Do your homework before switching MLS providers

by Victor Lund on March 11, 2011

It was March 29th, 2010. CalREDD, the for profit MLS division of the California Association of REALTORS had fallen on hard times. After getting a number of Associations to switch MLS providers and join their new MLS, they were putting out fires everywhere. On a good note, they had reported that REALTOR organizations representing 120,000 REALTORS had signed letters of intent to join CalREDD, but every installation was complex and ridden with issues. To review the state of affairs, check out this post here.

Since those early days, much has changed, and much has stayed the same. On a positive note, CalREDD merged with MRMLS led by CEO Art Carter to bolster the strength and experience of the MLS management team. The newly formed company called CRMLS or California Regional MLS seems to be moving along at a steady pace, leveraging the operational competency of MRMLS. They are no where close to the 120,000 members forecasted over a year ago – more like 25% of that count – but nevertheless they are making progress. They also are also far away from becoming a statewide MLS.

10 REALTOR baord continue to enjoy all of the rich features from DiscoverMLS, long gone is the noise of dissatisfaction that plagued CalREDD in their early days. The number and severity of the conversion problems has diminished. These things are never perfect and always painful, but at least there is not the presence of full on disaster like the Fresno conversion. The balance of MRMLS customers are still riding along on the Matrix system that was under contract before the merger.

Through WAV group strategic planning initiatives, we have come across some awesome stories about political pressure being placed on Associations to leave their MLS and join CRMLS. Sadly, it is quite evident that Associations are not doing the due diligence to clearly and fully understand the differences between their current MLS provider and their new MLS provider before joining the parade. Brokers have reported that conversions have been a rocky road too – which could have been averted with better planning. Whenever you switch MLS systems, change agent ID, broker IDs, and Office IDs you create a conversion nightmare. In one case, a client servicing portal called MLS Office that SoCal MLS offered as a member benefit was shut off for hundreds of agents as a result of the conversion. The agents were then advised that they would have to pay for the service or loose their contacts and contact history. Working closely with brokers and agents to understand the impact of change should be a keynote of conversion planning. Its hard and its expensive – but that is what the MLS customer expects from their service provider. Don’t let them down.

I can honestly assess that there is nothing wrong with any MLS service provider in Southern California. They each offer very good services to a very loyal group of satisfied agents and brokers. Be advised, moving to a different MLS system or provider does not sell more real estate. It creates confusion and disturbs the systems that agents rely on every day to be productive. But after the dust settles – it is back to business as usual. Everyone gets acclimated and life resumes its normal course. But here is my fear.

Associations seem to be choosing MLS service providers on cost rather than value. They are looking for the lowest wholesale price without consideration of the component services that make up the price. Moreover, there is little research on how important each service is to the agent and broker. Keeping the REALTOR in the center of the conversation about changing MLS providers is absolutely the responsibility of the MLS Board of Directors.

WAV Group would be happy to help out any association who is considering a switch. Other consulting firms provide the same services. Be sure to research rules comparisons, system comparisons, services comparisons, training comparisons, and especially help desk comparisons. Skilled consultants can also guide the conversion to insure that there is full transparency of the systems that will be impacted for each member. Perform a financial analysis and look carefully at the conversion costs. This is the practice of making informed decisions that responsibility represent the MLS constituents.

 

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