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February 21 2013

Is There A Future For Brokers And MLS? I Think So.

I recently read a post on the WAV Group Blog speaking about former broker Alain Pinel’s opinion editorial about future of MLS and common broker complaints. I felt compelled to share some of my opinion, and optimism, that with the right leadership both can prosper and coexist with less animosity.

People blog their ideas (OpEd) all the time but it doesn’t mean there is a problem.  That said, I believe with a clear vision and focus on execution, there’s plenty of opportunity to not only survive, but thrive both for brokers and MLS.  My “OpEd” would suggest instead that brokers and MLS redefine their relationship and MLS clearly define their business model.


MLS should be a technology company, and not a member organization.  Many spawned from member organizations, and are “stuck” in this dues-based revenue model.  The MLS should define itself as a technology company, and clearly separate from the member organizations who are typically shareholders.  The brokers and MLS shouldn’t play tug-o-war over listing data and instead brokers should look at MLS as a technology “buyers group”, a technology “service provider”, and a commercial “marketplace”.  All three should be separate business units (products).   Changing this relationship can allow both to work together to align goals to their respective customers, the agents, and prosper when their customers prosper.

Business Unit #1 (marketplace):

Think NASDAQ, Ebay, and add a retail buyer group (volume purchasing power).  The MLS business model should be both subscription-based and transactional.  Their core businesses should not be about data, but instead about the “marketplace”.  Everything should align with simplifying access to and integration with the “marketplace” and the objective should be aligned with agents’ to increase transactions.  MLS, like NASDAQ, should have minimum certification or education requirements for participants and have a reasonable base annual or monthly support  fee (like Costco).

MLS, like EBay, should charge a publishing fee to list something for sale in the marketplace, and a fixed fee for the back end transaction and compensation split.  Instead of a % of sale like Ebay, a fixed price transaction charge would be simpler.  This could be $50 publish, and $25/transaction for each party ($50 if buyer and seller agent).  Heck, title companies almost standardize $750/transaction nowadays so fees could be higher and potentially part of closing costs, but I’d lean to a small and easy to compute fee.  If 4+ million homes sold/year, and only $100 extra/transaction ($50 publish + ($25 + $25 close)) they instantly grew MLS market from it’s shrinking $500 million/year to $900 million.  The mistake I see most make is focusing on cutting costs or beating up vendors (their lifeblood), or trying to get commission revenue from vendors; they should instead focus on increasing revenue from customers.

By focusing instead on providing the “marketplace” and less about the data, you solve that resentment and bickering over who “owns” data.  The data is not the valuable asset, it’s the organized “marketplace”.  I fear too few MLS and brokers get this and while bickering over data, other entities are trying to move the marketplace away from them.  MLSs should actually reduce barriers for 3rd party integration because the more “buzz” promoted by others to use the “marketplace”, the more transactions run through it, and more money both agents and MLSs make.  Do you see NASDAQ restricting ticker quotes and bid/ask data?  Answer is “no” because they know the more people excited and educated about their customers’ products, the more transactions will process (why they track daily volume of stock buy/sell).  Everything they do is to attract companies to list with them (instead if NYSE), and drive as many transactions as possible.

Business Unit #2 (buyers group):

Think Groupon and Crowdsourcing.  MLS should have separate opt-in subscription business  where participants may join the MLS buyer’s group.  This is an opt-in group and likely requires research how retail buyers groups work.  The subscription covers expenses for MLS staff or consultants to “vet” products and services that may be considered, and offering incentives or guarantees to vendors on minimum purchase levels in order to earn tiered discounts in volume.  Instead of an App Store that offers very low value proposition to vendors (high upfront costs, no guarantees, small potential market [compared to 200 million+ with Apple and Google's and standard platform]), MLS should instead form “teams” that may opt in to negotiate volume discounts for purchases of products.

Almost like crowdsourcing, or Groupon, each “deal” can announce to subscribers the products being purchased and agents can join in to bring down the overall price.  Once price agreed, participants get that deal and pricing.  This solves the “leveling the playing field” argument by brokers because vendors can have tiered pricing plans based on units, so the largest brokers may get the biggest deals for their agents in sheer numbers, but for some tools by aligning with other brokers they further drive the costs down.

Another feature they could do is kick off a “private or invite only deal” where perhaps they rally only their agents to get in on a product purchase and secure their company a better deal than smaller companies.  They really should differentiate and compete by hiring the best people because they too should be focused on increasing transactions.  If their customers are successful, then they are successful.

Business Unit #3 (products and services):

MLS can be a provider or reseller of technology tools.  This should be considered completely separate from other business units.  The marketplace should just be the back end “exchange” and API, and the products and services division offers various approved client solutions, or purchase and resell 3rd party solutions.  The MLS front-end is one example product.

