Broker Public Portal with Homesnap may well become one of the most successful industry-led initiatives in the history of our business. While we’re approaching more than 1 million real estate agents with access to this concept, real success won’t come until every MLS understands why they need to support this movement and take action.
The First Meeting
In mid-2014, there was a pivotal meeting at a boutique hotel in Washington, D.C. Robert Moline, then chairman of The Realty Alliance, and I met with a group of brokers who served on various MLS boards, along with some MLS staff members.
Their pitch: MLSs and brokers could work together to help lessen broker frustration with websites that advertised properties for sale by creating a consumer-friendly option. Hearing that MLSs wanted to work with brokers was a real draw, and brokers wanted a breakthrough on their portal frustrations.
Before the Beginning
In early 2011, the brokerage industry conjoined to discuss data management frustrations for the first time. That was the origin of Upstream. But this meeting led to other discussions among this broad base of broker networks and brands, as most brokers were struggling with the same issues. They all discovered that proprietary approaches weren’t effective. It was clear that industry-wide efforts were needed on multiple fronts.
A second source of frustration for many brokers came from their relationship with MLSs. In 2013, The Realty Alliance shared its list of items that might cause friction between brokers and their MLS(s). Fortunately, soon after we presented that list, many MLSs reached out to their brokers and progress was made, so the project addressing MLSs was shelved.
Additionally, the business practices of many popular real estate portals were contributing to broker angst. Brokers and MLSs believed that consumers were being confused. Industry practitioners were also put in a position to look bad to the public because of these business practices.
“Bill of Rights” for Display
Our broad-based group of broker representatives created a “Bill of Rights” for real estate advertising. MLS leaders were brought in to help finish the document. Today, it’s called the “Fair Display Guidelines.” They were developed for all public-facing websites, including MLS-operated ones, not just portals.
Brokers also began talking about increasing competition and consumer choice in the marketplace by creating a new, additional portal option. Within our multi-brand coalition, we first started down this path with a project of our own called “Sparta.” But after the meeting about BPP, we decided to follow the BPP path instead and work with MLSs. The selection of the mobile-first vendor Homesnap, with their fantastic app that met our Fair Display Guidelines, gave many brokers hope that the project had the potential to be a viable addition to the marketplace. Even fundraising turned out to be much easier than anticipated in the early days.
The Last Mile
I’m optimistic the BPP will get the full support of the industry, but I’d like to see more of a sense of urgency, as well as commitments from markets that haven’t been as involved or launched. Every broker and agent should ask their MLS: Do we have BPP with Homesnap?
With millions of leads coming to brokers from BPP, this might prove to be the best dollar everyone spends each month.
Craig Cheatham is president and CEO of The Realty Alliance, an invitation-only network of the largest full-service real estate firms in North America comprising more than 130,000 agents. For more information, please visit www.brokerpublicportal.com or www.homesnap.com/bpp.