The MLS system landscape and the MLS Vendor of the future.
A few thoughts about what I’ve been hearing and observing about the state of MLS systems and vendors
Flash’s dead, baby.
I’ve written about the problems and issues of some MLS vendors MLS platforms be written in Flash. and now this, Adobe announced they will no longer continue to develop a Flash version for mobile devices. So to me the debate ends here, MLS vendors who’s new versions rely upon Flash have two choices. Develop a separate HTML5 or equivalent version of their MLS system or create separate “native” versions of their MLS systems that run on mobile devices (iPhone, Droid, iPad, etc.). Either prospects are not great, but….
I’ve seen Discover MLS’ offering and now recently got a sneak peak at LPS’s REinsight new MLS system and was impressed (both are built using Flash). They not only look great, from a UI perspective, but there is some real innovation going on. One of things that struck me about LPS’s REinsight was the blending of the LPS public records data along with MLS data. This is great for creating all inclusive CMAs and other reports. Plus from a map search perspective you can see an MLS listing and also click on the property next to it (that might not be in the MLS database) and up pop public records data, which is super cool. One database, no need to exit out of the MLS system and log in to a separate app, the data is all on the same map/listing view.
I haven’t yet seen CoreLogic’s Fusion product (also developed in Flash) but I have to imagine an MLS system integrated with RealList data would be a hit. CoreLogic does have some hurdles, Tempo, doesn’t work on any browser except Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. And now Fusion won’t run on an iPad. Not anyone’s fault, who could have predicted the iPad’s popularity. But some MLS Vendors, like Solid Earth, appear to be heading to an “iPad first” strategy.
One argument I hear a lot from these MLS Vendors is that according to their analytics less than 2% of MLS subscribers are using iPad to access their current MLS systems. This is just whistling through the graveyard in my opinion.
The issues I talk about above really make for some interesting thoughts about the competitive landscape of MLS Vendors. I see a few scenarios.
Innovation. MLS Vendors who have MLS systems that run on multiple devices, won’t have to develop or mange multiple code bases. These MLS Vendors are free to leverage their develop resources towards other innovations instead of solving cross compatibility issues. A huge advantage as I see it.
Less choice. With the recent acquisition of Tarasoft by CoreLogic lowered the choices in MLS
systems vendors. And with CoreLogic still dominating the public records side (has anyone really canceled their RealList contract as RPR has suggested?) are they getting “to big to fail”? Put in another way, do MLS Providers want to have a single vendor control so much of their mission critical applications and data?
It seems the value proposition for other smaller (alternative?) MLS Vendors are starting to get more attractive.
1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
2. More innovation
3. More personal service.
Sounds good to me.
New Business Models
The reality is that its hard being a pimp. MLS system sales have always had a long sales cycle and with the down real estate market not many large/medium MLS Providers are in a hurry to go thru a conversion. So some MLS vendors are opting to start new business models. FBS comes to mind. MLS Providers are also branching out. Metrolist’s Marketplace comes to mind.
Focus is also becoming a big factor. I noticed this in two areas recently.
Welcome to the 3rd Party
I also see a big boon for 3rd Party Software developers in the future (hooray!) Managed and standardized databases and APIs are all in the near future. The aforementioned Marketplace is a perfect example of a new distribution model for real estate specific web apps to be sold. If MLS Providers and Vendors can successfully change the behavior of MLS members to look to buy these apps through a portal, and that portal is easily accessible through their MLS system, 3rd Party software companies stand to benefit immensely. Talk about “non-dues revenue”!
You are witnessing the rebirth of MLS Vendors
I see in 2012 MLS Vendors hammering out their strategy for the next NAR annual meeting Orlando. At that conference I think we are going to see a lot of new innovative stuff, not just from the product side but the re-invention of what it means to be an MLS Vendor going forward. I’m excited about the possibilities.