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2010-07-08 22:56:51

How to Build a Statewide MLS

We all know that the Real Estate industry is continually changing and certainly the consolidation of separate MLSs into one, especially at the state level, is one change that is actively being discussed, and even implemented in many parts of the country.  We have found that this white paper, titled "How to Build a Statewide MLS (or, Order from Chaos)" by Cameron M. Paine, CEO of Connecticut Multiple Listing Service, Inc., is a welcome addition to these conversations.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be posting sections of this whitepaper.  The document can be found in its entirety here: http://ctmls.ctreal.com/PDFs-and-docs/Whitepaper/BuildingAStatewideMLS.aspx


Forward
 

The truth of our industry is that Multiple Listing Service (MLS) consolidation yields more comprehensive, accurate, timely, and efficiently produced listing data. Anything less than consolidation on a statewide, or larger, scale burdens brokers, and ultimately the public, with less comprehensive, inaccurate, stale, and more expensive listing data.
 
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, there are 883 Multiple Listing Services in America, for an average of almost 20 per state. Despite the fact that we all do the same thing, we are a fragmented, divided industry. We lack direction, minimum standards of practice, accountability to our membership and, though we have created a system of information the envy of the world’s real estate practitioners, it is comprised of separate, but unequal parts. Our brokers endure a marketplace rife with disparity, where the quality, quantity, and accuracy of their service to the public rely almost entirely on whether they are lucky enough to work in an area serviced by a progressive MLS.
 
We sit atop one of the most powerful, broad information networks of any industry, yet, with all that we have accomplished, our industry lives in fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, and most of all, fear of losing control of what we have. Rather than seeking to improve our industry through expanding broker’s access to comprehensive information, MLSs seek to hide it, to bury it even deeper so the ‘barbarians’ (read, anyone not us) knocking on the gates of our information might just go away.
 
Unfortunately, if there is one thing that history teaches us, it’s that barbarians don’t just go away and gates don’t do a great job of keeping them out. We need a better model. Rather than looking for enemies, let’s look for allies. Rather than erecting barriers to try and protect what we have, let us instead build our strength through cooperation and partnerships. Together, we can accomplish what alone we cannot. We are at a crossroads; our decisions now will shape the future of our industry.
 
We have one product, MLS data. Our ability to gather information on a large scale is valuable both to our membership and to other industries, yet our enormous size gives the illusion of a unity and power we do not have. Faced with powerful market pressures to provide listing data, our fragmented, non-standardized industry can only say “yes” or “no”. Our command of the marketplace lies not in being able to say “no” to businesses that want our information, but in the ability to negotiate from a position of strength. When it comes to MLS data, strength comes in direct proportion to size; when an MLS can negotiate for an entire state’s listing data, that’s power. If companies don’t negotiate, they’ll have a state-sized hole in their data. One MLS per state (or fewer in the cases of multi-state MLSs) means more accurate, comprehensive, timely, efficiently produced MLS data - with the ability to protect it. Power. Strength. Protection. Our future. All come from consolidation.
 
This white paper is an attempt to codify everything that I have learned from my colleagues and from my own experience during the creation of the Connecticut Multiple Listing Service, Inc. I hope that it will act both as a starting point for those who favor consolidation in the industry and as a guidepost for those who would choose to take up the challenge in their own market. I present the arguments surrounding consolidation, provide a step-by-step process for AEs and their leadership, and offer examples of what to expect based on my experience. Good luck!

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