The current MLS model is based upon unsustainable membership numbers and needs to find a profit base.

Here are some rules for those of you travelling to real estate conferences. Whenever possible, choose those in the same time zone, the further south the better. The recent NAR Convention in San Diego is a prime example for those of us on Canada’s left coast.

Beware cab drivers from Eritrea. After landing at San Diego’s airport – no calming experience itself as you look up at high-rises over the wingtips – I had a crazy ride at mach 2 with a recent émigré from Eritrea. Eritrea? Look it up in the CIA Factbook at The ride reminded me of a trip to New York City, pirate cab from JFK to Manhattan, hotel limo back to JFK – because you only live once and my goal is not to exit this life as a passenger in any conveyance.

If possible, book a hotel with full free breakfasts and an open bar cocktail reception every evening. In San Diego that would be the Embassy Suites. No kidding – two hours of free booze, a full bar service, not just bad wine and thin beer – does it get any better?

Notes from the conference floor:

1. The Future of MLS – Good data doesn’t have to be free but the weak link in the data is the Realtor. The current MLS model is based upon unsustainable membership numbers and needs to find a profit base. It is time to untie compensation from MLS. (Translation – buyer agency, separate compensation.) This session caused a number of Canadians to retire to a great San Diego open air bar, Dirty Dicks, where after being over-served, it was easy to decide CREA should engage the enemy, being the Competition Bureau.

2. The Managed Real Estate Transaction – Are you presenting your buyer’s offer? What did you promise? The rules of most real estate boards provide the buyer’s agent the opportunity to present their offer to the seller in person (and vice versa for the counter offer by the seller’s broker) unless the seller has provided instructions to the contrary. It seems to me for half the money, no matter the amount, you should be doing a little more than faxing your offer to a stranger who doesn’t know the buyer. We scorn alternative business model companies for lack of service and yet frequently fall down in this fundamental premise of a full service brokerage.

3. David Knox had two sessions – one for managing brokers, one for sales associates. Two nuggets for managers – de-hire your pet rocks and start training online. And one for salespeople – stop getting listings by lying about the price you’ll try to get. Tell the truth.

4. The State of the U.S. Real Estate Industry – The extension of the first-time buyers’ credit will eventually cause inflationary and credit problems. The shadow inventory – houses more than one month in arrears but not yet in the foreclosure process – is huge and having an impact on closings and appraisals. The U.S. is only now exploring portable mortgages! We should be celebrating these historic low mortgage rates. Trillions of dollars in commercial real estate loans are coming due with lower values, lower loan-to-value ratios, higher rates and fewer lenders. Lookout!! Fifty-eight per cent of NAR members will retire in the next five to 10 years. There will be fewer, smaller real estate offices.

5. John Mayfield – The Real Estate Tech Guy ( introduced us to hundreds of innovative tools in the space of 90 minutes. Amazing. I logged into YELP (, looked at Picasa on Google, found out about Google Coupons and learned that YouTube is the second most used search engine in the world – but it’s not a search engine. Cool stuff. By the way, Yelp is where you might be reviewed (like a restaurant) as a Realtor – you should check it out.

6. Next Generation Brokerage was all about becoming the real estate office where 25 to 40-year-olds will want to work. My view is that age isn’t the problem. Wanting to work is the issue, and that hasn’t changed in 40 years.

7. Beyond the Listing Data looked like a great session, exploring other data in addition to housing data that consumers might want to see on your web site. It descended into hell for me the moment one of the presenters introduced himself as an Internet anthropologist and the next panelist opined, “You can create an algorithm around listing density.” Well – no, actually I can’t!

The latest in MLS access security blew me away. I thought my six-digit key fob code changing every 30 seconds was reasonably up to date until I watched a demonstration by Clareity Security. Now in use by at least one Canadian board, its gatekeeper technology recognizes the user by his or her keystrokes. And this only 25 years after 1984!

My last tip is, judge the convention finally by the names it attracts as keynote speakers. In Canada, we had Brent Butt and Rex Murphy – brilliant, but we had to attend two conferences in Banff, two years apart. Condoleeza Rice and Sugar Ray Leonard were at NAR. Sugar Ray Leonard brought the conference to a close very effectively with the story of his determination and success as a boxer. Put them in the ring and I figure Condoleeza would K.O. him in round one.

Marty Douglas plays Scrooge in a Christmas presentation by the CoVal Choristers (Photo: Ross Robinson)

Marty Douglas plays Scrooge in a Christmas presentation by the CoVal Choristers (Photo: Ross Robinson)

Marty Douglas is a managing broker for Coast Realty Group (Comox Valley) Ltd., managing two of 15 Coast Realty Group offices on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast of B.C.  He is a past chair of the Real Estate Errors and Omissions Corporation of B.C., the Real Estate Council of B.C., and the B.C. Real Estate Association, and is a current director of the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board. Email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

; 1-800-715-3999; Fax (250) 897-3933.

Posted: 2010-02-02 07:32:33

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