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MLSs talk collaboration, threats at Gathering of Eagles

As the real estate industry prepares for the approaching legal battles, MLSs are on the front lines

Cooperation and compensation are at the core of multiple listing services (MLSs), but those two tenets are currently under fire from multiple anti-trust class action lawsuits and an on-again-off-again investigation by the Department of Justice.

Denee Evans, the CEO of the Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS), Gene Millman, the president and CEO of REcolorado, Brian Donnellan, the president and CEO of Bright MLS, and David Charron, the president of MRIS Investors, Inc, took to the RealTrends Gathering of Eagles stage Wednesday morning in Austin, Texas to discuss these threats and what MLSs and brokerages can do to maintain relevance.

“The MLSs have a history of cooperation and compensation, and that will still stay at the heart of them,” Evans said. “There are a lot of MLSs out there with leaders willing to go out there and with their boards figure out how best to meet the needs of the marketplace and power professionals, but that requires change, but no one likes change and I ask the audience here to be open to this change.”

Millman agreed with Evans, but he noted that MLSs and the real estate industry at large are not known for rapid change. As such, he believes MLSs need to focus on initiatives and innovations that address specific pain points.

“Sometimes you have to put yourself out on that limb and go ahead and be that leader that moves forward, but you have to make sure that the initiatives you are putting forward are coming back to a solid reason of why you are doing this,” Millman said. “The initiatives that I choose to focus on are doing something that addresses a pain point for our brokers.”

Donnellan also stressed that sometimes small innovations make the biggest difference and that MLSs should get back to the “nuts and bolts” of the business and focus on things that improves conditions for brokerages, agents and consumers.

In its core, an MLS is simply a forum for the exchange of data. But as agents and brokerages look to increase their value proposition, Millman said MLSs need to look at finding ways to better utilize that data to help agents create stronger comparative market analysis, listing presentations and lead generation opportunities, but the panelists agreed that innovations like this would happen more efficiently if there was more trust between MLSs.

“I have been in this world almost nine years now and to watch how much innovation is coming from the MLS industry, trying to solve pain points for agents and brokerages, we have seen a lot of agreements come through, but there are areas where it could improve,” Evans said.

Donnellan, on the other hand, does not feel there is that much trust among MLSs.

“I don’t think the MLSs necessarily trust each other,” Donnellan said. “If you look across the board, I think it is interesting that a lot of the MLS clubs and agreements that come about are not necessarily next to each other and I think that is reflective of the line of trust many of these MLSs have with their neighbors.”

Moving forward, the panelists feel that the MLSs do need to work together at least to a certain extent if they hope to weather what Donnellan described as the oncoming “battle.”

“I think articulating our value from all parts and pieces of the industry is so important,” Evans said. “What we do is being questioned more today than it ever has. We have to articulate that value to the consumer and make sure they understand everything about why the MLS matters to them and why it is important to have representation on both sides of the transaction.”

In order to do this, Millman said MLSs need to stop talking and start listing to what brokerages want, so they can better serve their subscribers and enable them to better serve their clients.

“We have to listen to what they want and really help them continue to serve clients to the best of their ability every day, and to be a partner in the transaction,” Millman said.