About MLS Client Portals

by Victor Lund on January 10, 2017

For sale With mouseThis afternoon I was able to enjoy a delightful conversation between two very bright, very experienced real estate CEOs – Greg Robertson of W&R Studios – makers of CloudCMA and CloudStreams, and Michael Wurzer, CEO FBS Data Systems, makers of FlexMLS (America’s second largest MLS vendor).

The discussion centered on speed, design, delivery, among other things. It all went down on Twitter. If you love real estate technology – @gregrobertson and @mwurzer are must follows.

Bigger Considerations?

Stakeholders in the MLS client portal services are a combination of broker interests, agent interests, and by extension a consumer interest. I wonder what they think of listing alerts

Broker View

Brokers have a mixed bag of opinions about MLS client portals that push out listing alerts. Some brokers complain that it levels the playing field. It becomes a standard and agents use the MLS rather than broker solutions. Brokers also complain that they do not have access to the communications between the agent and the consumer, which they are responsible for supervising. Brokers do not even have access to the list of customers that their agents are working with! These portals also let agents leave brokerage companies and take all of their prospects with them. All in all, you can understand the argument. But the simple fact is that all MLS systems have client portals and it is a requirement of every MLS. You cannot have an MLS system without a client portal. End of conversation.

Agent View

Agents love the client portals. They have the flexibility to do highly specific and exotic searches that address the needs of their clients. They do not need to pay extra for the technology; it comes as part of their dues. The MLS is a safe and reliable storage place for customer records that does not get lost like a cell phone. They can also set up unlimited searches and customers. I know that one MLS vendor reported that they send over 100 Million emails to consumers each month out of the MLS system. Add all of the MLS systems up and you could easily estimate that the emails across the industry equal 200 Million or more. The MLS is a powerful consumer facing application (even in the absence of a consumer website like HAR.com). But most of all, agents love the client portal because they can switch companies and their customers are still registered to them.

Consumer View

Consumer interest in the MLS portal is a big unknown. WAV Group has not studied consumer satisfaction with the experience (yet). But I will take a stab at estimating their opinions; after all, I am a consumer too J

What consumers probably like:

  1. The MLS data sent from their agent is the good stuff – the information that insiders like REALTORS® have access to in their secret place.
  2. The MLS data is more accurate and timely than information found on websites.
  3. The MLS data is comprehensive. Even listings that are marked as “Do not display on IDX,” come through the MLS client portal.
  4. The MLS data is timely, delivered in real time if you like.

What consumers may not like:

  1. They usually need to contact an agent to get listing alerts. For the most part, the agent sets up the search and the consumer cannot add new searches or modify searches.
  2. They need to contact an agent to change the frequency of alerts. If a consumer has a broad search, they could get dozens of emails every day.
  3. They are mostly sent by email and often wind up in SPAM
  4. The layout of information looks pretty dated, unlike snazzy consumer websites they use – Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia, or Homes.com.

Thoughts for the future

There is a major mobile app adoption war going on right now, and the consumer is a target for the land grab. If you can get the consumer to load and engage in the mobile app – you have visibility into their behavior and are well positioned to steer that transaction. Every MLS vendor has a mobile solution now, either one that they developed or a partnership with someone like Homesnap, HomeSpotter, Goomzee, or whatever. Mobile apps that face the agent and provide a consumer app that is synchronized with the MLS in real time – the cats’ meow! Brokers and agents who are investing in custom mobile apps are not likely to win the race. They should use the MLS app and brand it.

MLS vendors should plot a path to open the client portal data to brokers via API. If a customer of the broker/agent moves across the MLS platforms to the broker or agent platforms, the experience should be seamless. The customer searches and relationship to their agent should be maintained. Customer record data and search data needs to be accessible by other applications as authorized by the broker and agent. Heck, this is important to simply aid in MLS system conversion.

As for Mr. Robertson and Mr. Wurzer – they are both winners and they make each other better – as do the contributions of everyone else who is developing in this space – they just weren’t on Twitter today.

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