The MLS of the future

[photopress:futurama_bender.jpg,thumb,alignright]Recently, the Center for Realtor Technology and Jim Duncan’s Real Central VA had blog posts on the desire to have MLSs’ add another column to their schema that indicated the broadband access status of a property. I think this is an idea whose time has been a long time coming. When I moved from my old home in Carnation to my new home in Issaquah, the new owner of my old house wanted to know everything I could tell him about the home’s local ISP (I believe he was a network engineer). Similarly, one of the major reasons I moved into my current home, was that it had bandwidth to spare (my ISP’s top of the line plan is currently 8 M download / 2 M upload speeds). In the Emerald City or the Bay Area, this information is probably second in importance only to the list price of a home or its location. Simply put, a home’s high speed internet capabilities is an increasingly important factor in your purchasing decision.

However, as long as the MLS DBA is mucking around with database schema and typing in ALTER TABLE Residential ADD Internet varchar(50) and other SQL DDL commands, why should we stop there? Here’s what I’d like to see when the MLS gets around to enhancing it’s database schema.

Use Links. Why not enhance school, local government, builder & utility information in the MLS to have both names and urls? When I move to a new home, usually the first thing I need to do is contact all the local utilities and let them know I’m in a new place. Having links to Puget Sound Energy, Issaquah School District, Specialized Homes, and King County Government in the MLS would save me time. Finding contact information and phone numbers is a much bigger pain than it should be at times.

Cell phone reception information. If you don’t have good cable or DSL internet access, knowing how strong Sprint’s or Clearwire’s signal is would be nice to know. I suspect real estate agents and other professionals that increasingly depend on wireless internet access would find this information very helpful.

More accurate and fewer errors. OK, I’ve complained about this before. Still, is it really too much to ask? If a property doesn’t geocode, somebody may not find it when they use a popular map based real estate search engine.

Embrace RETS. Enough said.

Richer media. OK, so the MLS allows you to upload 10 or 20 small photos (or whatever the number is). Why not allow larger photos, MP3 files, video files or PDF flyers? As broadband takes over the world, the stuff is a lot more practical. Although, the idea sounds nice in theory, I’m not sure agents are ready to hire professional audio engineers or videographers when many haven’t learned the value of high quality photography yet. I also think the MLS IT infrastructure isn’t ready for this kind of load (frankly if you can’t handle the bandwidth demands of digital photography, you should probably outsource to Amazon S3 or Flickr Pro before it’s too late), and it’s going to make life more a lot more interesting for us IDX vendors.

So, if you could change the MLS database, what would you like to add or change? What information do you wish was there, but isn’t? Is built green home information and information on low flow toilets something today’s home buyer wants to be able to search for? Do you think more information would pose an undue burden on agents or brokers (those MLS listing forms are one step removed from a tax return), or do you want more, more, more? What would you like IDX vendors to do differently, regardless if the MLS changes or not?