reward employees based on customer satisfaction?
  • Policies and legal agreement govern data use and re-use

Participants will also be required to complete a group project on something they believe will move the industry forward or on tackling a particular challenge in their area. The prompt is intentionally general in order to avoid stifling creativity, according to Evans.

The class groups will compete for a prize: the opportunity to present their project at this fall’s CMLS conference in Las Vegas.

“The [CMLS] board of directors will consider whether to adopt [their idea] as a strategic initiative for next year,” Evans said.

“We have seasoned leaders in there. People who are very passionate about participating in the MLS industry to make it more efficient. We would like to see how CMLS can move some of those initiatives forward that they come up with.”

New staff

And CMLS is growing. So much so that CMLS has decided to take on more full-time staffers. The organization hired its first employee, Evans, just over a year ago.

As soon as Evans came on she realized that CMLS would need more internal support to fulfill its goals, she said. The trade group was previously operated by a part-time management firm, but that relationship has now ended and Evans is looking to hire another two-to-three full-time staff.

The most important role she’s looking to fill is for a director of operations to implement the organization’s strategic plan on a day-to-day basis.

“We want someone who eats, drinks, breathes, sleeps,  and lives CMLS and the MLS industry,” Evans said.

She’s already hired an executive assistant and will soon hire an administrative assistant to help plan the group’s annual conference.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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