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CEO’s Message: Launching the MLS of the Future Starts with Envisioning a New Legacy

Jim Harrison: MLSListings Inc CEO and President

Jim Harrison
President and CEO, MLSListings

Legacies are primary building blocks for the cultures through which we exercise our lives. We think of legacy as that which we leave behind upon our departure. Legacies in our industry frequently survive for decades with neither reviews, challenges nor changes. Legacies form the foundation of many of our most sacred rules, regulations, and traditions.

A fact of life in today’s conflicted economy is that sooner or later all organizations and entities enter into zones of digital disruption.  The MLS sector is currently having such an experience. In order to succeed the contemporary MLS must provide brokers, agents, and consumers with an MLS experience that is relevant, dependable, and completely compatible with their emerging technical, data, and informational needs. This, in turn, means that those legacy-based features and functionalities that do not meet the test must be either updated and enhanced or terminated. In other words, it is time for MLSListings’ legacies to get a do-over. It’s a new day, a new time, a new brokerage, a new agent, and a new consumer.  MLSListings has been preparing for this moment over the past three years. We are prepared.

2016 was an active and somewhat controversial for the MLS sector. The 719 MLSs currently operating across the country were rocked by criticism from both inside and outside of the industry and the marketplace. The complaints ranged from overlapping jurisdictional matters, dated technologies, and irrelevant programs and products, to inadequate services. All punctuated by the backdrop of the broker national database initiative, (AKA Upstream), plans for broker public portal project, and the potential impact of RPR’s new Advanced Multilist Platform (AMP).

These projects and trends speak to the current high level of broker concern with respect to conventional MLS products and services. These services are being served up in 719 different ways, along with varying interpretations of NAR MLS policy.  Complicating the situation is NAR’s and the large brokerage community’s drive to both reform and build a more effective MLS-like experience through mergers and consolidation. Interestingly enough not only were few such transactions actually accomplished, in the few cases that were completed the result was anything but a new entity and/or legacy.

Over the past two years, the MLSListings community has spent countless hours in meetings and discussion attempting to discover the perfect MLS experience.  Interestingly enough the ultimate enlightenment occurred during an informal gathering following a governance meeting. It was then when we realized that the solution was more than to change our structure and policy.  The solution would be found when we changed the underlying assumptions, legacies, and culture under which we had been operating. It was time for a different approach to the MLSListings experience.  The opportunity lies in joining the “app” movement and creating an MLSListings experience that would allow every brokerage and/or subscriber to customize their own “MLS” experience.

During this process, we also came to understand that a critical juncture of the MLS service is the technology platform that sits at the foundation of every brokerage, large or small.  We can assist our brokerage community to design, develop, and implement an “app” based system along with the precise data formula that will best serve that brokerage’s unique approach to its business.

One of the neatest aspects of this approach is that technology is what we do. It is the substance of our skill set and the focus of our efforts.  This is our new mindset and commitment.

The birthplace of the current MLS was the local REALTOR® association. For much of the past 50 years, the REALTOR association has been the caretaker of the MLS. Even today, out of 719 operating MLSs all but a dozen or so continue to be operated by a local association. Unfortunately, the contemporary consumer’s demands for a single source data solution coupled with the existing multi-MLS environment has placed the brokerage and agent communities into an untenable disadvantage especially in the face of powerful emerging third party data operations.

Over the past three years, the MLSListings leadership has done those things that have to be done to resolve the above situation through the only obvious route. First and foremost MLSListings has worked hard to become a technology provider. The company has expanded its technology to allow for a broader more customized and personalized user experience.  Secondly, we have created new data sharing collaborations that are now providing a much richer data set for our subscribers. We have built strong relationships with the brokerage community.  Thirdly, we have developed a new “app” based approach to MLS services. Today’s MLSListings is nearing the completion of its journey to become a technology company ready, willing, and able to support the emerging brokerage, agent, and consumer.

We understand only too well that there are competitors outside of our space that are delivering data to brokerages, agents, and consumers. We all know that there is no absolute protection from disruption; there is only the commitment to relevance. We have made that commitment and it will be our new legacy.

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