Maybe it’s the summer heat, but after reading a recent article entitled “Let’s get rid of the MLS,” I just felt like hitting my head against the wall to relieve the frustration the article generated.
Written by Kenneth Jenny, the article has three takeaways. They are as follows:
- Face it. The MLS industry is a monopoly operating in a brokerage industry that has no alternative.
- Brokers don’t have the best opinion of NAR, the state association, the local boards or the local MLS.
- The brokerage industry has long awaited a viable alternative to the MLS.
I feel that these three takeaways seem wildly divergent from reality, and because this is my article, I get to tell you why I feel that way.
The MLS is a monopoly — or is it?
Mr. Jenny’s article seems to have a limited understanding of what the MLS is. It is a way to facilitate the efficient operation of individual real estate markets through an offer of cooperation and compensation — it is not a monopoly.
There are hundreds of MLSs, owned by associations, individuals, groups of brokers, and/or corporate shareholders. They are all individual organizations of varying sizes with their own agendas.
They are members of various trade associations specifically for MLSs, like Cove and CMLS (Council of Multiple Listing Services) and RESO (Real Estate Standards Organization), and they deal with a wide variety of technology vendors.
In addition, they have varying levels of service offerings for members, including core, basic and optional services. These MLSs have one thing in common — they all have members, and if they didn’t do their job well, the members would leave, or dissolve the organization or start a competing organization (all options that have been chosen by members over the years).
So to say that the brokerage industry has no options is to ignore the facts.
Opinions vs. facts
Point two? An opinion of Mr. Jenny with absolutely no support.
I’m a broker, and I have a really good opinion of NAR (the National Association of Realtors), my state association, my local boards and my MLS.
In fact, my company has more past Presidents of our local Associations than any firm in our marketplace. And there are a huge number of people just like us.
People who serve on committees act as directors, work on leadership teams, attend educational events and participate in the efforts of the associations to make the industry a better place. And that doesn’t even include the dedicated people who work as association executives and staff members.
Each year I travel well over 100,000 miles flying to Realtor events of all sorts and speaking with Realtors all over the U.S. and Canada, and I find that the people who know what the associations do are overwhelmingly supportive of them on all levels. People who don’t know what the associations do are more likely to be critical of them because if you don’t know someone or something, it is easier to be critical of it.
If I could have one wish, it would be that the average member meet the people who work at NAR in Chicago and Washington so they could see firsthand the level of dedication to the members and the industry that is the norm there.
All of that being said, there are, of course, some actions of each of those organizations that I disagreed with or disapproved of, but I live in a world where the majority rules, and the rest of us need to be supportive of the decision made by that group.
And finally, point three — I don’t know what brokers are waiting for an alternative because my firm is too busy using the existing system. The MLS system in our country works so well that the average agent never worries about where to find a property, or whether they will get paid if they make a sale. And that security is created by this unique system of competing while we cooperate with each other.
If something works and works well, why would anyone be looking for an alternative?
So let me give you four takeaways of my own;
- The offer of cooperation and compensation assured by the MLS is crucial to the operation of the real estate marketplace.
- Real estate agents and brokers take the MLS for granted the same way we all take air for granted. We don’t recognize how precious it is until we don’t have it.
- MLSs all across the country are engaged in efforts to improve their services and the member’s experience through their membership in organizations like COVE, CMLS and RESO.
- We are the associations and the MLSs, and through our participation in these organizations we can impact the industry in a far greater manner than we can in our individual businesses.
My MLS allows me to operate my business, grow that business and serve my clients in the most efficient manner possible — and it facilitates my business, as it has in the past and will in the future.
You will certainly need to pry it from my cold, dead hands if you want to replace it because I’m thoroughly convinced I need it — how about you?
Bill Lublin is the CEO at Century 21 Advantage Gold in Philadelphia.