In the age of Upstream, what is the next move for MLS?

by Steve Murray, publisher

Upstream is formed and partnered with NAR and its RPR/AMP technology platforms to build and activate a national parcel-centric property database. NAR partners with ZipLogix to deliver free transaction management while Realtor.com expands its agent profiles with a new agent review and rating platform. Where does that leave the MLS in the discussion and where is its future headed?

We spoke with Kevin McQueen, founder of Focus Forward Consulting, who advises many MLS leaders and boards about where their future lies. Here are some things he had to share.

“We are talking first all about the women and men who run what is arguably the backbone of the industry. MLSs have made the market work for the last 40+ years. And, they realize clearly that technology and new entrants [into the market] threaten their role. What to do about it is where the discussion really takes place,” said McQueen. “In our work with them, we try to get these leaders to see what the future may look like, and what the options may be for them. The future is not crystal clear, and the options each have pluses and minuses. It gets complicated.”


McQueen commented that first  MLS leaders have to admit that things will not continue as they have. The model in the industry of having hundreds of MLSs, far too often only existing because of the pride of owning your own MLS, still exists. “Instead of asking whether an MLS should exist, one big question should be what is the most efficient way to deliver first class MLS services for members?” he said.


Many believe that fewer and stronger MLSs are an answer. “Fewer and larger MLSs can deliver more and better technology and data solutions to members. That is one of the main premises of Upstream – one platform, one set of data standards and one set of publishing tool sets. MLSs need to be thinking this way about the future. The recent announcement of the combination of MRIS and Trend is an example of leaders who thought that, while they are both large already, they can serve their members better by combining.” McQueen’s thought is that size will matter, not just to say how large one is, but also to have the resources to offer better services to members and other constituents.

McQueen adds that “too many think that merely picking better technology is the answer. It isn’t. One must first define the business strategy and plan and then find the technologies that will get the job done. Tech as your focus is not the way to go. Rather, focus on a strategy that includes better service, lower costs and less complexity.”

He admits that governance and control issues remain a big part of the problem of advancing the interests of MLS. While the problem is no as bad as it used to be, it remains a significant roadblock in some cases.

McQueen said that the threat of the nationalization of the MLS has always been at the back of the minds of many who run MLSs. He said that for many of his clients, these recent moves by NAR bring that threat more to the forefront. His view is whether that is reality or not, MLSs have it within their resources and capabilities to remain strong and viable parts of the industry in the future. ^

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of the REAL Trends Newsletter and is reprinted with permission of REAL Trends Inc. Copyright 2016.

The Minnesota REALTORS® is the largest professional trade association in the state with more than 17,000 members who are active in all aspects of the real estate industry.


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