- MLS consolidation is best for home buyers, sellers, agents, and MLSs
- FHAAR’s excuses to decline our invitation to join the Central Texas MLS don’t withstand scrutiny
- The Fort Hood Area Association of Realtors’ brokers should vote to join the CTXMLS
At 9 AM, February 15th, the Fort Hood Area Association of Realtors began a brokers meeting to listen about and prepare to vote on whether or not to merge the FHAAR MLS into the Central Texas MLS (CTXMLS). Electronic voting for brokers will open later today.
FHAAR should vote “yes”. Here’s why.
- It is better for buyers.
- It is better for sellers.
- It is better for agents.
- It is better for the MLS.
What is the CTXMLS?
The CTXMLS is a recent effort to create a large, regional MLS system in Central Texas. The founding boards included Temple/Belton, Williamson County, and Four Rivers (New Braunfels area). Victoria, TX has also recently joined. Fort Hood would be the fifth member. Other surrounding boards like Waco, Highland Lakes and Bryan/College Station have been approached about joining as well (some look more likely to join than others).
Under this system, all the boards will have the same MLS system. It will be a Matrix system like the one Austin currently has, and is already up and running. TBBOR MLS only members from Fort Hood are now members of the CTXMLS. Fort Hood was transitioning to Matrix later this year, anyway, so we would have all been on the same platform regardless of whether we join the CTXMLS.
Unlike other consolidated MLSs where larger boards get proportionally larger representation, CTXMLS members get two members on the board of governors from each member association. This helps protect smaller boards’ interests on the MLS.
This is an amazing opportunity for Fort Hood Realtors to dramatically improve our own quality of life and, more importantly, the services offered to our clients.
Better for Buyers
Stop using Realtor.com
You send your buyer listings, put them on an automatic listing cart, but they ask about…
…a listing on Realtor.com you’ve never heard of!
You can’t find it on the MLS, and have to search realtor.com, a third party website. Sure enough, the listing is with TBBOR or ABOR. Realtor.com has better information that our own local MLS. Embarrassing. Why do your buyers need you?
By combining the Williamson County, Temple/Belton and Fort Hood areas, the vast majority of agents in our area will have their listings on the same system, so we and our buyers have visibility on what is actually available and are never embarrassed again.
Make Your Website Great Again
You have your IDX feed set up on your website, syndicating and updating straight from FHAAR. You have a page for White Rock Estates, showing all the listings in the neighborhood….
…except that darn TBBOR listing again!
Your website is inaccurate and incomplete. Zillow is probably a better website than yours. How are we supposed to compete with bad data?
With CTXMLS, there are no issues managing multiple IDX feeds and memberships just to keep your website accurate. Your website can be trusted by your visitors, with better and more accurate results than the major portals.
Better for Sellers
Do you search the TBBOR and ABOR MLS every time you do a CMA for a seller, looking for rogue comparable sales?
I’m guessing not. (I don’t)
What comparable sales are we missing? How is that serving our sellers? Worse, what about when the appraiser asks for comps, and you can’t justify the contract price because you’re missing recent sales that might do the trick?
We usually only use 4 comparables to value a home. Missing just one can screw your seller or buyer out of $1000s with an errant price estimate or a low appraisal. Don’t miss comparable sales when preparing your CMAs/BPOs for sellers, buyers or appraisers.
How many of you have buyers who work on Fort Hood but want Belton ISD? How many buyers work in Georgetown but are priced out, looking for affordable, spacious living in Killeen?
These areas are part of our market, and our sellers are not getting that exposure (unless you are inputting your listings into 3, 4 or more MLSes). Getting sold is all about exposure. Our MLS alone is not enough to serve our sellers well.
With CTXMLS, you can serve your seller clients by getting their home the exposure their home needs in Temple/Belton and Williamson County. The Central Texas area is growing and becoming more interconnected. It isn’t many markets anymore but one. It’s time for our MLS to reflect that.
