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Daily Real Estate News  |  November 17, 2009  |   Magic 8-Ball Can't Predict Future of MLS
Bob Bemis shook his Magic 8-Ball and placed it on the speakers’ podium, drawing laughs from a room filled with more than 1,000 conference-goers who attended the Future of the MLS panel discussion Friday.

Bemis, CEO of the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service, along with three other panelists, discussed what he sees on the horizon for MLS technology.

The 8-Ball provided comic relief as brokers and sales associates called for more accuracy and advancements in MLS information and data. Bemis said there will be an evolution of the MLS rather than a revolution, predicting that social interaction and information-sharing, commonly referred to as “Web 2.0,” will make its way into these systems.

“The MLS must help agents meet the [clients’] demand for data,” he said.

Additionally, Bemis proposed a new MLS business model that does away with membership as the driving force behind the service. Instead, he suggested that MLSs could offer a core-level of free information along with extra services available for purchase. In other words he recommended a for-profit system based not on the number of subscribers, but for professionals willing to pay for specific features and reliable information. For example, the core service, basic database storage with a simple listing input system and search capability could cost a few dollars per month, he said.

“If you wanted more modules, you choose the ones you want and subscribe as you need them. CMA, saved searches, prospecting, automated client e-mail notification, mapping, demographics, tax data, almost every other module of an MLS could be optional and billable,” Bemis added.

Panelist Jim Duncan of Nest Realty Group in Charlottesville, Va. concurred about the need for change. “The movement of free information—it’s nice, but good data might actually be something we have to pay for,” he said. Clients are looking everywhere for listings, including popular sites like Zillow, Trulia,, Craigslist, and Redfin. They want accurate information and data, Duncan said, and if MLSs do not keep up, they may no longer be considered the best and most comprehensive source of data in the future.

However, when panel moderator Michael Wurzer, CEO of FBS Data Systems in Fargo, N.D., asked audience members whether they believe the REALTORSŪ Property Resource, a database that will contain information on the country’s 147 million property parcels to be launched in the second quarter of 2010, will become a national MLS, few attendees raised their hands.

To be sure, the RPR is not designed to be a national MLS, and will carry no offers of cooperation and compensation. Its purpose is to provide NAR members with a single-source access for public record information concerning commercial, residential and vacant land, covering such areas as tax assessments, liens, zoning, and permits, and community demographics.

—Erica Christoffer, REALTORŪ magazine

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