Colorado Conversation with Jeff Follis, CEO of CREN MLS —Addressing Broker Pain Points

Background: IRES hosted the first ever “Colorado Conversation” with MLS executives and admins last fall, just prior to the CAR Spring Conference.  The agenda for the second Colorado Conversation is being developed by Jeff Follis for October 3rd in Broomfield, prior to CAR’s Fall Conference.   Jeff was kind enough to offer his perspective on broker pain points in this post.

Jeff Follis

In the evolving real estate marketplace, it’s crucial to stay on top of relevant technological advances to make our jobs easier and eliminate traditional industry pain points. For decades, real estate has been a pen-and-paper-based business that emphasized personal relationships, but now advances in technology are changing how real estate is delivered to the consumer and how brokers manage their daily lives.

By creating transparency and efficiency in the marketplace, technologies are increasing the speed and frequency at which transactions are conducted, significantly reducing pain points for brokers. After spending seven years in the brokerage business, Jeff Follis, CEO of Colorado Real Estate Network (CREN), a regional MLS based in Montrose, Colorado, is well aware of broker pain points associated with MLSs and addressed them during a Colorado Conversation event this summer.

“Typical pain points for brokers include anything where the MLS is in the way of how to make the market work” Follis said. “It’s a barrier for them to do their job as completely as possible.”

Let’s take a look at some of the top pain points and how they’re being addressed.

MLS REQUIRED PRODUCTS VS INCLUSION OF OPTIONAL PRODUCTS & SERVICES

When we define MLS in our business, we’re defining a certain package of products and services that we call our “basic service,” in order to be successful in the business. You need a software database to see the sold and active properties, there’s a significant amount of paperwork to be done and optional products, such as advanced analytics, need to be factored in as well. The discussion we’re having focuses on what should and should not be provided by an MLS and who defines that — a committee? A board of directors?

The MLS needs to be able to provide these optional products and services whether a broker uses them or not. Consequently, MLSs need to enable faster access to data, allowing for brokers to help clients have all the information to make decisions quickly and easily.

MLS DATA AND PIRACY

It is an interesting environment that MLSs operate in. On one hand, we have brokers who want their data protected from scraping and other cyber threats, but on the other hand, most brokers also want their data to be accessible to as many potential customers as possible. The MLS is responsible for those licensing agreements which can lead to a lot of extra legwork. It can be challenging to balance this dichotomy. Do you want your listings to go to the moon? Are there customers there or is another company just attempting to access this data?

“There’s a grey area, where companies will run off your coattails to get access to MLS data on black market,” Follis said. “We are pro-broker. At this time, if we see a company is using data outside of scope, we’ll want to terminate use with that company. So we check in with that broker and they may agree to terminate or ask us to not stop them.”

Unfortunately, there is currently no mechanism for completely protecting data on MLSs from data piracy. Federal copyright law protects some data available. For example, it protects the photographs, so if a pirate steals and uses the photographs, the MLS will have legally enforceable rights.

MLS CONSOLIDATION

Consolidation is something that has gained a lot of momentum as a pain point in the industry in the last two years. At a recent statewide strategic planning session, we pinpointed three topics of discussion surrounding a statewide initiative:

  1. Do Brokers Want a Consolidated Statewide MLS?
    The answer depends largely on what brokers want and need in your geographic area. Some brokers prefer to only do business in the geographic area where their MLS is focused.   Others want to have access to a broader database to be in step with consumers.
  2. The Inability to Provide the Tools Required to Let Brokers Do Their Job.
    We can afford the comparative market analysis (CMA) add-on, public records and we offer similar toolbox as competitors. However, if an MLS can’t provide the tools required to do their job efficiently, then consolidation may need to be considered.
  3. Culture, Culture, Culture.
    What’s the culture of an MLS and how is that defined? Different MLSs define themselves in different ways and may also be dependent on geography.“For us at CREN, customer service is #1, brokers are our customers and we strive to make sure every customer is happy,” said Follis. “When we talk about culture in the MLS we want to try to hover above the organization and see what the business culture is like and what the geographic region is like.”The MLS world is constantly changing and you have to continually monitor your organization’s culture — especially when considering consolidation. An established culture will help customers know what to expect from your MLS.

Consolidation may be something that is considered on an annual basis.

WHO’S THE CUSTOMER? THE AGENTS OR THE CONSUMER?

This is definitely a broker pain point and something that we, as MLSs, have to balance. Who is our customer? For us, it’s the agents and brokers that serve the public. If we don’t provide the necessary tools to help brokers effectively serve the public, are we even serving the public?

In the end, despite the fact that MLSs all do the same thing, we work in a fragmented industry, comprised of separate, but unequal parts. Brokers are forced to endure a marketplace filled with discrepancies, where the quality, quantity and accuracy of their service to the public rely almost completely on whether they have the privilege to work in an area serviced by a progressive MLS that seeks to eliminate broker pain points.

“If we can eliminate these pain points, we’ll create a better, more contiguous marketplace for the consumer,” Follis said.

Addressing common topics like broker pain points is a big part of the Colorado Conversation events. MLS administrators and executives who run their own MLS will be taking part in another Colorado Conversation on Oct. 3 in Broomfield.

 

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