The title of this article says it all, but I do have some observations I'd like to share.
This year has been a year of learning in this profession unlike any other. I haven't been to one continuing education course nor am I a part of any designation program among the many in real estate related educational opportunities. It's this blog thingy though that has opened my eyes. No, not my blog, but the many others that you will find in the blogrolls on the right.
The issue is the future of our business. I don't have my arms completely all of the issues that face the real estate industry at this very moment, but the picture is starting to clear.
Currently I am serving as an interim Director on the WARDEX Board of Directors. WARDEX is a new organization being created by the three local Realtor Assocaitions in Mohave County. WARDEX will serve as the MLS (although we are calling it a Data Exchange now) for the members of the three Assocaitions. I have an active hand in creating the bylaws, the rules and regulations, and the policies of WARDEX.
One issue that we are debating is the data in the MLS, as in what to do with it. Protect it from outside Internet forces who 'scrape' such sites to provide content for themselves?? Protect it so that the brokers can manage the data as they see fit?? Protect it from outside Realtor members who are not part of the regional area?? Decide not to share the data with Internet start ups that will come back to Members to sell them advertising?? These are some of the things I'm hearing that we should consider. Protect, protect, protect. Protect everyone it seems other than the seller in my opinion.
When are we going to realize and admit that there are millions of human beings that use the Internet with the intent to make some kind of purchase??
I am one of those humans that uses the Internet to make a purchase. I play hockey and have done so for many years now. I play in an adult roller hockey league in Lake Havasu in the cooler months of the year (can't even consider ice hockey 'round here because the average temp in Havasu is HOT, ice doesn't do well where it is HOT). A couple of years ago it was time for me to replace some of my gear (equipment). I play goaltender and it's important to have protection from the puck and the errant swinging sticks. I've been gaining weight around the midsection in a typical fashion and some of the gear that I was using just didn't get the job done any longer.
There are no hockey pro shops in this area and it's unlikely that I have time to head down to Phoenix or Las Vegas to shop at the limited places that may carry the kind of equipment I need. So I did the next best thing. I used the Internet. I shopped at hockeygiant.com. They have a great selection of gear but the problem was the information was pretty limited on how the stuff fits, how good of quality it is, that kind of stuff. I couldn't even log on to say a manufacturer site for better information and I simply wasn't plucking down $500 or more for goalie pads without more information.
My next stop was ebay. Why?? Immediate dialog with the seller was at my grasp, it's what me as the consumer wanted. Yes, some stuff was used and not in 'brand new condition' but at least I was speaking to someone (through the computer) who could give me more information before I made an offer. Hockey equipment for goaltenders is hard to find anywhere, believe me it is -- maybe not so hard in Canada. I bought most of my new gear from sellers on ebay, not all, but most and mostly for the reasons I just stated.
Now to bring this back to real estate. I think if us members are hellbent on 'protecting' the MLS, we will be nothing more than a retailer like hockeygiant.com, which is a fine service I should say but sometimes isn't enough for me as a consumer. MLS is still a fine service as well but is it everything that the consumer wants?? If it is not, then the consumer will find another outlet, like I did with ebay.
I've recently started to put my listings on Internet sites like Google Base, Trulia.com, etc., these are other outlets that consumers can find information about property for sale and I'm getting response from potential buyers. I bet my selling clients like that. Clients like results, they're funny that way. Heck I bet I'm not even getting response from other potential buyers who may already have a Realtor picked out and working with. Buyers are doing much more legwork these days. They are spending their time looking for properties on the Internet they may be interested in. They may or may not hire an agent to help them in the efforts to purchase a home.
Of course these buyers could stumble upon my website that has a local IDX feed (a search engine for property in my MLS) and shop for a home. However my site doesn't quite compete with the Googles of the Internet. It's way more likely that a potential buyer will find information about a property I have listed on Google Base than on my own website.
What do my selling clients hire me to do for them?? Protect the data from those on the Internet who 'scrape' data for their own use?? Nope. Protect the data for the broker to use as they see fit?? Only if it can be proven that this practice sells property. Protect the data from Realtors outside the area?? No. To worry whether or not an Internet search provider will sell advertising to Realtors?? Not on the client radar I'd say.
My gut feeling says that there should be as many REALTOR.com search sites as needed. And the MLS data should appear on sites like that at will. Oh a limited amount of relavant data and nothing that would be considered confidential information of course, but the key is to get the listing to appear where the buyers are looking. I'd say that is a specialty that Realtors aren't very special at doing. Google is though, and Google probably becomes the defacto initial search online for potential buyers in a short amount of time.
As a leader at the Association level I'd like to at the very least be in a position to partner with search sites and grant them access in a limited fashion of the data found in the local MLS. That way the Members are again on an equal playing field and their clients would ultimately benefit. And after all without the client there is no need for the service I provide.