The following comes from George Percel, a Florida broker and former association/MLS manager. I offered to share it with MLSTesseract readers. (I added the links to his text. Like all posts of this kind, views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of our companies or our clients.) I’m very interested in hearing from folks with contrasting views, so if you don’t have your own blog but want a comment posted here, please feel free to email me. For example, see a comment I posted earlier today on another MLSTesseract post. Of course, it’s easier for me if you just post your comment here on the blog – there is an anonymous post option.

Hi Brian,

I respect Mike Audet’s opinion very much and I just read through John Rees’ very thorough check list. I also watched for the second time Mona Steen’s video demo on the RPR website. The first opinion is: It’s an MLS on steroids. Actually I like very much the slick, professional and comprehensive body of work. However, being a lowly Broker in the backwaters of the Everglades, I wonder how this is going change the world of real estate as we know it.

MLS has always been, and remains today the most valuable service the LOCAL Realtor Board/Association can provide to its members. The explosion of the Information Super Highway on the scene, and the inherent savings of Internet connectivity (no more long distance calls to log into the MLS), allowed for local MLSs to band together to achieve an Economy of Scale. We were told to entertain the idea of merging with adjacent, and some not so adjacent, MLSs into one regional MLS to save Subscribers money. In view of the fact that 90% of Realtors make 90% of their sales within a 25 mile radius of their home base, this, in my opinion, makes the argument in favor of Regional MLSs imperfect. Now we have Super Regionals and State-wide MLSs, or at least State-wide “data sharing”. Most Realtors do not need nor can they absorb all this information. In fact, most do not use more than about 10% of the capabilities that most MLSs offer. RPR’s apparent ease of use, breadth of information and packaging may change this.

At this point, not being familiar with the business proposition of RPR, I wonder how did we get to the prospect of allowing non-Participants to “propagate” MLS data (or its derivatives), when Participants, the actual owners of the data, can’t. I think it might be wise for the Brokers to ask themselves some of the questions John proposes before they allow their listings to be entered into any MLS. The MLS’s function is simply to make other Participants aware of a listing and the details about the property, while making a unilateral offer of compensation to another Participant who brings a ready, willing and able buyer who closes. In my office 99% of the offers come from local Realtors.

The display or advertising of listing information should be left to the Brokers. We have a very wide distribution of our listings on the Internet. The benefits should be evident; however we are not selling more of our own listings. The Internet aggregation of active listings appears to be mostly beneficial to the aggregators. It appears that by merely throwing a switch RPR could be easily morph into a public website as well. Many MLSs in the early stages of the game set up a public website where most of the active listings were displayed. Many decided that the same information about the listing would be made available online that is given to a consumer who walks into a Broker’s office. Reasonable. In many instances there is enough information on public sites to write a reasonably well informed offer on a property. Now the dilemma: will the listing Broker refuse to compensate the non-Participant Broker who brings an acceptable offer? In most cases, of course not. RPR will in actuality make one of the fundamental principles of the MLS: the offer of compensation to only Participants a moot point. Or, will there be universal offer of compensation. What about non-Realtor Brokers? Are we looking at a new DOJ drama?

Within a virtual minute the business of “Internet Display” of active MLS data was seized by uncontrollable zeal. Today, I dare say that a lot of that information is scraped and used by those (like moving companies) who can profit from access to the data. (Do you remember having to properly dispose of unused MLS books?) Recently and NAR decided that historical or off-market data should be displayed on the Internet. This of course helps the AVMs become a little more reliable and debilitates another service offering by the Realtor (CMAs/BPOs). We all know the timeliness and reliability of getting sold information through “official” tax data. So, for the purveyors of AVMs – advantage. RPR attempts to trump this by making the RVM available to Realtors only as a service offering. Will a version of the RVM be available to the consumer on the public version of the site? Maybe for a fee? Oh, I’m getting carried away.

The Internet has changed our business landscape on a scale that many Realtors are still unable to embrace. While NAR has gathered a very competent and experienced group of individuals to lead this venture, I think we are babes in the wilderness entering an arena strewn with unforeseen challenges. We are now going to attempt to compete with people with a ferocious commitment to exploiting the application and sale of “information”. As an Organization are we going to be able to respond with the required velocity to the dynamics of the information industry evolving at breakneck speed? I fear that that if we continue to attempt to embark on ventures which are beyond our scope, resources and ability to control, we will certainly become a weaker entity.

The bottom line is that I want my MLS to provide reliable, timely data to the Associates so that they can do business within their market place. I want the Local, State and National Association to focus on making sure that we can continue doing business unencumbered by regulators. I recognize the possibility of “outsiders” creating a similar platform. I am more concerned about the prospect of how the local Association will cope with the loss of revenue currently provided by their MLS. (Brokers could upload their listings to RPR through the RETS Client. That would create significant savings for Realtors – no more MLS fees.) Will RPR share some of the $60 million of the projected revenue with the local Associations/Boards? I do not want the Realtor Organization to get in the middle of the business cycle if it is going to raise the cost of doing business.

Best Wishes,

George A. Percel
Managing Broker
Prudential Florida Realty
Marco Island