The list is always kind of, what, a little surprising I guess. Weathervanes came out this year so I expected wall-to-wall Jason Isbell. I could have told you King of Oklahoma would be the top song. The Pop playlist got more airtime than I thought, how about that Harry Styles next to Taylor Swift. Olivia Rodrigo almost made the top ten, love her energy. And one song from The Greatest Showman soundtrack and some atmospheric tracks down the list, Theivery Corporation, Nirvana, Simon and Garfunkel from back in the day, closed out at 100 by Tempted from Squeeze. Kind of a fun list really!
In the old paradym there is one system and one price for all members of the MLS, generally referred to as “subscribers”. Associations have “Members”, MLSs have “Subscribers”. The price is negotiated by the MLS Committee or Board of Directors in each city with the assistance their staff and counsel. MLSs vendors generally bundle services such as Tax Data, Statistics, Showing Scheduling, and the like into the price which ends up being presented to the MLS Committee/BoD as a Price Per Member per Month. The bigger the MLS, the smaller the price per subscriber, because all Subscribers pay whether they ever actually login or not. That’s called a Site License and it’s how almost all MLSs operate today, so that’s what it cost today. But what should MLS cost? Let’s think about what MLS-Next might look like without the one-size-fits-all nonsense.
So, for illustration purposes, a 1,000 member MLS is paying $10/subscriber/month for their MLS software. That comes with an input form to collect the data encoded with the MLS’s specific business rules so the data complies with MLS Rules & Regs as well as other data integrity rules. For example, the price can’t be zero, the listing agent ID has to be a valid, the closed date can’t be prior to the list date, and literally hundreds of others. In addition to capturing the data, the software will also include rule-based change forms, automated processes that expire listings based on dates and business rules. Also reporting from Consumer Reports to CMAs and Multi-property flyers, there are dozens of those and most also include a Report Builder so Subscribers can create unlimited styles and options for their clients. The MLS will also include support for a handful of integrations with Tax Data, Rental Data, outside reporting services, and integrations. All that for $10,000/month or about $120,000/year on a 3-5 year contract.
In the standard environment the 1,000 users all have to use the same software to both manage their listing inventory and also their customers. A core function of the MLS is of course to capture the data in an organized way, as we described above, but then most Subscribers also use the MLS to send updates to their clients. Subscribers use the MLS to describe the parameters a buyer is looking for in a new house, and to send them an email when something new comes on the market or something changes. This drip marketing function is a core service delivered by the Subscriber to their clients and most, according to a recent survey, use their MLS for this. So the emails every customer in the market are receiving from their Agents are, the same.
Fast forward to 2023, November 29th to be specific, and the 16,000 Subscribers in the Triangle MLS will find that the data, the listings that we capture with our rule-based forms, has been separated from that second part. The software Triangle users decide to license to talk to their clients will be up to them, not me and my staff at the MLS. And, to begin with, there will be three: Paragon, the one all 16,000 use now, plus two of the other national leaders in the MLS space: FBS and CoreLogic. Its a goal I have had for a long time, and not just me, it’s a goal our industry has been working towards for at least a decade. To push the purchase decision out of the MLS Board Room and into the offices of our Brokers and Agents.
Maybe it’s a little like IDX software in our industry. The MLS does not dictate who our Brokers can use to power listing search on their websites. They have to sign a Third Party License Agreement since they will be holding MLS data on behalf of the Broker, but we know how to make that easy. We support thousands of those sites from hundreds, certainly dozens, of IDX vendors. Its an active marketplace with a wide universe of prices from free to thousands of dollars a month.
So, what should MLS cost?
Who knows. Thankfully in America we mostly still believe in the power of the market to answer questions like that. At launch in November all options will cost the same. Base MLS membership costs $X and comes with the ability to add and edit the listings plus one of the three MLS systems. To add a second system it costs an additional $Y, a third is the same, $Y. So, to be clear that’s $X a month for one, $X+Y for two, and $X+$Y+$Y) for three. In dollars, say X=$50 and Y=$25 so $50 for one, $75 for two, and $100 for three. Those prices are subject to change of course and likely will change. I think it’s strange that they are the same. Like if you went to a restaurant and everything on the menu was $39. That would be strange, and would mean there was some funky math happening back in the kitchen.
That means the answer to our question, what should MLS cost, depends on who you are. Right now the options cost the same to make the transition easier for our 16,000 subscribers for whom all of this is new and confusing. But that’s the only reason they cost the same and that will always be the reality of the marketplace, it almost can’t. Those conversations have lead to some really fun questions. So, if Brokers get to choose whatever options the MLS software companies can work onto the Dashboard, what would a product look like that cost $250? Or $2500? What if a team could choose a complete customer engagement system from 1000 Watt or Agency McKenna? The MLS could automate the property and license data sets and provide programatic access to everything through our shiny new API.
On the other end of that spectrum we already anticipate a $50 option that does not come with an MLS system. Brokers and Agents working for certain tech-heavy national brands do not want or need to use Paragon or Matrix or any of those platforms because they have their own. Soon, when can receive as well as send data through a rules-based API, Brokers with the right tech will submit listings from their own platforms and never need to use MLS software at all. Their people can work entirely within the firms branded environment and never leave. That’s optimal for any business. So, when they signup in the future, they will pick a new API-Key-Only Option which still includes full MLS membership but no software, since they don’t need it.
Either way, whether it’s $25 or $2 or $2,500, the MLS of the future will support them all, but we won’t compel the use of any of them. That seems like a decision best left to the real estate professionals themselves.
