- Brokers need the advantages of working with an MLS, but they also need autonomy to build their brands and businesses.
- MLS platform roll-outs are often “one-size-fits-all” situations -- but it doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s no secret to anyone in the real estate industry that real estate brokers work in a highly competitive environment. To form a foundation for future growth, they invest a great deal of time, money and effort in achieving name brand recognition and a reputation for great results.
Like any other successful business, brokers want to be able to control and reinforce their brand, to differentiate their services from the competition and to access business and market intelligence that will allow them to make the best business decisions.
And while brokers want the advantages that come from working within a regional MLS, they also want autonomy and a way to maintain their competitive edge.
At the same time, brokers need to work within the MLS to share information about real estate listings with their customers, prospects and the general public. Being part of an MLS is key to a broker’s ability to work with other brokers and agents and to communicate the compensation they will pay based on an agent’s role in the sale of a property.
In an ideal world, real estate brokers would be able to do all of the above via a single technology that allows them to operate efficiently and economically.
They know that to take their businesses to the next level and effectively compete with other aggressive brokerages, they will need expanded capabilities in an economical, easy-to-use system. So how can they get there?
What brokers need
The problem is that, to date, MLS platforms haven’t offered the kind of brand- and reputation-enhancing capabilities — nor the business intelligence — brokers need to expand their influence and support their growth strategies.
This leads some brokers to turn to additional software solutions to gain some of the functionality they are looking for, which can add to their operating costs over time. Never mind the headaches and inevitable slowdowns involved in training everyone at the brokerage on yet another new software platform, only to add more time to performing everyday tasks and unnecessary complexity to their daily work.
Instead of bringing in new technology to gain the capabilities and autonomy they want, wouldn’t brokers be better served if they could access everything they need within their existing MLS solution?
This would allow them to fully leverage their MLS investment — and the business rules, standards and configuration already in place — while also letting them operate far more economically than they could by expanding their technology footprint.
Finding a custom fit
Often, MLS platform rollouts adopt what is an essentially “one-size-fits-all” approach for everyone in a given market. It doesn’t have to be that way.
There is no reason why an MLS must be exactly the same for everyone in its market.
Brokers should be able to differentiate themselves, whether through branding or their own custom business rules, to manage their business in the way that best suits their own goals — without being forced to take on additional technology expenditures.
For example, let’s consider branding.
The MLS platform could and should have the ability to allow a brokerage to add its own brand identity features — their logo, colors and so on — to the log-in screen for internal users, and continue that unique branding throughout other areas of the application, so that listing reports and other documents shared with customers would reinforce and expand brand awareness and messaging.
This would prevent brokers from doing double work — and incurring double costs — simply to produce branded materials.
Think about the communications features within leading MLS platforms.
If a regional MLS can use that functionality to inform everyone in the MLS that a training class is going to be held next Friday, or the local Realtor association is having a banquet on Saturday, couldn’t individual brokerages make use of the same functionality?
It’s not a far leap to enable the MLS platform to allow the brokerage to have its own internal messaging and communication tools from within the app.
News about office meetings, broker tours and even simple messaging between members of the brokerage could all be conducted from within the MLS platform.
Different brokers have different relationships with third-party providers — title companies, for example.
Instead of a broker leaving the MLS platform to launch an activity on a third-party application, that activity can just as easily be initiated from within the platform — indeed, from within the listing!
Establishing rules and gaining control
When a listing gets added to an MLS, it’s extremely important for a broker to be able to identify and track the source of that listing.
Did it come from an agent’s own lead, or was it handed down from the broker? Did the listing come from the brokerage’s website, or perhaps from Zillow?
By allowing brokers their own customized business rules within the MLS platform, the importance of sourcing listings can become operationalized. A broker could establish a business rule that requires a user to input the lead source and disallow the listing to be saved until that information has been added.
In fact, business rules can be established to ensure that listings are added with every piece of information a particular brokerage requires, based upon what’s most important to that specific broker.
This would be infinitely better than spending half the day chasing down agents to find missing information that would then need to be maintained on a data spreadsheet by someone at the front desk.
Additionally, expanded listing management features would also let brokers define and manage custom data fields that would be exclusive to their listings, allowing them to use the MLS-defined exclusivity period to manage their broker exclusives. It would also give brokers the ability to utilize “coming soon” or “pending” listings in an MLS-compliant manner.
When it comes to those listings, brokers understandably want as much control as possible over their creation, content — and, perhaps most importantly, their syndication. These are all options that could be delivered from the MLS platform.
By controlling their listings based on the Real Estate Transaction Standard (RETS) feeds/channels that are already in place via the MLS, brokers could eliminate the need for replication of data to third-party platforms to support syndication.
Not only would this add convenience to the process and save time, but it would give brokers some much desired control over the syndication of their listings.
Time to rethink the MLS
Over the last several years, there has been a rising drumbeat in our industry that MLS organizations aren’t doing enough to meet the needs the brokerage community. In fact, Upstream, a multi-million-dollar technology initiative supported by the National Association of Realtors, has been launched to better address real estate broker needs.
But there’s a much simpler, more immediate and more cost-effective solution to address the needs of brokers — which admittedly deviates from the “one-size-fits-all,” top-down approach of most MLS platform implementations.
That solution is to make the MLS platforms work for the brokers, rather than just the other way around.
By expanding existing MLS technology to support the autonomy of individual brokers, we can give them the tools they need to build their brands, differentiate their businesses and to maintain their competitive edge.
The regional MLS will only continue to thrive when brokers succeed as well. Empowering brokers through the MLS platform is the very definition of a win-win situation.
Chip McAvoy is a real estate market leader with Black Knight Data & Analytics in Irvine, California.