Improving the MLS system, part I of II: The complaint

I’m thinking about MLS these days, A.) Because I am speaking at the CMLS conference next week, and B.) To my mind, there is little that is more important to the future of real estate than the improvement of the MLS system. 

Below, I lay out a complaint. If you’ve read this blog for a while, it will be familiar. Bear with me. I’ll follow this with a second post that lays out a concrete idea addressing part of that complaint. Look for it in the next few days.

Part I: You don’t get it

When I speak to people in and around the MLS industry I hear a lot of this:

Great idea, but it’ll never happen.

______________________ is already working on that. He’s got [tired-ass vendor] and [out-of-their-depth guy] together and it’s gonna be cool.

You don’t know what you’re talking about. You just don’t get it.

[MLS CEO X] would never give [MLS CEO Y] an edge by working together on that.

Settle down. If the market wanted something different, we’d see something different.

You wanna grab a drink?

Call me clueless

I dunno. Maybe I am out to lunch. But I believe in my bones that the MLS system of today is broken. Worse than broken, really. It’s a little dangerous. Like a leaky boat in rough seas.

How is it broken?

Data stuffed into 900 cubbyholes is broken.

A Kafkaesque compliance process is broken.

A governance structure demanding deep study of Kremlinology to navigate is broken.

A piece of killer software like Cloud CMA getting into Realtors’ hands one MLS policy gauntlet at a time is broken.

A system that requires, anywhere, 12 MLS tabs on one search results page is, for the love of god, broken.

I spend my working life side-by-side with real estate brands, brokerages and technology innovators getting killed by this stuff. I’m not making it up for the sake of a blog post. It’s real.

Yes, some visionaries are laying new foundations or advancing the technology standard past 1995. Most of the MLS leaders I talk to are smart, dedicated people. But the fix-up job isn’t happening fast enough.

What’s going to happen if the thing finally breaks down?

People will get hurt. The practitioner. The broker. An industry struggling to get back on its feet.

We can’t have that.

A few times in my life, coming or going somewhere, I’ve seen the charred frame of an RV along the side of the highway. I think about the family or the retired couple that was comfortably transported for years in this shelter, confident in its worthiness to get them where they wanted to go.

But maintenance was deferred. And a valve ruptures. The propane leaks. A wire is frayed. And the son of a bitch explodes.

It’s terribly sad.

No matter how many times people tell me I don’t get it, or I am naïve, I still can’t settle in my mind how this system isn’t headed down the same road.

Get real 

So enough complaining. What I want to do is put an idea out there. Something that’s been kicking around my head for about a year. I’ve heard variations of it from others, and part of it has already been productized. I can’t lay claim to it, but I want to air it out.

Please tell me if it makes sense. Or if you think it makes no sense. If I’m missing, yet again, some reality that lies beyond my understanding.

But either way, would you humor me and tell my how, possibly, in my fantasy world, this could come about?

I’ll try and be clear. And I will miss some things. Because I don’t know all the details. And I certainly don’t have all the answers.

But I do trust my eyes, my ears and my gut.

We need to do something.