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Internet Strategies by Saul Klein

RISMEDIA, January 23, 2009-If you believe that distribution trumps destination at this stage of the evolution of real estate on the Web, and that the distribution of listing information to many consumer-accessible and trafficked websites is far more important than listing information appearing on any single website, then it is difficult to question the value of a well-run, public-facing MLS website.

Seekers of real estate information will emulate water, taking the path of least resistance to find what they are looking for. The easier it is to find, the greater chance that it will be found. Listing data will also emulate water, finding its way to many destinations on the Web, through a number of different sources. It is already happening and will continue to happen.

Can MLSs facilitate this phenomenon while building a valuable asset for the MLS and its subscribers and participants, and serve as a valuable service for buyers and sellers? While the jury is still out, indications are, the answer is yes…absolutely.

It is in a broker’s best interest that their listings can be easily found on the Web. The best way to ensure that they will be easily found is to put them in as many places as possible. A public-facing MLS website is one more place, with many obvious benefits, not the least of which is information control and consistency.

It is in the home buyer’s best interest that listing information be easily and conveniently found on the Web.

And, it is in the seller’s best interest that their home be found by as many potential buyers as possible.

With the above points in mind, why not add one more place for listing information to be found on the Web-a public-facing MLS website?

Now the questions (feel free to submit answers):

-Why not also publish that information on a website controlled by the MLS?
-What is the downside?
-What is the upside?
-Does it truly provide brokers a competitive advantage to display their listings only on their websites?

Some brokers insist that a public-facing MLS website competes directly with broker sites. Bob Hale, president and CEO of the Houston Association of Realtors, would argue emphatically-with statistics to back up his position-that brokers and agents benefit when an MLS has a strong, public-facing website, with leads being generated and provided directly to the listing agent with no intermediary.

MRIS, (located in the Washington, D.C., metro area) another major MLS with a newly launched public-facing website, seems to agree. As a matter of fact, at least 400 of the MLSs in the U.S. have created a public website with listing displays for consumers. While the debate may not soon subside, the trend of MLS public-facing sites will likely accelerate forward as more MLSs seek new ways to drive value to their members.

Saul Klein is CEO of InternetCrusade and Point2 Technologies Inc.

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