Leading the Velocity of Change

Anne Marie Decatsye.jpg

By AnneMarie DeCatsye 

Chief Executive Officer, Charlotte Regional Realtor Association/CarolinaMLS

If there is one thing I am passionate about, right after God and my family, it is my job, not just my job leading a REALTOR association but leading the MLS as well.  In these positions I have been fortunate to be part of much larger groups like COVE, MLSGRID and the MLS Roundtable that collectively embrace and act on opportunities to advance the industry and make it stronger.  This involvement has allowed our organization, as well as me both personally and professionally, to grow in ways we would never have imagined when I first started.

As the daughter of a REALTOR, I have always had a great appreciation for the 'what all' is involved in being a REALTOR. As I tell our new members, their job is not 9-5, there are many challenges and sacrifices that go hand in hand with being a REALTOR and our job at the association is to give them the tools and resources to be successful in their business. The MLS is arguably the most critical of the tools among those our association provides.

While most REALTORS recognize the importance of the MLS as essential to their business, there is still a lack of understanding of the importance of the foundation principles of cooperation and compensation and the critical role the MLS plays in bringing order and fairness to the market. As the Council of MLSs marketing campaign makes clear, the purpose of the MLSs is to “Make the Market Work”. 

Frits Van Paasschen, former CEO of Starwood Hotels, in his keynote address to the T3 Summit told us, we need to “put purpose first.” The purpose in my association and MLS is to make the business lives of our brokers and agents more efficient and productive so that they can better demonstrate their value to consumers. 

In my role, I have also learned to understand and appreciate the Broker and the challenges they face, whether large or small, to survive in such a competitive industry.  In fact, it is almost laughable if it were not so serious when I hear that the DOJ is concerned that the industry is anticompetitive. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

If anything, the increased competition within the industry has exacerbated what have long been Broker (and their vendors) pain points - often caused, intentionally and unintentionally, by their MLSs.  This must stop and the time is now.

While MLS execs and Brokers do not necessarily agree on all things, we should not find it difficult to understand and agree that MLS is, or should be, a broker's most dedicated source of support and their greatest resource in “Making the Market Work” so that they can better serve consumer needs and grow their businesses. After attending several industry meetings this year, including Inman NYC, the COVE Conference, the COVE MLS Exec meeting and now the T3 Summit, I am hopeful that the distance between MLSs and Broker leadership is narrowing and that we are working more effectively together to do the right things that will make our industry stronger and better.  

There are too many distractions and disruptors causing us to waste time and energy on the fringes of change. It is time to focus and work together, quickly. 

“We cannot ignore the shift or the velocity of change”, as Van Paasschen, told us at T3, “we need to disrupt ourselves, be change aware, see how the game is changing and use technology to deliver better products and services.”

And that is what a handful of MLSs have been and are doing and others must do. 

Some MLSs (in Arizona, Wisconsin, Oregon and Utah) are creating joint ventures into products and services where synergies and efficiencies can be found. Others like REColorado are investing in start-ups that could be game changers for how real estate is practiced. In fact these efforts are happening in various forms all over the country because most MLS organizations that function with an eye to the future and on the strategic issues affecting our brokers fix stuff that isn't working daily. It's what we do. 

What we don't do as well as we should is take a step back so that the larger picture comes into view and makes plain that there are things that all of us in the MLS business need to be doing, if not ahead of everything else on our plates, not less than at the same time. Anything less is fooling around on the fringes and ultimately to the detriment of us all overall. 

Efforts like consolidation, data standards and data distribution that benefit the entire brokerage industry, and the consumers they serve, are critically important. 

So where is the leadership to get it done? It is coming from us, MLSs and Brokers. We are not going to let outsiders define the role of the MLS and the future of organized real estate.

Time is not on our side.  The leaders in the industry need to step up and do what’s right for everyone and embrace the initiatives endorsed by The MLS RoundTable as a minimum starting point:

These four steps are:

1.     Adopt the RESO platform

2.     Move to API and do away with RETS

3.     Endorse the MLS GRID (go to MLSGRID.com)

4.     Work toward a common data platform that enables cooperation, connection and competitiveness

While RETS has served us well it’s time is coming to an end.  It’s time to enter the 21st-century and make data available via API like almost every other industry has for years. The first two steps are not even on the radar of many Brokers but that should not be an excuse.  MLSs may have to lead Brokers to where they will have to be. Many already understand the urgency and are actively engaged in moving their companies into this second decade of the 21st century. Others are holding back because change is another challenge to deal with and brokerage is hard. By doing so, it will make it easier for them to do business, more efficiently, at lower costs and able to effectively compete in the world as it is, not what it once was. 

It will also make their consumers’ experience better.

The third step, endorsing the MLS GRID, should be a no-brainer.  MLS GRID (www.mlsgrid.com) is immediately solving Broker pain points by providing data aggregation and distribution, under a single data license with a single set of rules and consistent enforcement. All RESO compliant.   

Broker IDX sites have always been the most accurate sites for consumers to get real estate information. MLS GRID allows that to continue but with more efficiency and less overhead for the Brokers who have struggled for too long to accept and consolidate varying feeds from MLSs while dealing with differing MLS license agreements and rules.

As David Charron commented, “Once the MLS GRID establishes a nation-wide IDX program, it will allow for the MLS GRID’s next stage to happen; a consolidated backend; a common repository and front ends of choice.” 

These are not just words on a paper.  Failure to achieve these goals is not an option.  We must work toward these goals, united together, both Brokers and MLSs. 

As Stefan Swanepoel says, we all need to “Learn to separate opinion, emotions and historic thinking and focus not on what has been done but on what can be done.”


Tinus Swanepoel