The MLS is a critical piece of technology. It is a powerful and essential data syndication channel and listing service. It is not however built to facilitate real-time conversations and networking with other agents, or generally help them market efficiently across all their online social channels. The MLS has a void. It is a community of agents who have no ability to network efficiently with each other in real-time. This has pushed agents into a myriad other networks and groups and started to fragment agent communities at a time when cohesion is needed more than ever.
What if Realtor Associations were to augment their MLS’s with a communications and networking service that runs alongside their MLS? What features should the new network offer to guarantee adoption and usage by their agent community? What would be the network’s Unique Selling Points (USP’s) for instance?
1. Mobile Business Networking vs Social Networking
Real estate agents do not need another social network. The new agent network should be a B2B (Business-to-Business) networking platform that takes inspiration from the social networks but does not try to clone them. Agents should be able to interact with each other through a real-time activity feed that showcases the most recent active listings and client needs versus a more traditional search focused experience like the MLS. Each post shared into the network should include live-chat style commenting (with push notifications to the mobile device) where agents can ask questions and leave feedback. Agents can then engage in a real-time conversations that the entire agent community can participate in.
Importantly, the new networking service should be delivered primarily from a native mobile app. Standard computer web browser access should also be provided but accessing the network on-the-go would be essential and the best way to do this is through a well designed native mobile app.
2. Off-MLS + On-MLS = More visibility of the market
Social networks and private networking groups have made off-MLS marketing simple and effective for many agents. For some, pre-marketing off the MLS is now an integral part of their marketing plan and is actively helping them sell their homes faster. (Inman.com, “Homes sell faster when marketed as coming soon first“).
Some MLS’s are introducing the Coming Soon status to encourage agents to market to a wider agent audience through the MLS. This does not however combat the use of social networks and other off-MLS marketing techniques. Many agents market off the MLS in social networks because they can build conversations with many agents and prospects in real-time, generating more buzz than they would normally receive through the MLS.
Combine this with the fact that the property is not in the MLS and therefore is not available to city tax officials and appraisers, and that the time-to-sale clock has not started, off-MLS marketing is very attractive to many clients and agents.
There is however a side to private and social networking that runs contrary to how the real estate industry has operated for over a century. Not every real estate agent is able to participate. Private networks and groups have become common place in a number of social and email networks. They often restrict access based on performance level, geographic coverage, total group numbers or even based on you committing to doing business with the administrator of the group. As with the MLS, any new networking service should be offered as a Realtor Association member benefit to ensure every agent can participate.
If off-MLS marketing is now so engrained in agent behavior for many, could the new agent network make the process more fair and equitable for everyone by offering its own off-MLS solution? What benefits would attract agents to this new network from their existing off-MLS channels?
- Off-MLS listings would be exposed to an entire agent community versus only a fraction today, thus significantly increasing the chance of finding multiple buyers.
- Agents could guarantee to their clients that they meet their fiduciary responsibility to expose their listings to the widest agent audience during both off-MLS and on-MLS marketing phases.
- The network could combine both off-MLS and on-MLS listings into a unified experience, giving agents far more visibility of the market than they have today.
- Agents would be able to instantly communicate in real-time with listing agents of on-MLS homes something the MLS does not offer.
- The network would be the only fully endorsed off-MLS marketplace by the Association and the listing agreement would reflect that. Within X-days from the listing agreement being signed, agents would need be post to EITHER the new agent network OR the MLS.
It would be unlikely that 100% of off-MLS listings would migrate into the network, but in time, a far higher percentage of active off-MLS listings would now be available to every agent and this can only be a good thing.
3. Time saving vs Time Consuming
The new network must be a time saver. Rapid data entry is a must. It should take less than 3-minutes to enter a post. Agents should be able to kickstart marketing to their agent community from the moment their client signs the listing agreement. It should be as simple as snapping a few pictures on their smartphone, entering some basic information, and post to every member of the community to see.
4. Marketing Needs vs Saved Search
The MLS will often allow you to save searches that prompt you when a property meets a certain criteria. The MLS essentially passively monitors the inventory. But when the MLS does not have all the inventory, an agent needs to reach out to their agent network to try to find that elusive Coming Soon. It generally is a lot of repetitive calls, texts and emails. The new networking service therefore should enable an agent to actively market a need to their community so they can unearth a hidden gem.
5. Notifications vs Emails
Real estate agents are often buried in email. The networking service therefore should use Notifications instead to alert agents of new and updated listings and needs. Additionally, agents should be able to tune their activity feed to properties and needs they are most interested in. Whether that be based on price or area, agents should be able to personalize their experience so they receive most relevant posts to them. Compared to traditional social networks that are generally a firehose of postings, a curated feed that is highly relevant would be very attractive to many agents and another unique selling point.
6. Social Network Marketing Assistant
Often agents will spend hours posting their off or on MLS listing to their social networks. They are forced to upload the same photos and descriptions across multiple channels. The new network should help real estate agents get their time back. Agents should be able to share professional listing webpages of their own posts into their favorite social networks and groups, and to clients and prospects by Text and Email. No more copying a link out of the MLS. Press the Share button and pick the channel they want to use.
7. Instantly Contactable
Today real estate agents keep a Rolodex or at least a Contacts List in their phones of agents they like to contact about off-MLS listings. Outside of that they generally find the contact number by logging into the MLS and then typing it in their phones. The new network should allow an agent to be contacted through a “Contact” button on their posts or through their Profile. One button to take the conversation private, instantly.
The timing is right
The MLS we have today was born when database technology had finally reached a point that it was able to a deliver a far superior experience to the real estate community and to clients than paper based listing books. We have now reached a new inflection point. Communications and social networking technologies can now deliver an experience that can significantly improve how real estate agents market to and communicate with each other.
Just as Realtor Associations recognized the need for a new electronic listings service, the timing is right to recognize that their community is craving a new way to collaborate. This is exactly why we created HipPocket. We want to transform real estate marketing and communication through real-time networking software that is tailored to the needs of today’s mobile agent workforce. We are on the side of the real estate agent and the community as a whole.
HipPocket for Associations is a turnkey solution for Realtor Associations who want to transform how their community works together.
For Associations who want to increase the efficiency and productivity of their members.
For Associations who want to create a unique agent-only environment that can give their members a competitive advantage over Zillow and Realtor.com.
For Associations who want to show their members that they have recognized that their day-to-day lives have changed dramatically and that they need new tools to help them be successful.
At a time when according to recent research commissioned by Inman.com where the vast majority of members of Associations do not feel membership is a choice, with many only paying to get access to the MLS, HipPocket can help reinvigorate what it means to be a member. HipPocket can bring a unique, member-only platform that introduces a whole new level of community cohesion. A network with such a compelling advantage to the agents that it can enhance the value in their minds of their Association membership.
I know for many Associations that any discussions of introducing a HipPocket powered agent network will take them out of their comfort zones. I encourage you to take the leap. Be progressive. Contact Us for a demo. Learn how we have created HipPocket to give the power back to the agent community and help us navigate and persuade your various committees that it’s time to give the community an upgrade.
Let’s partner. We can transform the entire industry, together.