The Arizona Republic takes the MLS Public Website Debate to the People

by THE WAV GROUP on November 29, 2008

CEO Bob Bemis of Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service, aka ARMLS is in the process of presenting a public listing website proposal to the ARMLS board of directors.  Someone alerted the Arizona Republic, the local newspaper who picked up the story.

The familiar arguments supporting and desentiing the strategy of public websites are mentioned in the article…..And so it goes.  MLSs who are courageous enough to lead their membership through difficult strategic discussions deserve a lot of credit.  Many CEOs in Bob’s position could easily take the political route and duck the issue.  Koodos to Bob.

Listings are everywhere.  Today there are 1,500,00+ websites indexed by Google for Phoenix Real Estate.  Number 1 is phoenix Homes, Number three is Trulia.  The Realty Executives agent  Matthew Pellerin who holds the number 1 spot was not interviewed for the story, nor did they interview Brian Culhane from Buyers Tour Realty (Powered by Wolfnet). With listings on so many websites, one more would surely not cause a landslide of destruction.  If you read our post about the recent NAR Profile of Buyers and Sellers, consumers like MLS public sites.  Our study of the effectivess of public websites in Houston also validates the NAR consumer research, and goes further to demonstrate that Brokers and Agents agree that their MLS public website is the top member benefit of the Houston Association of REALTORS.  You can download this research free in the reports section of wavgroup.com.

ARMLS defended their position with a fact sheet on their webiste.  It is a .pdf, so we have reprinted it here for ease of reading.

ARMLS Consumer Website
This courtesy posting is in response to a growing concern about a proposal we have circulated for ARMLS to
operate a consumer‐facing Website. I believe there are numerous factual errors in the statements and emails that
have been circulating in opposition to this proposal. Here are the facts that you should rely on to form an opinion
one way or the other.

1. ARMLS has not announced their intention to launch a public Website. We held two broker forums on
October 22, and invited all the designated brokers in the ARMLS system to participate. Nearly 100 of
them did. We held the forums to solicit feedback to a proposal to add listing search capability to the
armls.com Website. The final decision has not been made. We will continue to gauge interest, answer
questions, reply to objections, and determine what is best for the real estate community we serve. Then
we will make the decision on what to do.

2. Such a site, as proposed, would NOT have all “the same information” that you have access to in the
ARMLS system. Confidential fields would remain confidential. The site would not display any more listing
information than is currently displayed on any number (thousands) of broker, agent, and third party
aggregator sites. The information displayed WOULD be more current since it would be in real time
synchronization with the private MLS. Inactive listings would be removed immediately instead of dangling
on other sites for weeks after they are cancelled or sold (a never ending source of frustration for buyers
searching such sites).

3. The role of the MLS is changing. Its original mission of creating a private exchange of information
between participants to facilitate cooperation and compensation on listings remains as a core function,
but in the changing world of the internet the service has evolved into a tool by which participants can
market their properties. This started with the IDX program some 10+ years ago. Then it evolved as the
internet evolved and became central to the process by which buyers and sellers search for housing, and in
some cases agents, just as they search for cars and dealerships. To ignore the demands of the
marketplace and the consumers, and the role the MLS plays in helping REALTORS® meet those demands,
is not productive or realistic. We, the real estate professionals, need to remain competitive or we will
become irrelevant. ARMLS is looking for ways to help you remain competitive.

4. Under the proposal, the direction of leads and how they are handled would remain a broker option to
determine, not automatically channeled to a listing agent. If the broker wants the leads to flow to the
listing agent, they would. If the broker wants them directed to a lead coordinator, who could route them
according to the brokers rules to buyer agents, the broker would and could do that as well. From a
practical matter, buyers who search such national sites as Realtor.com, Zillow.com, Trulia.com,
Roost.com, Cyberhomes.com (the list goes on forever) are treated in exactly the manner you object to
they are sent to the listing agent. The ARMLS proposal offers a number of possibilities for directing leads
to buyers brokers and agents.

5. No advertising is planned and none has been discussed. Our current subscription fees are sufficient to
cover the costs of this proposed service. Advertising presents problems as you point out (competing
broker ads for example), and in those sites that use advertising they often restrict it to neutral parties,
non‐competitive with the brokerage business (Home Depot, the electric company, etc.). Using the more
successful consumer Websites operated by other MLSs around the country as a model, nearly all are
heavy on consumer education and devoid of advertising. We would emulate those models and hope to
enjoy similar success.

6. ARMLS was created to provide information to brokers and agents, not the public. That was true when
ARMLS was created but it is no longer the case as the industry has evolved. We need to recognize the fact
that todays consumer is driving the real estate transaction and find ways to interact with that consumer
on terms he or she will accept. ARMLS leadership recognized this when we created the strategic plan for
ARMLS in January of this year. That plan, and some explanatory comments about the strategy, has been
posted on our NewARMLS.com Website (click on Vision from the main menu) since April. Three of the six
major objectives of the plan recognize that ARMLS has a role in educating the consumer in the value
REALTORS® bring to the business, that REALTORS® are and should be the trusted partner in the
transaction, and that the subscriber is the primary contact for real estate matters. We believe this
proposed Website goes a long way toward achieving those objectives you your behalf.

At our Forums, we heard some very strong opinions both in favor and against the proposal and for that reason no conclusions have been reached. Brokers large and small were vocal in their opposition and raised many concerns. But there were also strong proponents with equally vigorous reasons why this was a good idea. We will continue to solicit feedback, and yours is appreciated. But before minds are made up and decisions made, ARMLS will take more opportunities to present the facts and the anecdotal success stories that we have seen in other MLSs who have such sites. With one or two exceptions (and there are hundreds of such sites), the brokers and agents enjoy the benefit of a better informed and educated consumer who comes to the agent already attuned to the current market conditions and in many/most cases has already done for herself what a REALTOR® would spend many hours doing for him/her, thus saving both time and money. And that is the sole motivation for this proposal: to make our broker and agent subscribers more money. If we cannot do that, there is no reason to pursue this initiative.

We plan to post the slide presentation that was used in the forums on our website in the near future (just as soon as we can secure permission to publish it). The presenter goes into great detail studying other markets where such ventures have succeeded and provides much factual information that I am sure you will find enlightening.

Thank you again for your interest and your feedback.
Bob Bemis, CEO
ARMLS
130 S. Priest Dr. ‐ Suite 101
Tempe AZ 85281 
office: 480‐303‐7224 ~ cell: 480‐544‐3225
Visit us at www.newarmls.com

 

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