Similar to MRIS in Maryland (DC area), MLSs could also market their own products like market reports, etc.  MRIS even built a new business for their RBI product, and several progressive MLSs are selling their solutions to other MLSs.  To attract the best vendors for the “directory”, the MLS products should be treated as equal to other products and pay same fees to promote its products as the vendors it aims to attract.

Business Unit #4 (Advertising):

This is where the “App Store” fits in, but instead I’d recommend the MLS become an affiliate and earn different revenue share based on their participation.  They can either participate in affiliate relationship like, or charge for advertising, or both.  For example, if a product is one of many in a group then for every order the MLS generates, they earn 10% commission.  If the MLS promotes a product as the category featured solution, they could earn 15-20% commission.  If the MLS promotes an exclusive product for a category, they could earn 20-30% commission.

It’s completely fair to ask for affiliate commission if they indeed reduce a company’s acquisition costs.  If the company must generate orders themselves, then no commission is earned.  If the company wants to participate in a directory, it’s fair to ask for a listing charge (think Yellow Book), but the MLS should only expect a cut for revenues it drives to the company.  This aligns goals and incentives so the the MLS actually sells and not just lists, otherwise there is little value proposition to vendors.

There’s no reason not to provide a public-facing portal and collect advertising revenues or featured listing revenues, but this is shaky ground.  Brokers’ complaint on this is that the syndication of their listings reduces their expensive website’s traffic and SEO efforts.  I would analyze how solved this problem in Houston and the value far outweighs the issues.  Regardless, just in focusing business units above and tweaking the model, the MLS could more than double it’s market size (to over $1 billion/year) very quickly and not on the backs of the very companies they rely on.


I see MLSs and brokers have the right ideas on what they must do, but no one has laid out a clear road map to get there.  The first thing they must define are their business units (like above), eliminate the myopic focus on the data, and then work backwards with a tactical plan with milestones and dates to get there and track progress along the way.

I commend people like Michael Wurzer of FBS Systems for having the vision that the “front end of choice” will become an eventual truth.  The only mistake I see in the execution of the Spark Platform, for example, is the business model.  Currently it is confused for the app directory when in fact it should be the “exchange” or “marketplace” product.   MLSs should pay a hosting & support fee for this of possibly share in transaction revenue.

By redefining the relationship with brokers and agents, and focusing on the transactions and marketplace (prime asset), the MLS can significantly increase their revenue and support the vendors they rely on instead of the current cannibalization and price pressure on every contract renewal.  It’s not too late, but leadership, vision, and execution are required to get there.

May 10 2011

Nearly 40,000 MRED REALTORS In Chicago Area Go Mobile With Goomzee

Missoula, Montana – May 10th, 2011 – Continuing to expand its MLS footprint in the US real estate marketplace, Goomzee®, the most trusted provider of mobile technology solutions for real estate professionals, today announced it has agreed with Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED) to provide its product, Realty Connect®, to their customers and revolutionize how Chicago area home-buyers and sellers access real estate listing information on their mobile phones. Goomzee’s text message marketing and lead generating QR code technology will be provided as a member benefit to MRED’s nearly 40,000 members.

Goomzee’s Realty Connect helps connect buyers and sellers using mobile technologies and integrates with MLS data systems. Agents place signs or ads regarding a property for sale that prompts potential buyers to send a text message or scan a QR (Quick Response) graphic. Within seconds the buyer receives a response containing property information and pricing, and optionally photos. At the same time, the agent is notified of the buyer’s inquiry. Automated tools then help the agent screen and cultivate those leads to establish a relationship with the buyer.

Russ Bergeron, CEO of MRED, said, “One mission of MRED is to provide our customers with the best tools and information available in the industry. Providing consumers with access to real estate listing information while on-the-go has become mission critical to support our members’ success, and Goomzee’s mobile solutions will improve our brokers and agents’ productivity, professionalism, and relationships with buyers and sellers.”

“We are excited to be chosen by MRED and look forward to adding further value and efficiency to their customers,” states Goomzee CEO, Mike Sparr. “By offering consumers instant access to the information they need using text messages, QR codes, and the mobile Web, agents can promote their listings to more potential buyers, cement their position as the trusted source of local real estate information, and close more transactions.”

With the addition of MRED as an MLS partner, Goomzee’s MLS partnership user footprint in the United States now exceeds 175,000 agent users. Goomzee’s mobile technology tools are available to real estate professionals nationwide and the company currently supports agent customers in 48 states.

