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MLS Reinvented: A manifesto for the Industry

Publish Date: December 18, 2023

Written by Brad Inman

- Originally published at Inman News - Brad Inman

The verdict is in — the old way of doing business is over. Join us at Inman Connect New York Jan. 23-25, when together we’ll conquer today’s market challenges and prepare for tomorrow’s opportunities. Defy the market and bet big on your future.

Today, Inman is proud to publish the MLS Reinvented Manifesto, the result of months of work between the Inman editorial team and the Inman MLS advisory team listed at the bottom of this page. It is our hope that the manifesto will spark ideas for transforming the MLS.

The manifesto is the first step in that direction. The next happens in January, when Inman hosts its first-ever MLS Intensive track at Inman Connect New York. Make plans to be part of that crucial conversation by joining us in New York City, Jan. 23-25, 2024

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MLS Reinvented: A Manifesto

The U.S. MLS system may be the envy of the world, but it’s under siege on our shores.

The benefits to consumers are unmatched: the public can see 95 percent of all homes for sale, updated instantly. That’s thanks to the MLS, which offers a clear and essential value proposition. 

But lawsuits, government intervention and leadership lethargy have hurt the progress that the MLS industry must make to reshape its future.

Otherwise, a day of reckoning is upon us. The MLS is tied to a customer whose model is under attack. 

The local MLS must act now.

The mega-lawsuits may be about money as much as anything, but the collateral damage could be severe. Broker cooperation, consumer representation and a comprehensive home marketplace are all threatened — all central to the MLS. 

It is now up to the MLS organizations to defend their value and shape their own destiny. 

They must answer critical questions including who they are and what they want to become; who are their customers and how do they serve them better; what are their business rules and why; and what is their vision for the future?

Our goal at Inman with this project is to give MLSs a platform to share their value proposition and help them navigate a new course for leadership in the industry.

Read the 18-point MLS Reinvented Manifesto below:

  1. Preserve the centralized database of listings: The benefits to consumers are unmatched: the public can see 95 percent of all homes for sale, updated instantly. 
  2. Reform your MLS rules now: Get ahead of the realities about broker cooperation and take a progressive and reformist stance towards your listing requirements.
  3. Reboot your identity: Real estate is a local business. Claim your position at home and become less dependent on others to dictate your fate.
  4. Communicate more clearly: MLS organizations need to do a better job of strutting their stuff — more clearly articulating their value proposition to their members and other stakeholders. The MLS is essential, Realtors know it, but many do not associate its importance with MLS organizations.
  5. Be transparent: Be completely transparent with members. They are the ones who pay the bills. This should include implementing transparent pricing structures for real estate professionals, including clear information about fees and charges. 
  6. Advocate for an open marketplace: Become an advocate for an open local marketplace. Stand up for your offering and rally your members behind this clearly articulated purpose. 
  7. Get serious about consolidation: It helps consumers, agents and brokers. Your competition are the forces displacing your customers; not your neighboring MLS.
  8. Broaden the base: Too often, MLS organizations and their leaders operate in a bubble with a small circle of advisors and members who think alike. They need to broaden their trusted circle. Expand leadership to include smart people outside the circle. 
  9. Improve data accuracy and quality control: Ensuring that property listings are accurate and up-to-date is critical. MLS organizations should implement strict data quality control measures to prevent misinformation and inaccuracies.
  10. Standardize the data: MLS organizations should work towards standardizing property data fields and terminology to make it easier for users to search and compare properties across different markets.
  11. Enhance your technology and user experience: Investing in modern technology and user-friendly platforms can significantly improve the overall user experience. Mobile apps, responsive websites, and intuitive search features are essential.
  12. Explore data sharing and integration: The primary tenet of the MLS is cooperation. Brokers have been willing to cooperate for decades. Many MLSs reluctantly agree to share data across boundaries with contiguous MLSs. They should explore partnerships and data-sharing agreements with other local and regional MLS systems to expand property exposure. 
  13. Integrate more advanced features: Features such as virtual tours, 3D property models, and augmented reality tools can be integrated to provide richer property information to potential buyers.
  14. Improve consumer access: While MLS systems have traditionally been tools for real estate professionals, there’s a growing demand for direct consumer access. MLS organizations can explore options for providing access to consumers, enabling them to browse listings and gather information.
  15. Offer market analytics: Robust market analytics and reporting tools can help real estate professionals and consumers make informed decisions about buying and selling properties.
  16. Add environmental and sustainability data: As sustainability becomes increasingly important in real estate, MLS organizations should consider adding fields for environmental and energy-related information to listings.
  17. Offer better community and neighborhood information: Include more comprehensive data on local communities and neighborhoods to help buyers make informed decisions beyond just the property itself.
  18. Listen to the customer: Provide responsive and helpful customer support to assist users with any issues or questions they may have. Create channels for users to provide feedback on the MLS platform and services. 

Who doesn’t want to be in a business that isn’t just wanted, but absolutely necessary to its customers?

That’s the local MLS. It’s never been more essential, and the time is now to build the future.

This manifesto has been written by the Inman editorial team in consultation with the Inman MLS advisory team:

  • Sam DeBord, RESO
  • James Dwiggins, NextHome
  • Gene Millman, REcolorado
  • Art Carter, CRMLS
  • Merri Jo Cowen, Stellar MLS

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