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Improving the MLS Industry By Increasing Competition

Feb 6, 2018 FBS Admin

My last two posts have engaged Rob Hahn in a semi-interesting discussion about a federally mandated listing database. In that discussion, Rob said my arguments have a “whiff of the status quo” and so I thought it would be helpful to chime in with some of my old posts that have suggested ways to improve the MLS industry (i.e., change the status quo).

First, let me start with a relatively recent post, Why is the MLS so misunderstood?, in which I conclude that the overarching goal of MLS organizations should be to enhance competition through cooperation:

Our industry needs more competition at every level: brokers, agents, MLSs, Associations, technology vendors, franchises, etc. Every policy and strategic decision we make as an industry should ask the simple question of whether it increases or decreases competition.

With this principle in mind, let me revisit a few earlier posts that contain some ideas that I think could increase competition at a variety of levels:

  • Universal Property ID — About a decade ago, I started advocating for a universal property ID and have written about it many times since. (Fortunately, RESO has made great progress on this front and I’m excited to see how that effort progresses.) I’ve advocated for a universal ID because content about listings today is created everywhere (not in a single single database), and linking all that data together would be really valuable.
  • MLS Data Exchange (MDX) — Another decade-old idea that, in contrast to UPID, didn’t gain traction, was for a national MLS Data Exchange, which, in theory, would create competition among MLSs by allowing any MLS to be a national MLS.  Though the MDX idea didn’t gain traction, the call for broad and deep data standards did thanks to RESO. While more work certainly remains for RESO (and those adopting the standards), the national standards path is one that promotes competition and, in time, will result in MLS services that erase boundaries and burdens for brokers.
  • Standard Terms of Use — Lastly, about seven years ago, I advocated the industry to focus on standard terms of use for IDX and other purposes to continue to encourage cooperation through aggregation while also protecting the contributors’ interests in sharing the listing data for competitive purposes in service to consumers.

Though I’d frame some of these ideas differently today given some changes in the industry, I continue to think they are all ways to increase competition in the industry. This is the theme I’ve been writing about here on the FBS Blog for over ten years, and I continue to believe it is an important goal for our industry.