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2007-01-30 10:16:00

The Future of the Multiple Listing Service

"REALTORS need to know not only technology, but what the future will demand from them in the way of service ... as multiple listing services (MLSs) disintegrate and consumers market their homes themselves, turning to REALTORS for negotiating, contract writing, and a stress-reduced closing. The value proposition a REALTOR makes needs to be examined, recreated, and articulated."

I made that statement recently to a local Association Executive and a local director asked, "I would be very interested to understand Saul's position on the disintegration of the MLS's.  Is this based on the attack by the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) and the discount brokers? "

In my view, the Discount Broker aspect of the DOJ claim against the National Assn. of REALTORS and organized real estate is a fiction on the part of the DOJ. It is an imaginary evil conjured up by the DOJ for their purposes, their purposes being both overt and covert action to "bring down" organized real estate as we know it.

Personally, I believe the attack by the DOJ goes way beyond the MLS and their claims of anti competitive activity. I see it as a full-scale assault on organized real estate. It is the  beginning of what could lead to excessive damages (this is an anti trust action after all) and loss of control of the most valuable marketing asset of brokers ... their listings. You can call me an alarmist, but I'll put it on the table right now ... the DOJ may not be done after the MLS case, should DOJ prevail. This action could be followed by future attacks on the pillars of organized real estate, the three-way agreement and the broker dues formula. Never happen you say? I would not put anything past the political aspirations of the altruistic-claiming DOJ. There is much more here than meets the eye.

Based on DOJ actions and a reading of the documentation, and an understanding of the history of IDX, VOW, ILD and the industry itself, there should be no doubt that the DOJ is out to make a statement and inflict harm and penalty on the REALTOR organization, and, unfortunately to consumers as well. An organization whose duty it is to protect the consumer is acting in a way that is contrary to the best interest of the consumer ... the DOJ is either too stupid to understand what it is doing or the DOJ is "sly like a fox."

So, the answer to the question posed by the local association director is yes, DOJ and also Federal Trade Commission (FTC) actions are a part of the reason I believe what I do about the future of organized real estate and MLS.

Online Marketing and Advertising Tools Meet Consumer Needs

Of equal importance, however, is the emergence of online marketing and advertising sites such as Craigslist and Google base (which now has all of Houston's listings). Sellers of homes to future generations of homebuyers will not see any value in proprietary data bases when there are public data bases with built-in marketing tools and content beyond the minimal content found in many MLSs, as well as powerful search tools that allow consumers to find just about anything that is on the Internet. The need to aggregate data on computer systems in a local geographic area no longer exists.

The evolution of the Internet and technology and the evolution of consumers and their ability and inclination to do more online themselves are driving forces which will assist in the death of MLS as we know it. Access to listing information and the advertising of listings will remain a part of the buying and selling process, but the means to achieve this end are chagrining right before our eyes.

How "into" online and virtual worlds are consumers? Go to Second Life for a veiled glimpse of the future and look for the frequent articles about what some refer to as the "metaverse."

At InternetCrusade we have been saying since the creation of REALTOR.com, and the road since traveled with IDX, VOW and ILD, that REALTORS need to "Take back their future." We continue to believe this and the time for waiting has ended ... that time is now. It is time to get involved, to understand, to educate, and to take action.

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