Clareity's 2011 NAR Mid-Year Meeting Report
The Next Best Thing to Being There!
Around the Trade Show
Best Booth – ZURPLE?
Yes, Zurple. A booth so enigmatic that it defied attendees to go up and see what in the world it was about. We still don't know what they do, but for a small booth it made a statement! Kind of.
Best Booth Babes
None. It's a sign of the economy.
From ifbyphone - inside-out political party transformer donkey puppet (reversible side is an elephant) wins the best booth SWAG this year!
$40 Egyptian cotton 1600 thread count sheets! I already washed ‘em and slept on them and they are fantastic – they feel better than $300+ Hotel Collection type sheets.
Best Party – Clareity Security and Instanet Solutions
Buffalo Billiards was raging as hundreds of mid-year attendees enjoyed an open bar and a great atmosphere to unwind after dinner on Thursday night. The Clareity and Instanet crews busted out the buffalo plaid as they welcomed customers, friends and industry colleagues. Guests enjoyed shooting pool and darts in the log cabin themed Adirondack Room which also features "the best shuffle board table in DC" according to those in the know! The pool tables were not the only place where folks were taking shots and we're certain there were a few side wagers and some spirited competition but everyone came out a winner at this event.
The SUPRA party at the Omni had the best music in DC this year – NightLife rocked this annual party and had guests dancing and shaking their groove thing. This band never fails to get people on their feet and having fun!
We also heard great things about the band at the MRIS / WAV party – Brian Carroll always rocks!
Most Active Technology Space
Tablets were huge. Instanet Solutions announced a no-cost version of Instanet Forms for both iPad and Android tablets. CRS data announced versions of their "PowerTool" lineup for iPad, Android - and soon for Blackberry. MLS vendors that are iPad compatible now were showing it and those that aren't were promising it soon!
If you haven't seen the new keyboard-case combo for tablets yet, check this one out from Kensington. It adds some weight and thickness, but makes typing much faster.
The Logitech tablet case / keyboard combinations are great too – and light. They really change how useful tablets can be!
Association Management System Update
Avectra was on the floor showing off their netFORUM association management system. RAMCO didn't need to buy a booth to show their progress - they had several official NAR sessions to do so! It's good to see the association management space heat up.
People on the Move
Congratulations to everyone in their new positions and to those that retired, too!
CMLS Workshop Meeting
The Council of MLSs held its first workshop on Tuesday, the day prior to the NAR meetings being in full swing. The focus of the meeting was listing syndication and the growing challenge of managing the usage and accuracy of MLS listing data. CMLS invited MLSs, syndication companies, portals and other data publishers to participate. For a good summary of Syndication issues, please see Clareity Consulting's April 2011 whitepaper: http://www.callclareity.com/SyndicationToRealEstatePortals.pdf
Amy Geddes of Clareity Security and Shelley Specchio of Northern Nevada Regional MLS kicked off the session with an overview of a recent CMLS broker survey on listing syndication facilitated by Clareity Consulting. The broker survey results can be found here: http://councilofmls.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Council-of-MLS-2011-Syndication-Survey-Published.pdf
The survey showed brokers overwhelmingly support the MLS facilitating syndication, a growing level of concern over accuracy and use of MLS data and an expectation that MLS organizations police those activities. Greg Robertson of W&R Studios and Greg Manship of Intermountain MLS facilitated a panel made up of syndication companies, portals and publishers. There were many questions and concerns expressed about inaccurate data and changing business practices. There was overwhelming consensus from the publishers that MLS data is the most valuable and accurate source for information. Marilyn Wilson of WAV Group facilitated a session on "syndication solutions" which included an overview of various approaches on how to better manage the distribution and use of listing data. The session included companies providing API solutions that would eliminate or reduce the amount of data that is actually distributed. Also on the panel was Clareity Security's own Troy Rech providing an overview of SafeSyndication™, a product designed to help MLS organizations manage syndication and compliance within the existing data syndication infrastructure.
Expect to see and hear CMLS taking a more active leadership role in MLS policy decisions. Merri Jo Cowen, current president of CMLS reports that this will be the first of many CMLS workshops and meetings intended to provide more information, influence policy and establish best practices for the MLS industry.
Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee Meeting – the IDX Battle!
The IDX policy amended last November to allow real estate franchisors (Realogy, RE/MAX, Keller Williams, etc.) to index IDX listings to effectively create national listing sites was under attack by the leading independent brokers. Three broker networks, The Leading Real Estate companies of the World, The Realty Alliance, and HomeServices, Inc. had all stated strong opposition to this policy, written letters to NAR, and asked for the policy to be repealed.
