Brokerages and associations aren’t the only groups in organized real estate that have been changing up the status quo in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Multiple listing systems have had to step up their offerings as well.
Denee Evans, CEO of the trade group Council of Multiple Listing Services, noted that now is a critical moment for MLSs as they seek to maintain their position as the gold standard for information in residential real estate. “The changes I’m seeing are super exciting; I’m seeing MLSs evolve and innovate to support members in this new reality,” she said. While some of these technologies were already being used by agents and organizations, the pandemic has put the trend into high gear. “This is the fast-forward button.”
That’s been the case for Midwest Real Estate Data LLC. While they’ve had a page dedicated to COVID-19 news since March 16, MRED launched a digital toolkit Tuesday to gather educational opportunities, resources, deals on offer to subscribers from a variety of vendors and weekly market data.
MRED also reported a 40% increase in participation in online training in recent weeks and is offering several classes a day on average. The MLS recently added a course on DocuSign, a three-month free trial of which is being offered to all members of the National Association of Realtors who sign up before April 30.
“Knowing that many practitioners would be repurposing time toward training, MRED doubled the number of online classes it offers,” said Jon Broadbooks, chief communications officer for MRED. “If the market is proving to be a challenge, many of our customers are seeing this turmoil as an opportunity to hone skills which will make them more competitive.”
Since many subscribers aren’t able to head into their offices at this time, MRED is also doubling down on online tools. Company representatives noted that those who use DocuSign and Dotloop for transaction management will find the programs have been integrated into the back end of connectMLS, which makes it easier to add new transactions and contracts and automatically send forms from the MLS. MRED is also using their toolkit to connect subscribers with tips on how to showcase listings virtually via Homesnap, Remine and ShowingTime.
Victor Lund, founding partner of MLS consulting firm WAV Group, said that a lot of MLSs have “very quickly” created ways for buyers to experience virtual showings. He noted that these efforts often have to be coordinated with services like Zillow, which typically strips URLs out of listings. “It shows how incredibly talented our MLSs are at not only trying to figure out how they’re going to operate but to deliver solutions for agents to show and sell homes,” Lund said.
WAV Group published a blog post highlighting suggestions made at a recent CMLS meeting. The Realty Alliance, an association made up of some of the top nation’s largest real estate firms, proposed a list of 18 recommendations for MLSs to examine, including reconsidering listing rules around the days-on-market figure and reducing or waiving fees and penalties. “We thought the list would be helpful to get out as a good conversation starter,” Lund said.
Here in Chicagoland, MRED did decide to temporarily waive fees associated with the rule requiring showings within 72 hours for the duration of the stay-at-home order, with the recognition that it could take longer to arrange a showing during the pandemic. Also, the time a property spends in TEMP status (meaning it cannot be shown) will no longer be counted toward total market time, though it will accrue in total listing time.
Prior to the outbreak, CMLS’ Evans said MLSs were preparing to hold meetings with brokerages across the country to spread the word about the upcoming pocket listings rule implemented by NAR. Instead of visiting offices, they’re now connecting with real estate folks through virtual meetings, a workaround necessary for the industry that clearly goes beyond agents showing houses. Evans said she believes that many of the changes MLSs, and society in general, are making now are likely to become the new standard for the industry.
Timothy Inklebarger contributed to this report.