Time for MLSs to get social

I keep running into brokers unhappy with their IDX solution.
They’re looking to refresh their websites but find that listings – the most
important pieces of content they own — are laden with difficulty. Sure, you
can create or license a map display, or “forward this listing to a friend”, but
beyond that it gets tricky.

I talk to them about widgets, APIs, social features and
platforms that are easily integrated with and customized for their sites. But
when it comes time to talk listings we often hear things like:

“My MLS won’t allow that”

“My IDX vendor doesn’t do it”

“Our MLS software doesn’t do it”

“That’s too expensive”

“I don’t have programmers to make that happen”

It would be nice if listings flowed freely from their
headwaters in the MLS to broker and agent websites and out to buyers, sellers
and marketing partners. Really, it’s getting embarrassing that this isn’t the

Think about it: this blog post will be syndicated, tagged,
starred, shared, digged and alerted without me, the publisher, losing control
of his content. Sure, someone could copy, paste and edit my post, but I can do
this with IDX listings right now. It’s about the rules, not the exceptions.

How might it be different? Here are some rough ideas:

  1. Distribute listings via RSS. When an agent posts a listing in their MLS, they should be allowed to tag listings by the usual criteria – beds, baths, price, neighborhood – as well as a few fun ones. Say “Starbucks” or “Hip”. Why wait for an email update or slog through some poorly designed form when you can subscribe to the feed? Trulia does this, why can’t you? 
  1. Del.icio.us for real estate. Yes, there are plenty of "saved search" features in traditional IDX feeds, but someone is going to get it right with a pure social bookmarking site for listings. Let consumers save their faves online for future reference or for other to comment and vote on. Incidentally, this would create a tremendous data set of client preferences and market trends.
  1. Integration with distribution sites. This too starts at the point entry into the MLS. Systems like Paragon and Tempo should offer one-click distribution to sites like Google Base, Oodle and others. Not comfortable with that? Don’t check the box.

I know it’s more complicated than I’ve made it out to be
here. My hope is more MLSs will take the lead in giving their customers the
tools they need to compete in a world where information flows freely.

Brian Boero