Better for Realtors
Pay Dues Once
How many MLSes are you a member of now? Three? Five? Seven? How many times do you have to enter the same listing data? Every time you update or close it out? How many times do you get fined for the same mistake?
How much does it cost to keep those memberships current? How much does it cost your agents? Are they short changing their sellers’ listing exposure to save a few bucks on MLS subscriptions?
CTXMLS probably won’t consolidate all your MLS memberships into just one (at least, not yet), but it will reduce your work and costs. For many agents, it may be the only MLS they need, covering the Fort Hood market, Temple/Belton and Williamson County, where before there was three of everything.
Better Market Knowledge
How many homes sold in Killeen in 2016?
I don’t know.
Our data is incomplete and leaves out vital information stored on neighboring MLSes. As a Fort Hood agent, I can’t trust my own MLS’s numbers, knowing that it is only a partial picture of what is going on in our area.
“How’s the market?” they ask you? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
CTXMLS gives us more, user friendly information – improving our access to information, knowledge and understanding of what is going on in our market.
Better for the MLS
Innovation and Technology
FHAAR has few resources for improving our technology. Our membership is too small to take advantage of economies of scale, like vendor discounts from Corelogic.
When divided across many MLSes, new technologies have to be purchased separately at retail. Our options are limited to third party vendors. FHAAR has a negligible budget for innovation. Basic technologies like an MLS consumer app are AWOL.
CTXMLS will immediately offer a better deal with Corelogic on our MLS service, and opportunities for even better deals as other associations join and/or our membership grows. Savings can go toward lowering fees or developing technologies to help our MLS and brokers compete in the future.
Built for the Future
What is the MLS? A real estate portal for brokers to advertise listings for sale to other agents?
It is a data company. Our data is our asset. We sell it to Realtors® in exchange for dues. Without it we are worthless. In the imminent age of AI, data is going to be the oil machines run on. Right now, our data is not good. Incorrect subdivisions, home features, acreage, closing costs…..
A consolidated MLS will have more resources to verify, validate and improve our data and data entry. Our data is our product. Our aim should always be “better” data and “more” data. CTXMLS is a major step toward improving our core product.
Who doesn’t want consolidation?
Zillow (and other online industry disruptors and Goliaths).
Zillow is actively working to replace the 700+ MLSes in America with a single portal, controlling the information and the data. FHAAR, with it’s staff of three, isn’t able to take on Zillow by itself. Zillow spends over $100M per year on new technology designed to increase it’s control of the real estate sphere.
Don’t believe me? Check out these articles:
- Zillow Buys the MLS of the Hamptons
- Zillow Acquires Retsly
- Zillow Group Acquires Bridge Interactive
- Zillow Makes a Formal Pledge Not to be a Brokerage, MLS
“Brokers will never allow Zillow to replace the MLS”
I get it. You hate Zillow. But I’ll let you explain to your seller why their listing doesn’t show up in the #1 most visited real estate website in America. Meanwhile, I’ll be putting my listings in Zillow.
Brokers don’t have the power. Buyers and sellers do. If Zillow gives them better tools and buyer leads than we do, well then Zillow will take our business. We have the advantage now, but the MLS won’t be a monopoly much longer. Get ready to compete.
CTXMLS consolidates MLS power, giving us the best chance to fight back.
Common objections: Obliterated
1. We tried to do something with Temple / Belton and they declined us!
Besides, they haven’t declined us. They have invited us to their MLS. The CTXMLS. This is the opportunity before us. This is not the Kevin McQueen plan previously voted on. This is happening, with or without us. Whatever happened in the past is 100% irrelevant to the opportunity now, and frankly reeks of petty politics.
2. CTXMLS doesn’t know what they’re doing yet
There are a lot of important questions regarding logistics, yes. There are case studies of MLS consolidation back firing because of poor execution, and lessons that need to be diligently applied.
But we need to stop asking “how is it going to work?” and start asking “how are we going to make it work”. We need to stop waiting for perfect and start lending a hand to make it better for our clients and agents.
