Wellington Pendall talks about the MLS and the irreplaceable value of the REALTOR® at Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS®.
Is the MLS becoming obsolete? Are REALTORS®?
Many say no. But it will take some effort by REALTORS® to prove their value, according to Wellington Pendell, a trainer with Career Compass, who spoke to an audience at Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS® in January.
Pendell talked about the impact of online real estate companies such as Zillow and Redfin, and gave an optimistic view of the work REALTORS® do for people who are typically making the biggest financial decisions of their lives.
“NAR’s tagline should be, REALTORS® increase and protect seller equity,” said Pendell.
Several CVAR members shared their concerns before Pendell took the microphone, and talked about a possible recent discussions involving C.A.R. and CRMLS have regarding the creation of a statewide or even national MLS.
“I have family up north in the San Francisco area. When they call and ask for help, I don’t have access to the MLS there,” says Audrey Santos of REMAX Masters, Covina. “I can look up pricing or go to realtor.com, but they take an average and aren’t always accurate.”
Nicole Jones, of HomeSmart Evergreen Realty in Upland, lamented that, “here we are battling against each other, and there’s Zillow with all the information and they have the access to any of our listings, unless the agent opts out. But most want their listings to go out there. Meanwhile our own reciprocating boards won’t come together. They’re going to lose out.”
“I want a nationwide MLS so we can look all over the country and get or give referrals,” said Sarah Piazza, of HomeSmart Evergreen in Irvine. “If I had access to a nationwide MLS, I could go there and find a referral agent. I want to take Zillow out of it!”
Pendell, agreed, that commercial websites such as Zillow are “selling our own information back to us and charging us for it.”
The OC Register reported on real estate professionals’ concerns about commercial websites like Zillow, Redfin and Realtor.com overtaking industry databases with “information that was once restricted to agents looking to find homes for clients.”
“The world of big data doesn’t seem to have come to the MLS in any meaningful way,” David Silver-Westrick, a partner at San Clemente-based Keller Williams OC Coastal Realty, told the Register. “We’re missing the boat on lots of big data opportunities.”
C.A.R. sponsored a January event for industry leaders at its headquarters in Los Angeles, to discuss the future of broker-run MLS sites and to further its plan for a single, statewide database, in place of the more than 40 MLS’s in California.
Nearly half of the state is represented by the California RegionalMultiple Listing Service (CRMLS), based in Diamond Bar, with more than 92,000 agents and 37 local associations, including Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS®.
The opportunity expand the MLS “is fading fast.” –Art Carter, CRMLS
“I think that there is an opportunity that is fast fading,” CRMLS CEO Art Carter said at the meeting. “If we do not do it shortly, then we will forever be chasing others that will most likely take the handles and move forward.”
Other panelists lamented the inaccurate and outdated data in the MLS, as well as the lack of consolidation.
“As someone who lists and sells real estate, I need it to be more efficient,” said Jeanne Radsick, an agent with Century 21 Tobias Real Estate in Bakersfield. “I need to not have to go to multiple sources to find what I’m looking for.”
Technology isn’t an issue, panelists said. Carter said a statewide MLS could be established in three months once the paperwork is in place. The main obstacle is politics.
Concerns among agents and brokers include the question of who controls broker information—the MLS or the brokers themselves. MLS employees also worry about losing their jobs under a consolidated system. And smaller MLS sites fear larger, out-of-area brokerages will take away their business if the outsiders have access to property data in their areas.
“You can’t even get Arrowhead and Big Bear to talk, and they’re right next door to each other,” said Sandra Deering, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Irvine. “The reality is those people are still protective of their jobs. … They don’t have the bandwidth, I don’t think, to see beyond their day-to-day operation. I don’t know how to overcome that.”
Deering has to join 25 MLS sites for her business, “and just managing the licensing, the payment process is a full-time staff person,” she said.
“These changes in the environment, particularly on the consumer side, have given the consumer … the ability to have information that is equivalent, if not superior, to what the agents have,” said Joel Singer, CEO of C.A.R.. “The question is can this current structure survive? Or perhaps the question is should this current structure survive if it doesn’t alter.”
Singer said that when he bought a house last year, the MLS data from his broker “didn’t compare very well to the data that I got when I signed up with Redfin. … Is this a problem for us?”
Carter and other panelists see a statewide MLS as a precursor to forming a nation-wide system.
“It’s a process of becoming a lot more aggressive,” Carter said. “Consolidate with the willing and (share data) with the unwilling to consolidate and go around those that are just willing to do neither.”