February ended up being an unintentional hiatus from blog posting for me. Between the NAR VOW policy implementation deadline in the middle of the month, and a much-needed vacation to a warmer climate (which I scheduled before we knew the VOW implementation deadline), I found myself a little pressed for time. I’m back, now that March is here and spring is supposed to be springing (still only 18 degrees in Minneapolis this morning).

I thought I’d post today some of the topics that folks have talked with me about recently and ask readers’ feedback about which topics would be most interesting. I’m not promising that I’ll write them in order of popularity, or that I’ll write them at all, but it is nice to have a little feedback when making these decisions. Post your comments or questions below, or email me if you want to suggest something privately.

VOWs still pose many questions

I expect to continue posting on VOWs and adding content to our resource at www.VOWClearingHouse.com. Here are just some of the questions that need answering:

  1. Is it a myth that VOWs are the tools only of new-model, referral-only, no-skin-in-the-game brokers? (Short answer: yes, it is a myth)
  2. Is it a myth that MLSs can regulate the way VOWs use MLS data more strictly than the ways traditional brokers use the data? (Short answer: generally, yes, it is a myth, but with exceptions)
  3. Can one MLS become an AVP to deliver VOWs to the brokers participating in neighboring MLSs? (Short answer: Yes.) What else could the MLS do with the data under this scenario? (Short answer: Good question.)
  4. What does it take to form a consumer/broker relationship online? (Short answer: In many states, not much, but it varies quite a bit from state to state.)
  5. Who will form national VOW “roll-up”/”drill-down” sites? (Short answer: Could be anyone. Candidates I think are interesting include Realtor.com, national franchisors (Prudential is already there with a VOW and RE/MAX has a successful IDX roll-up), consortium of large MLSs, ListingBook, other media channels – maybe someone like Home and Garden Network?)
  6. How will MLSs enforce VOW policies? With rumors of the DOJ making threatening calls to MLSs over rather minor issues, what happens if an MLS has to cut of a broker or AVP from receiving VOW data?
  7. Should we use NAR’s sample/model VOW license agreement? (Short answer: Not without some modifications.)

Possible MLSTesseract topics for March

  1. Strategic training vs. strategic planning. Is there a way to avoid the biennial process where a consultant comes in and tells you what to do for the next two years and provides you a written report (sometimes failing to replace every instance of the name of the last client they provided it) that you dust off just before you begin the next strat planning session? Yes, train your leadership so that they think strategically at every board meeting.
  2. Broker value propositions. I’ve been thinking about how brokers as professionals are like and unlike lawyers as professionals. It’s a comparison probably neither profession wants me to make.
  3. MLS public web sites. We did a whitepaper on this topic last year with Kevin McQueen at Focus Forward Consulting. My focus this year: Telling brokers in markets that have or are considering MLS public web sites what they can do to measure the impact of the MLS sites on the brokers’ business.
  4. Including open house listings in IDX. Every open house on every broker’s IDX site – why this is easy to do and could deliver big value to brokers.
  5. MLS Bill of Rights. The Connecticut (almost) statewide MLS has offered up a document that outlines broker rights, what they should expect from MLSs. I think the document is a little too specific on some points and not specific enough on others, but it’s an interesting start to a discussion.
  6. How can the MLS use my listings? Related to the last topic, this one focuses on the limits of MLS power to use broker listings.
  7. MLS collaboration efforts. Mergers, MLS data shares, etc. – why does it take so long for these discussions to deliver value? Why are the discussions so painful?
  8. IDX collaborations. Related to the last topic, we’ve suggested that MLSs may deliver more value to brokers by embarking on more limited collaboration efforts. The effort of North Carolina MLSs to create a shared IDX program is a great example.
  9. Identifying foreclosures in MLS. This little thing is posing a big problem for some organizations.
  10. Public policy debates about public records. Most MLSs acquire public records data (tax and recorder records) from third-party suppliers. But all of them should be motivated to ensure that public records are readily available.
  11. MLS vendor selection. How cognitive biases result in bad decisions and how good decisions sometimes turn out badly.
  12. Agreements to provide MLS data to newspapers. Is the local newspaper really any different than other syndication channels?
  13. Agreements to provide access to MLS data for government officials/assessors/etc. There are special risks associated with making this available – but there are also opportunities. See March 12, 2009, post.
  14. MLSs providing AVM tools that brokers can embed in their IDX and VOW sites. Can “Bestimates” (broker estimates) can compete with Zestimates (Zillow estimates)?

Your feedback is welcome!

-Brian

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