3. What about RPR, Data Coop and Realist?
What about our MLS? What is the point of having 3 or more different sources for information when the one we own can and should have that information?
Each of these services don’t have the full range of functionality. I can’t even search by subdivision in data coop.
These do nothing to help serve clients and solve our buyer’s and seller’s problems.
4. What about Upstream and Brokers Public Portal?
Upstream doesn’t exist yet. It will be years before it does. And it may not function as advertised.
And then, even if it does meet all the hype, it still won’t include many of the advantages of MLS consolidation, such as achieving the economies of scale and a consolidated technology budget capable of competing with Zillow and friends.
5. I don’t need to see listings in Victoria or New Braunfels.
Many agents and brokers in our area do have business in these areas. And your seller’s buyers might be coming from these areas.
And the larger the CTXMLS grows, the more we will benefit from economies of scale, lowering costs and improving the MLS service and technology.
You may not need it. But it doesn’t cost us anything – quite the opposite – to have these associations on board, too.
6. A regional MLS means other agents are going to compete here
A) What is keeping you from competing there?
B) You already have over 400 agents in our area competing with you now.
C) If your value proposition to buyers and sellers is that weak, then you are going to lose business to new agents and competition, anyway.
7. We lose control.
On Shark Tank®, the “sharks” are fond of saying “it’s better to have a little bit of a lot than a lot of a little”.
MLSs are changing. The status quo is not tenable in the long term. Consolidation is the way that we as brokers continue to have an ownership stake in a successful business instead of getting wiped out altogether by new third party technology, hostile takeovers or other unfavorable scenarios.
Yes we will lose control. But the CTXMLS configuration of two representatives per board gives us smaller associations a lot more influence in the long run than the structure of other consolidated MLSs. The terms of consolidation aren’t going to get any better than this.
8. It gets rid of one boundary, but just makes another.
This makes no sense.
There are no boundaries getting “created”. There are only fewer boundaries after consolidation.
9. I like it the way it is just fine.
“The way it is” is not an option. Not in the long run. Maybe it will last another 5 years, but change is coming.
The MLS has behaved like small, local monopolies, but the tech goliaths are at work challenging this model. Competition is coming. Consolidation one way or another is coming. Big MLSs are taking over smaller ones, and sometimes it’s a hostile takeover.
Our choice is whether this happens on our terms or on someone else’s.
I’m in! What Can I Do?
The brokers are voting. If you are a broker member of FHAAR, vote “yes”! If you are an agent, talk to your broker about how they are voting and let them know how you feel CTXMLS will benefit you and your clients. Talk to board members and directors who are shaping the direction of our association about how you feel.
Meanwhile, some reflection on how our association has handled this opportunity may be in order. The CTXMLS offered to conduct a town hall for the benefit of ALL members back in September of 2016. FHAAR declined. Nearly six months later and brokers finally getting that information, hours before being asked to vote on this opportunity. General member Realtors are still in the dark about the CTXMLS and details, allowing them exactly zero input on the decision or opportunity to discuss it with their brokers.
Our MLS Committee (on which I am now a member, representing my broker) should have been kept in the loop and pushing information about the CTXMLS to brokers and agents months ago, keeping our membership informed on the MLS trends happening in our backyard. Instead, agents like me who wanted to know more had to go to sources outside our association to get the latest news, and were then excoriated by our own board members and staff for doing so.
Unacceptable. We should demand more from FHAAR in the future.
It is indisputable. Joining the CTXMLS is:
- better for buyers.
- better for sellers.
- better for agents.
- better for the MLS.
We need to stop asking “how is this going to work?” and instead ask “how are we going to make it work?”.
We need to get on the boat and start rowing.
We need to stop waiting for someone to hand us something perfect and start working to make it perfect.
The train to the future is leaving the station. Fort Hood still has a small window of opportunity to get on board.
We need to join the CTXMLS today.