About Midwest Real Estate Data

MRED is the real estate data aggregator and distributor that provides the largest multiple listing service (by listing volume) to nearly 40,000 customers, with property information encompassing northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin and northwest Indiana. Learn more online by visiting

About Goomzee
Goomzee provides mobile technology tools that allow real estate agents to deliver property information to a buyer’s cell phone while they are standing at the property or on the go and helps convert more leads into sales. With the company’s industry-leading product suite, Realty Connect, Text Message and QR Code marketing, and Mobile Property Pages, are automatically generated and reusable. The suite also includes Mobile MLS and Branded Mobile IDX features. Goomzee’s products seamlessly integrate with MLS property listing databases to provide accurate, relevant information for the real estate professional and their clients. To learn more, visit us online at or contact us toll free at (877) 324-1796.

May 05 2010

Goomzee Connects With More MLS’s in Texas, Oregon and Illinois

Missoula, Montana – May 05, 2010 – Home buyers in Illinois, Oregon, and Texas will soon be able to receive for-sale home information, pricing, and photos, sent directly to their phone using text messaging (SMS) thanks to Goomzee.  Peoria Area Association of Realtors® (PAAR), Willamette Valley MLS (WVMLS), and Temple-Belton Board of Realtors (TBBOR) recently joined the growing number of REALTOR® associations, multiple listing services (MLS), brokerages and real estate agents connecting with Montana’s Goomzee, a nationwide text message marketing solution provider for real estate professionals.

Goomzee’s real estate text message marketing solution, Realty Connect®, helps connect buyers and sellers using mobile technology and integration with MLS data systems.  Real estate professionals place signs or ads prompting homebuyers to send a text message with a unique property code to receive for-sale property information.  Potential buyers just have to send the property code as a text message to 44133 and within seconds they receive for-sale information, and optionally photos, on their cell phone.  The real estate agent is alerted, and may connect with buyers in real time, providing timely follow up.

“This is an essential tool for today’s real estate professional.  Goomzee’s technology allows agents to reach the growing population of consumers who rely on their mobile phone to access information anytime, anywhere,” says Mike Sparr, Goomzee’s CEO.

Jay Gordon, CEO of the Willamette Valley MLS, says “Our goal is to provide Realtors with the best tools and information available in the industry. We are very happy to create a relationship with Goomzee that will improve our members’ productivity, professionalism, and relationships with buyers and sellers.”

An increasing number of Americans look to their cellular phones for instant access to information.  According to the International Association of Wireless Telecommunications, also known as CTIA®, there are 285.6 million US mobile phone subscribers, representing 91% of Americans.

Text messaging has rapidly become one of the most commonly-used features on mobile phones.  Wireless carriers have reported that over 1.5 trillion text messages were delivered in the U.S. in 2009 and average monthly messages per subscriber was 357.  Cellular text communication has surpassed voice calls since November 2007.  Once a technology primarily for chatting amongst friends, text messaging is now the preferred source for instant information.  With Goomzee’s text message marketing service, Realty Connect, real estate professionals have yet another arrow in their quiver to reach America’s home buyers.

About Peoria Area Association of Realtors

The Peoria Area Association of REALTORS® serves over 1,000 REALTOR® members and 145 Affiliates. The PAAR Mission is “To be recognized by the public and our peers as an Association dedicated to equal opportunity in housing, to the protection of private property rights and to high ethical standards of professional conduct; to provide an opportunity for a productive life in sales by providing the education and resources necessary for growth, keeping alive the American Dream.”

About Willamette Valley Multiple Listing Service

Located in Salem, OR, the Willamette Valley Multiple Listing Service is a member-owned cooperative MLS, serving the Mid-Willamette Valley since 1949.  The WVMLS mission is to provide the highest quality, preferred real estate products and services the industry has to offer, maintain and encourage a high level of member cooperation and professionalism, and expedite real estate transactions by providing accurate and timely information and services for the benefit of our membership and the public.

About Temple-Belton Board of Realtors

The Temple-Belton Board of REALTORS® is based in Temple, TX.  The TBBOR mission is to provide support and resources in an effort to build, maintain and educate our membership to establish and promote a professional, ethical business atmosphere in which the membership can properly serve the public.

About Goomzee

Goomzee Corporation provides a mobile marketing technology platform that connects buyers and sellers at the point-of-interest.  Goomzee’s flagship product, Realty Connect, and Mobile Virtual Tours, specifically assists real estate professionals to win more listings, acquire more leads and close more sales.  The Company was established in 2003 offering hosted online storefronts to small businesses as well as consulting for some of the world’s largest companies and brands.  Goomzee is an industry leader in text message marketing and continues to innovate from a client first perspective.  We connect buyers and sellers at the point-of-interest.  To learn more, visit us online at or contact us at (877) 324-1796 (toll free).

September 30 2009

Goomzee Releases MLS Survey Report

Missoula, MT – Goomzee Corporation, a national leader in mobile marketing solutions for real estate professionals, today released a white paper on multiple listing services, and their respective platform vendors, across the United States.  When analyzing the vendor distribution by MLS accounts, one might determine the ranking and market share of each vendor but upon further investigation, some interesting findings were revealed.  Download here.

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