The Future of MLS
What Is The Future Of The MLS? This is a question that a small broker on Cape Cod asked the agents in the room as they decided which domain name to register in March of 2000. Their question then was, "How will the Internet affect the MLS?"
By Heath Coker
RISMEDIA, July 5, 2006—In the last decade, real estate brokers and agents have had to adjust to the evolving listing and sale of real estate. "Way back in 1996, who even had an email account?" asks Heath Coker, a small independent real estate broker on Cape Cod. The most significant evolution in real estate has been the free use of the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) on the net. For consumers, the publishing of MLS data has provided a fast and easy way to get information, even if they aren’t aware that it is not as complete as they are led to believe. For businesses, the net has changed the usefulness of the MLS.
The original purpose of MLS membership was to provide an easy way for real estate offices to communicate with each other about what is for sale and how to cooperate. Now, MLSs all over the country, allow listings and data to be published and viewed by anyone, anywhere, without respect to the listing company. While this gives properties exposure, and sales get made, the activity can actually hurt companies, and buyers can miss good properties.
How does this affect buyers? For the most part, buyers are content with the selection of viewable properties. They are looking online for as long as two months before going to meet an agent. Buyers think they know the market as much as full time agents, however, as with all hobbyists, they are actually missing a lot (no pun intended). MLS only shows MLS information. There are companies in every US town who are not members of MLS, but list and sell real estate.
Along with these non-MLS companies, some MLS member websites have non-MLS listings that are called "pocket" listings in the business. These listings can be better buys than MLS listings for many reasons.
How does this affect agents and companies? Most MLSs now download to huge sites that publish MLS listings. Brokers and agents have to compete for Internet traffic with the large MLS downloaders. That traffic is expensive, and there is no guarantee any lead they buy isn’t going to a competitor at the same time. Sales companies are looking for low-cost and no-cost ways to increase traffic to their pages.
So where do buyers find more complete listings, and how do brokers and agents get better traffic to their listings? There is a grass roots project that was started in 2000 by and for listing real estate agents. REindex.com links directly to each real estate website in their town, to see the listings that are both MLS and Non-MLS. A simple web page has been created for every town in the USA, and REindex searches for and adds any company website that displays the company's listings. REindex is different from the downloaders because listing companies are added for free. "We are just a place to find companies that work in a specific town - no screens or logins, just links to listing companies that we add daily." says Coker.
The interest and appreciation from surfers and business’ has been quietly growing and developing over the last six years. Customers like the ease of finding agents and companies that actually work in their town. Listing companies are appreciative of REindex because there is no expense, nor do they need to spend extra time and money adjusting pages for the search engines; they can sell real estate. "The links on REindex.com are free to listing companies and the traffic is not screened or tracked from REindex to theirs," says Coker. The site generates enough advertising revenue to support itself, so it doesn’t need to charge listing companies. They even have rewards for adding links they aren’t aware of yet.
As for the data for sold properties, Coker states: "That [data] is available from many sources that can be more correct than MLS information." The public record is available online in many towns already. "Full-time agents can still tell you what has sold, and how it compares with current properties and prices better than the Internet can."
So what is the future for the MLS? Will buyers be content with a limited knowledge of the market? Or will the Internet become the "new MLS" because of sites like REindex.com that have both MLS and non-MLS information? The dot coms had their day. The big MLS downloaders are having their day. But, the Internet could replace MLS.
Heath Coker, Owner
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