Joe Horning, Chairman of the Realty Alliance, asked for the policy to be rescinded. He said that the franchisors bring nothing (no listings) and don't pay dues locally. This policy gives them an unfair advantage which they have no rights to since they are not even "participants" in the MLS. Bill Watson, Chairman of the Leadering Real Estate companies of the World added that IDX indexing should be repealed immediately and Robert Moline, president of HomeServices, said there were unintended consequences of this decision such as opening up the door for listings to be considered a commodity, or MLS to be a utility, that any non-participant could claim the right to access.
Mike Brody, VP of Keller Williams said that since the IDX policy was effective January 1, 2011, Keller Williams had acted in good faith and invested substantial time and money making technology changes. He added the members had ample opportunity to object to this policy before it passed and if it were changed now, so soon, it would disband trust in NAR. Alex Pirello, Chairman of Realogy, argued the policy is fair and its working because they index the listings nationally, but then link to the local sites for listing details, and show the listings in random order without regard to the company or brand. Alex stated we should form a work group to broaden the IDX indexing policy to include the broker networks, regional brokers, and anyone that belonged to more than one MLS.
After discussion and hearing from brokers on the floor, a motion to suspend, but not repeal, the policy was approved and a workgroup will look at (but not limited to) the following issues:
The workgroup was to report back to the MLS Policy committee in November. HOWEVER, NAR's Board of Directors may have made this all moot with an IDX decision of its own. See the section on the Directors below.
Laurie Janik, NAR's chief legal counsel, provided an update on the CIVIX mapping patent law suit. A group settlement for $7.5M was proposed that would cover MLS systems and virtually any third-party software (including agent/broker software) using maps that display points of interest in the real estate industry. CIVIX want to be paid within 90 days (wouldn't you?). MLSs are being encouraged to sign up early so the group can make it's first payment of $2.5M in 30 days. NAR will collect the money and make the payments. Many people expressed their concerns about the timeline and the rush to settlement, but others say it's worth it to settle and avoid the distraction, and of course the millions of dollars in legal fees needed to defend a patent lawsuit.
The NAR Director's Meeting
The directors voted to raise NAR's annual membership dues by $40.00 to $120/year. The NAR Action Center said that the "NAR Board of Directors votes to fund political survival initiative through $40 dues increase, beginning in 2012." A strong majority of the Board voted for the increase which was presented by former NAR president Cathy Whately.
Here is the IDX Decision straight from Realtor.org:
IDX change ... the directors voted to add an opt-in provision, effective 30 days from passage, to the "franchisor index and display" portion of the Internet Data Exchange (IDX) policy that the board adopted in November 2010. That provision gives franchisors the right to index and display listing data from their franchisees' IDX feeds on their national Web sites. ... The decision to add the opt-in centered on the directors' concerns about the availability of listing information to non-participants without brokerages' consent ...
For those MLSs using a syndication network such as ListHub or Point2, the technical change for opt-in shouldn't be a challenge. For brokers or MLSs syndicating on their own, they'll need to set up franchises as new channels or "publishers" and enable opt-in. For everyone, the new opt-in IDX twist for franchisor sites represents an educational challenge.
RPR has enrolled over 500,000 REALTORS® from more than 274 MLSs. While not all 500,000 are using the system yet, it's still an impressive accomplishment. And the broker tools and BPO Certification they have rolled out are innovative to boot.
MLS Software Update
On the tradeshow floor, it was MLS "business as usual" with vendors showing off their latest systems and features.
There were two "new" vendors in DC. Actually neither are brand new, but we felt it worth mentioning a couple of new potential choices in MLS software.
Discover MLS hasn't yet established a floor presence, but was seeking its first "real" MLS customer to add to its base of smaller MLSs that were part of CalREDD. Warren Andrich, Discover's sales leader, said they are willing to give a great deal for an MLS willing to give them a shot.
RealFocus - which has provided the MLS system for Knoxville for 10 years - got their first booth this year! The system made an impressive showing, with popular features like multi-tasking and cross-browser compatibility and innovative features - like being able to combine the results of multiple searches in a single result set (color coding the results by search) as well as some slick one-line report column manipulation features. While client collaboration and a few other features are still in-progress, we're going to keep our eyes on these folks as an up-and-comer!
Information Security Update
Well, that's it for this year. Thanks for reading the Clareity Mid-Year report!
2012 MLS Workshop Announced in Scottsdale, AZ – Mark Your Calendar
Please consider joining us in Scottsdale, Arizona March 1-2, 2012 for Clareity's 11th Annual MLS Executive Workshop. This MLS Workshop will provide timely updates and address the key issues facing MLS executives and leaders. For more information, please see www.callclareity.com/MLSworkshop/
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