I find all the F.U.D. regarding opening up MLS data to be kind of overblown. Perhaps, it’s because I’ve been a software engineer my entire career, and the notion of technology changing business models and society at large seems anti-climatic to me. Perhaps, I have this attitude because my former employer, embraced the notion of “Only the Paranoid Survive“? Regardless of the root causes, the fact that the N.A.R., and other members of the real estate industry are so scared of the upcoming tidal-wave of technology changes just seems so short-sighted.
After all, during the past 100 years or so, the only constant has been change. So the fact that more technological change is coming, shouldn’t surprise anyone. I don’t remember the explosion of digital photography during the past decade cause anywhere near this much fuss, do you? What about the growth of photocopiers & other printing technologies during the last 40 years? Before computers, I’ve heard that people used to use a device called paper to exchange & store information, and the ability to manage these paper records efficiently was a key competitive advantage for many businesses. And yet, I can’t help but wonder if the MLS placed the same kinds of restrictions on printed property listings 30 years ago that they are trying to place on digital property listing today. Surely those all free real estate magazines at the grocery store are harming agents & brokers, by giving away valuable information for free?
I’d argue that associating digital photos with electronic MLS records on free web sites has done more to decrease the value that people place on a real estate agent, than anything I or other software engineers are going to invent during the next few years. Maybe the embrace of digital photography was just a way to get back at all those real estate magazine publishers?
Anyway, my advice would be to tell the powers that be to get over it. Things are changing: deal with it. Nobody thinks electricity is a competitive advantage anymore and in a few years from now, I suspect nobody will give the new generation of real estate web applications a second thought. I suspect very few realtors are afraid of the value that maids, handymen, and landscappers bring to the real estate industry but yet somehow software engineers & database administrators are out to destroy the industry. I can’t speak for all IT professionals, but I think it’s safe to say our area of expertise is NOT in the sale, finance, or purchase of properties (which should be the core competency of any real estate agent/broker). Similarly, it’s foolish for the real estate industry to think that they can job a better job of developing tools that let Joe & Jane Consumer search & browse listing data than software engineers. After all, if the engineers at Google can search 20 billion web pages in a fraction of second, processing the 20,000 properties in the MLS is sleepwalking by comparison.
On a related thought, how did people buy & sell homes in the “dark ages”? That seems more mind boggling to me than anything I or the folks at Zillow are going to be doing in the next year.
In closing, it’s not geeks with SQL Servers or even free web servers you should be scared of. It’s those real estate androids showing homes at a holodeck near you that should keep you up at night. That’s REALLY going to shake things up.