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2008-08-13 16:25:47

MLS 5.0 -- A Vision for Tomorrow -- Part 2

Last week, RealTown released the MLS of the Future Vision Article authored by RealTown's Saul Klein. The article release has created an incredible buzz in the Real Estate industry. If you have not read the entire 28-page paper, you can download it by visiting In the meantime, we will be releasing a portion of the paper several times a week to allow you to read the specific sections and make online comments that will fuel additional views and opinions on the subject as we move forward.

What will be required to build on the current solid foundation of today’s MLS? This paper attempts to answer this question and create a basis for an industry discussion. Open and frank discussion is essential to creating the tools and organizations that will position REALTORS® to provide services to meet the expectations of future buyers and sellers. This Paper is a vision and not a roadmap. MLS in the broad, generic sense, needs to be redefined in the age of information proliferation and online participatory environments. MLS is more than an offer of compensation and cooperation, but how much more? That decision is up to you.



The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated -
Mark Twain
While currently at risk of becoming irrelevant in the next generation, MLS has within its power, the assets needed to continue to lead the real estate industry and become an even stronger, more essential player. It is important to note that no other entity or organization has what we in organized real estate have (and they all want it), and that is the authoritative source of all properties for sale and sold,  and an army of REALTORS® with the grassroots power and local knowledge to create a force that can compete with all comers.  Through the creation of MLS 5.0, MLS will continue to be the most important tool of the real estate industry. MLS is the tool that will give REALTORS® the opportunity to transcend the present and continue their success into the future...but they must be willing to leave some ideas and habits behind in the process.
If we decided to build the structures and organizations of today’s MLS from scratch, it would not look like what we have currently. Building an MLS is not the challenge; we have been doing it for years. Building an MLS and property database to serve the needs of REALTORS® and consumers as technology changes methods and habits of accessing information, building an MLS that reinforces a compelling argument for the use by consumers of a real estate professional in the transaction with an abundance of information about real estate found everywhere on the web in bits and pieces, and overcoming the political and parochial interests, that is the challenge.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that MLS is an offer of compensation. Until buyers are ready to sign commitments to pay brokers and agents for their services whether the buyer buys or doesn’t buy, this offer of compensation is an important piece of the MLS value proposition.


Evolution of MLS – What is MLS 5.0?


MLS has been transforming since its creation. For the purpose of this paper, the author, based on his own experience, can trace four distinct changes in the method of access and distribution of data. The change from the way it is done today to the way of the future requires acknowledging that major changes have successfully taken place in the past and, it should be added, over the objections of many well-intentioned individuals and organizations.
  • First Generation – Cards and then Listing sheets and ringed binders with weekly updates and errata, which were used to update the inventory manually, everyday or every other day.
  • Second Generation - The bound MLS book. This book was printed every two weeks. The San Diego Association MLS printed a book every week. One week the MLS would print a book with Single Family inventory, the next week it printed a book with Condos (common interest subdivisions) and two to four units. Each week there would be a “hot sheet” for the previous week’s book. Even in a good real estate market, no one dreamed of anything close to a system where the inventory was updated daily. The idea of Real Time access (like one can find on certain web sites like Craigslist), would have been discarded as eccentric.
  • Third Generation - Computer access to MLS data through "dumb terminals" over telephone lines…no monitors, no video display. In San Diego, two types of terminals were available. One was a large, stand up model; the other was portable, which was the size of a medium suitcase. Each had a coupler referred to as “Mickey Mouse Ears.” To access the computer database, one would dial a number, wait for an answer and for the “electronic handshake,” and then jam the telephone receiver into the “Mickey Mouse Ears.” Often, if it was a busy time of day, all of the access lines to the computer database were in use and a busy signal heard.
  • Fourth Generation – Web-based MLS (no more banks of phone lines and busy signals), access with a browser, only one type, Internet Explorer, and through a dial up at 14,400.
  • Fifth Generation - MLS 5.0 – Let your imagination run a little here…
Built in the spirit of Web 2.0, MLS 5.0 is open and collaborative, incorporating all the current and future tools of Web 2.0 (and Web 3.0),  from the LAMP stack, to the applications such as blogs, RSS, Widgets, APIs, Wikis, taxonomies, social networks, mash-ups and more. 


MLS 5.0 is: 

  • The authoritative and trusted source for all things related to real estate. This begins with the accurate inventory of currently available property for sale, and the best “Sold” data available anywhere. This information is like fly paper when it comes to attracting consumers to a web site.
  • A Property Wiki – all information about properties (by parcel or address) that can be ascertained and that can be augmented. It becomes a comprehensive historical record.
  • A Social Networking Site – REALTORS® meeting REALTORS®/REALTORS® meeting consumers/consumers meeting consumers.
  • Built understanding generational differences, serving the REALTOR® of today and the REALTOR® of the future, to better serve the consumer of today, and the consumer of the future.
  • Private and Public facing components
  • The REALTOR’S® home online
  • A closed business network for subscribers and participants  
  • Online neighborhood information, contributed by neighbors 
  • Open and closed communities and groups and forums
  • Appropriately Secure
  • The "Single Point of Entry" for data distribution (Syndication of Listing Data), as a choice for brokers and agents - Distribution Trumps Destination
  • Multi-lingual where and when appropriate 
  • A Public display of available inventory (public facing MLS)
  • A Public display of appropriate sold data
  • A place for REALTORS® to “prospect” for buyers and sellers 
  • Designed with Single Sign-On (SSO) to other web destinations in mind
  • Open yet secure, information available without artificial geographic boundaries; ensuring that the data is accessible to the widest audience possible while obeying regulatory restrictions.
  • The center for Transaction Management Applications
  • Open to and encouraging of innovation, allowing for various front end software to be created and used to access the data. Members of the MLS could choose a Rapattoni front end one day and select a FNIS front end the next.  A user might find that one front end is good for some things and one is good for others, and use the appropriate tool to get the job done. Openness should allow for more applications and solutions and lower prices for REALTORS®

The third part of this series will be posted on Friday.


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