Brokers in California typically work in areas where there are multiple MLSs. That’s just the issue: Multiple MLSs mean multiple costs, extra training and time — just to access their own data.
Imagine an MLS that consolidates all data under one roof, so that brokers have a single point of access for listing data and other services. Instead of paying the same fees to several MLSs, they would pay a single fee and work with one entity.
That’s why a consolidated, single MLS just makes sense for brokers in California. It reduces time, expense and frustration. It’s also the future of the industry — because a consolidated MLS (or at the very least, data sharing throughout California) aligns with today’s consumer.
Consumers expect world-class access to real estate information, and go wherever they please to get it. Third party portals like Zillow, Trulia, Homes.com and Realtor.com garner vast amounts of traffic.
Third party portals are a veritable one-stop shop, with no artificial barriers. Consumers can search for any listing — anywhere in California — without asking for permission, without joining several sites or without paying separate fees for membership.
Yet that’s exactly what brokers need to do to get access to their own data through the MLS. Every day, brokers pay dearly just to see and do business with their own data … that they’re legally entitled to.
If you’re a broker, you can change this situation by speaking up — and getting involved. Your voice counts.
If you’re a broker that works in multiple MLS jurisdictions, you’ll also pay to aggregate your own data from multiple RETS/IDX feeds, and train your agents to use different MLS platforms which can be confusing and time-consuming.
It’s unnecessarily complex. But the real shame is when brokers have less access via their MLS to their own data than consumers do on third party portals because of artificial and political barriers based on anti-competitive fears and history.
Such barriers make every broker less competitive. The value of any broker is enhanced by proprietary knowledge gleaned from their rightful access to the treasure trove of information that lives in the MLS.
When you can’t get at the data in the MLS, or use it to build your business, it’s not just wrong and expensive. It’s a threat to your survival.
By one estimate from the California Association of Realtors, the duplication of effort between MLSs and arcane data display and access rules cost some $400 million a year.
Yet the problem is bigger than expensive access to data that brokers pay for through subscription fees.
Multiple MLSs are a duplication of effort and resources, which necessitate a duplicate effort of time and money on the part of the brokerage.
It can take months for a brokerage to get the rights to show their own data from several MLSs on their own websites.
Since MLSs have different sets of display rules and often use different and proprietary field sets, brokers that work in a large geographic area must aggregate and consolidate their own data to power their websites and marketing.
And since MLSs can change the rules or data structure at any time without talking to brokers or other MLSs, it’s an expensive headache for everyone to comply with the rules and show accurate data.
What’s more, there is no single set of rules to display real estate data in California, or even between neighboring MLSs.
If you operate in multiple service areas, it’s up to you to figure out how to comply with each MLS rulebook. That adds a completely unnecessary level of complexity if you want to provide a consistent and compelling user experience for your site visitors.
It’s no wonder consumers are attracted to third party portals that seamlessly concatenate and present listing data from everywhere, regardless of MLS rules.
Since no two MLSs are exactly alike, it’s also fair to say that there is a heavy training investment for brokers to bring agents up to speed so that they can effectively use different systems.
Even though there are only a handful of commercially viable MLS platforms, they’re remarkably different. In all likelihood, neighboring MLSs will use different systems that have been selected after long reviews by their shareholder associations.
That means your agents have to learn different platforms and user interfaces to perform simple tasks, like pulling comps or creating profiles for their clients. It’s a waste of time and resources.
Finally, even when MLSs do share data, so that your agents have a single point of entry, not all data share agreements are created equal. Some MLSs purposely suppress key information from the shared data feed, so that agents who are not full MLS members can’t see the complete record of the listing.
What can you do as a broker to fix this situation?
Start by making some noise in your local association and at your MLS. It’s not going to be easy to unwind years of policies, politics and procedures, but these are the practices that are keeping real estate in the Stone Age.
Remember that it’s not about the technology — every listing in the state can easily be shared between MLSs using techniques already employed by CRMLS to share data with more than 50 associations in California, so that you and your agents have a single, comprehensive point of access.
When you raise your voice and illuminate the fact that your MLS ought to share your data and reduce your costs, it counts. Join the community of brokers who are ready to change the industry. It’s about your survival.