ct. 19, 2011 - MLS Questions? Who has the answers?
Sometimes I feel like I'm standing in an empty room and all I hear is the echo of my own voice. This is one of those days.
Two MLS-related news stories are bouncing around the internet this morning-one is about the NAR IDX policy proposed changes, and the other is about FSBOs.
(Well, let's face it; they're pretty much about the same thing…)
In a nutshell, the NAR IDX issue is this: "The big news, as many have already heard, is that the Franchise IDX policy will be repealed in its entirety. The overall thrust of the proposal appears to be one aimed at restoring the status quo ante." The quotation is taken from this morning's blog post by one of my regularly-read industry voices, The Notorious Rob. Rob proceeds to examine what this proposed policy change will mean, and then asks the question, "just what percentage of the Directors of NAR, who will be voting on this proposal on Monday in Anaheim, understand the issue? How many will have studied the issue? How many will have thought about it at all?.... Could someone explain to me how hundreds of NAR Directors are not in violation of their fiduciary duty as a director of nonprofit organization?"
The other topic has to do with what's happening in the world that exists outside of the pre-meeting hysteria of an NAR convention. In this case I'm referring to Zillow's recent announcement that it has added 45,000 'for sale by owner' listings to its database of existing FSBO web and mobile real estate shopping , allowing independent home sellers to distribute their listings free of charge. Zillow obtains these listings through individual home sellers as well as listing feeds from ForSaleByOwner.com™, HomesByOwner.com®, owners.com® and Postlets® . The latter is a Zillow company, by the way, which allows home sellers, real estate agents and landlords to generate one listing and dispense it to Zillow's more than 24 million monthly unique web and mobile users, as well as 13 other sites including Yahoo!® Real Estate and craigslist®.
We're not talking peanuts here--Yahoo Real Estate is a formidable challenger to realtor.com. But what really set me back was the association manager who, upon hearing of the Zillow announcement, shrugged and said (somewhat disdainfully), "I don't keep track of Zillow."Holy leaping ostriches! How can you disregard the competition with such insouciance? Oh, wait-I know! It's because you're busy word-smithing the following NAR proposal:
Associations of REALTORS® and their multiple listing services must enable MLS participants to display aggregated MLS listing information by electronic means. Electronic display subject to this policy includes display on participants' public websites, displays controlled by participants on other websites, display on social media sites used by participants, RSS subscription, and applications for mobile devices. All electronic display of IDX information conducted pursuant to this policy must comply with state law and regulations, and MLS rules. Any display of IDX information must be controlled by the participant, including the ability to comply with this policy and applicable MLS rules.
And I bet you're thinking: "Now how am I gonna enforce THIS on a budget that has been shrinking as members are dropping away?"
Well, don't worry about real estate buyers and sellers: they may be looking elsewhere. As Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff says, "Our integrated approach to marketing all types of real estate listings, creates the most comprehensive and data-rich shopping experience for web and mobile."
Oh, and don't worry about the MLS subscribers either. They want to be where the consumer goes. That's where the money is.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Ari Weinzweig co-founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen in 1982 with a $20,000 bank loan. Today, the company is an Ann Arbor institution, and Weinzweig has branched out into a number of other businesses. We approached him recently to learn more about his leadership philosophy and his approach to innovation.
Describe your leadership philosophy.
There are many elements to it, but above and beyond all else, it’s centered around Servant Leadership. It’s the philosophy we learned from reading the work of Robert Greenleaf. The approach is based on the belief that our responsibility as leaders, first and foremost, is to serve the organization, not the other way around. One key element of it here is that it means that we—the leaders—view the staff as our customers. We need to give them great service every day to the people who work in our organization. The service that the staff gives to our front line customers will never be better than the service we give to them.
A great article....
Saturday, October 15, 2011
As you may be aware, I serve on the Board of Directors for the MLS Domains association—because it’s a cause I believe in (well, ok, I have several causes…and I’m not very quiet about my enthusiasms). But as an association exec I was always frustrated by the ‘MLS thing’: the public appreciated an MLS but couldn’t define the term, and our members were equally confused—and thought every collection of housing information was ‘the MLS’. Whatever an MLS was, everybody knew they wanted one, including all the folks who weren’t an MLS but appropriated our name—like ‘FSBO MLS’ or ‘luxury home MLS’.
The 2012 opportunity to introduce new top level domains into the world wide web seem to me to be an ideal method to define the term ‘MLS’ and to control who can use it. If the MLS Domains Association is granted the exclusive use of .mls by its members only, we will have come a long way to stabilizing the use of the term and protecting our organizations’ investment in being the source of the most accurate and timely data available in the US housing market.
Dot MLS (as I fondly call it) is an idea whose time has come—but not necessarily because the organized real estate is ready for it. The urgency was introduced by outside events: the international internet naming association has set January 2012 as the date that applications for new top level domains (TLDs) will be considered, “Big corporations, nonprofits, and governments are expected to scramble to claim the new TLDs,” says the Washington Business Journal.
The MLS Domains Association will be standing at the head of the line, application and check in hand.
But getting there is a bit of a battle. The biggest problem is that top level domains aren’t on everybody’s radar screen—and by the time the opportunity becomes clear, it may be too late to be considered by the great domain naming authority in the sky (ICANN). The second TLD round may not be available for several years—opportunity lost!
The point of this long introduction is to set the stage for my comments on the recent Council of MLS conference held in Tucson. The conference itself was outstanding in its speakers, its format, and its opportunity to meet vendors and have meaningful hallway (and lobby bar) discussions. To my delight, the issue of ‘MLS branding’ was center stage during many sessions and informal conversations..
“What’s ‘branding’ mean?” my friend JoAnn asked me. “I’m an MLS financial person—I don’t know these things.”
The clearest answer is in this quotation: “…understand that branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition, but it is about getting your prospects to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem.” To that point, it was clear at the conference that in a world where real estate information is everywhere, the MLS brand is increasingly important as a way to tell our audience (members and the public) that our information source is timely, accurate, and as trustworthy as they’ll find anywhere.
If the CMLS agenda is any indication, the topic of branding is under consideration of MLS leaders across the country. They are asking, “How will we help the public understand that housing information from the MLS is the most reliable source? How can we motivate our members (who are the collectors of the data) to do the best job possible in conveying accurate data to the MLS in a timely manner? How can we repackage our data products so that they are valuable to the real estate community and their clients and customers?”
These questions formed much of the substance of the conversations at CMLS—and the work of the MLS Domains Association was often cited as one of the obvious solutions.
To explore this topic further, CMLS is hosting a half day session on branding on November 9 at the NAR Annual Conference in Anaheim. MLS CEOs and decision-makers should make every effort to attend this important education event.
You can be sure the efforts of MLS Domains Association will be on the agenda.