Last week’s Real Estate Connect New York conference got me thinking about technology. I have said for years that my multiple listing service (MLS) is the best example of how to do technology well. My MLS helps level the playing field between big companies and smaller independent organizations — like mine!
We get many services that are bundled into one system for a small fee. We can do everything from building a comparative market analysis to figuring out how much it costs to own one home vs. another home.
NorthstarMLS serves more than 14,300 Realtors in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. The last numbers I saw (in 2013) showed that close to 70,000 properties a year are sold through the NorthstarMLS.
It isn’t free, but it costs less than $500 a year — and it takes the place of additional software and services I would need to pay for, not to mention the cloud-based storage for contracts and contacts.
The system has very little downtime and is a source of accurate data that I can present in visually compelling charts and graphs for presentations and blog posts. I always feel like I am on top of my market — and I know my market and can see significant trends through those same easy-to-create charts and graphs, sometimes months before the news media reports on them.
My home seller clients love the “book-a-showing” feature built into the system. Clients receive a text message notifying them of showings. The system also gathers feedback and keeps track of the number of showings. I can use that data to help determine when a price reduction might be in order.
Back in the old days we used to have to ask the front desk if the number of showings was up, down or average for the past week or month. Now I can get that information using a lot more data than the listings in one office to get the big picture with a couple of clicks of my mouse.
There is even a built-in widget I can use for displaying my listings on my Facebook business page.
My MLS provides a portal for homebuyer clients where they can store information about the houses I send them, mark their favorites and send me a message letting me know which houses they want to view this coming weekend.
Once the appointments are made, the address of each house is added to my calendar with one click. The calendar automatically synchronizes with my phone, and the addresses link to Google Maps.
When I get in my car, I can use my phone as a GPS and go from house to house using turn-by-turn directions, with all the showing instructions in my pocket. It all saves time and paper, and means I can work fewer hours and make more money.
While I am out with my buyers, I can use the MLS app on my tablet or smartphone, or I can use the browser on either device and access the MLS that way. We have augmented reality built into the app via HomeSpotter so that I can point my phone in any direction, and information with pictures of nearby homes for sale will appear on the screen.
You say you have a transaction room and electronic forms and electronic signature software? We have that all included in our MLS at no extra charge. Yes, it does work on a smartphone or an iPad. I wrote an entire offer using nothing but my phone and got it signed and sent to the listing agent.
Sometimes I see or read about remarkable new high-tech innovative products for real estate agents … but I don’t need them because I have something similar or even better through our MLS.
There are many agents who don’t use most of the features in our MLS, and there are some who never bothered to learn the basics. I fall into the the power-user category and am logged in most of the time.
For people like me, the MLS has taken the place of the real estate office. Almost everything I need is on the Internet or in the cloud. I don’t need a front desk to book showings, and I don’t need real estate forms or even to pay for electronic forms anymore.
I don’t need a copy machine or a lot of file cabinets. I don’t need to pay extra for software that will collect feedback on my listings and share it with home sellers. My office can be anywhere that I have Internet access, which is everywhere — and that means I can stay focused on my clients.
Could my MLS do more and do it better? Of course it could. But my MLS keeps improving, and there are other services (like Realtors Property Resource) that fill in for missing features.
There is constant innovation going on behind the scenes in our MLS offices. My MLS doesn’t come up with weird ideas and tell me it is the future, cram it down my throat and suggest that I change. My MLS works with me and integrates my ideas into the system.
This MLS is technology at its best because it helps me serve my clients and make money.
What has your MLS done for you lately?
Teresa Boardman is a Realtor for Saint Paul Home Realty in Minnesota. She also blogs at StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.
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