Amid pandemic-related uncertainties and ever-changing mandates, Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) stayed focused not only on its core services, but also on some strategic initiatives, reported CEO Tom Hurdelbrink during last month’s meetings for member-brokers. The meetings, held virtually, also included updates on the latest membership survey, MLS services and products, plus an overview of industry and legal issues.
As part of his membership and staffing update, Hurdelbrink noted the number of member firms (including branches) has grown 7.3% when comparing October 2019 (pre-pandemic) to October 2021. During the same two-year timeframe, the number of subscribing brokers jumped a surprising 12.4%, rising from 27,650 to 31,071 subscribers. Such growth pace is “not sustainable,” he suggested.
Northwest MLS is poised for growth and expansion, notably from discussions and partnerships with MLS organizations in several areas, including Central Washington, Walla Walla, Eastern Washington, and Southwestern Washington. “We have created some positive and productive relationships helping brokers across most of the state,” Hurdelbrink said, while acknowledging there have been a few challenges.
Hurdelbrink also discussed ongoing consolidation of multiple listing services, resulting in a steady decline in the total number of MLSs. The shifts have included absorption of smaller systems, improved efficiencies at growth-oriented MLSs, technological advantages, and greater geographic coverage. Years ago, the number of multiple listing services exceeded 1,000, but now there are fewer than 600.
Commenting on the growth and expansion of Northwest MLS, Hurdelbrink said member participation and involvement “is vital to the success of the organization.” Its quest for volunteers with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives spurred the creation of new online application tools for positions on the board of directors, committees, and various task forces or advisory groups. These new tools are available online on the MyNWMLS dashboard.
In keeping with tradition, the fall meetings included introductions and nominations of candidates for positions on the NWMLS Board of Directors. Ballots, using a secure online voting platform, are due by December 9.
The next speaker, Tara Marino highlighted some of the results from the latest membership survey, conducted every two years. More than 5,000 members and subscribers participated in this year’s survey, according to Marino, the director of communications and training at NWMLS.
In addition to gauging satisfaction of products and services, the feedback contributes to future service enhancements, development of new products and services, and setting project priorities. The high participation rate means the results are “highly statistically valid,” according to GMA Research, which conducts the biennial survey.
Marino’s overview of survey findings included measurements of various customer service attributes, comparing 2017, 2019 and 2021. While the latest scores are “very high,” they showed slight decreases from two years ago. GMA Research said such findings have been a consistent trend in satisfaction surveys in all industries during the pandemic.
In other questions, respondents were asked to rate both the importance of NWMLS’s key products and core support services, and their satisfaction with each of them. “Our goal is to keep the satisfaction rating as close to or exceeding the importance rating,” Marino explained, adding, “We will continue to increase training opportunities and system enhancements to further reduce any gaps between importance and satisfaction.”
A complete summary of survey results appeared in the Monday Update of November 29 and are posted on the member website.
Justin Haag, general counsel at Northwest MLS, provided an industry and legal update, noting the MLS industry is increasing its focus on consumers. Consequently, the MLS is evaluating what it can do to assist brokers in helping to educate and empower consumers, a move that marks an expansion of its traditional focus on member-brokers. As the industry evolves, there has been continued emphasis on promoting competition amongst member firms and encouraging innovation.
Improvements to Agency Law to promote transparency – particularly with regard to compensation and representation – may be one approach, according to Haag. He anticipates possible future legislation affecting Agency Law, which has not been significantly updated since 1997.
In discussing rules issues, the NWMLS attorney discussed some of the most common sources of complaints and infractions. Haag noted that NWMLS offers a new, three-hour, self-paced clock hour course covering important rules and regulations.
The fall meeting also included an overview of the OneHome™ Enhanced Client Portal, which was launched in early October. Madeline Feder, communications supervisor at NWMLS, reminded brokers the modern, responsive design offers a better browsing experience, the most up-to-date data, valuable insights about their clients, and enhanced security.
The portal, an integral part of Matrix, encompasses text notifications so clients can receive instant SMS notifications about listings, the OneHome Planner to help clients better understand the buying and selling process, a PropertyFit™ Score, which uses artificial intelligence to determine how closely a property fits a buyer’s criteria, and other user-friendly tools that enhance the broker-client relationship. Only clients that have been invited by their broker can access OneHome.
Brokers can visit the NWMLS member website to view a 51-minute webinar on how to use the OneHome Portal to engage clients throughout their home searching and buying process. User Guides, FAQs, and an informational flyer are also available at nwmls.com.
Feder noted NWMLS is sharing member feedback with CoreLogic and working with them to resolve a few concerns. She also highlighted several enhancements to Authentisign.
Launched in late October, the redesigned Authentisign features a simple, clear interface, and a new workflow that enables improved, expedited signings. Feder said both the “classic” and new versions of Authentisign will be available on TransactionDesk during a transition period. She encouraged brokerages to schedule a training class or webinar to promote understanding and use of the new online signing service.
The final segments of the fall meetings covered listing input enhancements, updates on in-person services and contactless pickup, and training opportunities such as webinars, tutorials, virtual 1:1 Q&A sessions, and self-paced online training opportunities. Training Supervisor John Bozich noted more than two dozen topics can be customized and several offerings are approved for clock hours.
Meeting participants were also reminded about the Down Payment Resource application and its features. Nearly two-thirds of NWMLS listings are eligible for down payment assistance programs.