Industry leaders said Wednesday that real estate, and multiple listing services in particular, have evolved during the pandemic — and will continue to do so in the future.

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Two years ago, Matt Consalvo spent his time on conference calls and flying around to meet real estate professionals in their offices. But today, all of that has changed.

I don’t know the last time I took a conference call,” Consalvo, CEO of the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service, said Wednesday.

Consalvo reflected on how life has shifted over the past year during a session of Inman Connect titled “the role of the MLS in our new normal.” The goal of the session was to explore how multiple listing services (MLSs) in particular have changed, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and Consalvo’s ultimate point was that they have — or should have — evolved permanently.

“Don’t rush back to 2019 as things change in 2021,” Consalvo said, adding that the real estate industry shouldn’t return to a “pre-pandemic mindset.”

The specific changes out there are legion. Consalvo noted that prior to the pandemic, he “didn’t even own a camera.” Now, however, he routinely meets with clients and industry members via Zoom video calls. Additionally, his MLS went to an “online learning module” before the pandemic, but the resource “blew up” when social isolation became the norm.

Many of these developments have most famously changed the consumer experience. As Consalvo pointed out Wednesday, homebuyers aren’t likely to fly out to a new city anymore just to see a single house.

But they have implications at the MLS level as well. For example, Consalvo pointed out that it’s vital for MLS leaders to understand the changes that are happening at every level of the industry.

“We’re as critical as ever,” he said of MLSs, “but we have to understand that the marketplace shifted.”

Clockwise from top left, Matt Consalvo, Rebecca Jensen and moderator Denee Evans at Inman Connect Now Wednesday. Credit: Inman

Rebecca Jensen, CEO of Chicago-based MLS Midwest Real Estate Data, also appeared during Wednesday’s Connect Now session, and agreed that the industry has evolved. And she said that means MLSs and their leaders — whose job descriptions involve meeting with brokers and brokerages — have to be mindful of the way networking has changed.

“Just leverage our connections more,” she said. “That might be the best path forward.”

Jensen also agreed that work travel will not, or should not, go back to what it was before.

“I don’t want personally to see us going back to the crazy travel schedules that we had before,” she said. “I love the balance of being able to Zoom in.”

Though the pandemic itself is still only winding down, rather than gone completely, the ultimate takeaway from Wednesday’s conversation was that the industry, and MLSs, will never be the same. And while change isn’t always easy, the panelists were optimistic about the future.

“I definitely see us,” Jensen said, “working better together.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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