So my Dad has been gone 15 years this morning. He squeezed more than most out of 74, almost 75 years and touched many many people. Many of them have written great stories and posts on the “I Worked at Bill’s London Transit” FaceBook Page, and the Huntsville Revisted FaceBook page.
He taught me so many things: how to be a Dad, how NOT to be a Dad (and a husband) and too many things to list about business. He said that for someone in sales, and most people are in sales, that you want fans, not just customers. People who will come and find you, whatever you happen to be selling at the time. Not because you are the cheapest or the fastest or the closest, but because you have come through for them so many times in the past that they could not see themselves going anywhere else.
So I miss the guy very much even 15 years later. I’d love to show him Old Town Beer Exchange and the latest big website project we have published at Solid Earth. He’d have a lot to tell me, some of which I feel sure I need to know.
I’d love him to see “baby Sarah” going to Medical School, and Hannah getting on so well in her career in the Big City. He’d be so proud; just as I am.
I’d also like to invite him to my upcoming 30th wedding anniversary and talk about how Julie and I were able to pull that off with no periods of separation or drama; well not too much drama. He and Mom made it to 36 years but there were gaps, sort of. I think he’d be proud of that too.
So on the anniversary of his departure into whatever is next, I thought I’d post this article written by my old friend Bill Easterling, who also has left us, and run on the Local page in the Huntsville Times on July 7, 2000. Bill captured it pretty well I think. Here goes…
The other side of a man’s life shines a light on his character
Bill Easterling’ – 07/06/00 – Huntsville Times
The peacocks watched him through a bedroom window Saturday morning. They hadn’t done that before. He died before day was done, making their gesture more remarkable.
But Bill Fowler was an exceptional man, so the uncommon thing the peacocks did didn’t surprise his wife.
”He loved animals,” Janice Fowler said. ”Especially birds. He always said animals were God’s main creation, and people were just a sideline.”
If Bill Fowler wasn’t a legendary figure, he was at least mythical.
In the 1970s, he opened London Transit in Huntsville, a men’s clothing store way ahead of its time.
He built a chain of 14 Bill’s London Transits across the Southeast before financial problems closed all except the Atlanta store, which he kept going until 1986.
But Fowler could always overcome problems. He bounced back, opening K&G Men’s Center in Atlanta with three friends. When that store merged with what’s now Men’s Wearhouse, Fowler ”kind of retired” from the clothing industry.
Clothes were his legacy. His father, William M. Fowler, owned a series of clothing stores here. But the son never went into business with the father, choosing instead to become partners with Hilding Holmberg before opening his own store, Bill’s Men’s Wear.
Gossip spread like wildfire when Fowler, chasing bigger markets, moved to Atlanta in 1980, leaving his wife to raise their three children, Matt, Laura Fowler Cope and Bill II.
The meddlers didn’t know the flamboyant clothier with the black eye patch came home nearly every Friday, returning to Atlanta on Sunday nights. Not only that, said his wife, ”We married in 1963, and not a day ever passed that he didn’t call me on the phone at least once. It didn’t matter if he was in London or Atlanta or wherever.”
They met because of an animal. Bob Ward, then a reporter for The Times, invited her to accompany him to see an ocelot Fowler was said to have at his store. Ward said, ”If it (the ocelot) isn’t there, just act like we’re shopping and then we’ll leave.”
When Fowler was diagnosed with latter-stage cancer last August, he came home to finish living his life with his wife, his children and his grandchildren.
Mrs. Fowler said oncologist Dr. Marshall Schreeder ”is such a wizard, he gave us 11 months we would not have had otherwise.”
They were ”the best 11 months we ever had together.”
Bill Fowler, a man with a warm personality and a cutting sense of humor, was generous to a fault. He loved helping the needy. In fact, one note he left his wife asked her to ”keep an eye on (so-and-so), he might need a little help.”
Janice Fowler said her husband ”lived his life to the fullest. He said he had no regrets for the choices he had made. He also said he’d marry me again today.”
She said he was ”just a wonderful gift the Lord gave us.”
So its February 23, 2015, a milestone for me and my family. Four years ago this morning I was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma (OM), specifically a 14mm x 16mm x 2.9mm choroidal melanoma tumor inside my right eye. Most people who know me remember that I had an issue with my eye and often ask me how my sight is doing. I want to take this opportunity to provide an update and some nuggets from my now four year journey with cancer.
First an update: OM is not really about eyesight. An OM tumor is highly likely to spread outside the eye into vital organs and lead to death. I was told that I had a 30% chance of living longer than four years by a genetic counsellor who gave me the prognosis. That kind of message made me much less concerned about eyesight and more concerned about the spread of cancer. The tumor in my eye is still there but after being irradiated, bathed in chemo and lasered repeatedly it is shrinking and should no longer pose a threat. I have had CTs and MRIs often since 2011 and to date no cancer has been found outside of the original site. If there is no cancer found this year, my risk will go down to around 10%.
So, if nothing else happens, I may have survived a very deadly disease.
Now for the take-aways. Like me, Oliver Sacks has Ocular Melanoma too. His recent Op Ed in the New York Times is a great read and describes pretty well how I feel about receiving a terminal diagnosis.
I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written.
Dr Sacks has an amazing mind and clearly has a deep appreciation of the life he has lived. Still, at 81 he is lamenting his situation. That is understandable since he is human and will miss the only life and family he has ever known. But in a way it is sad; less grateful than one should be for the privilege of living eight decades.
I don’t know Dr Sacks and should not criticize but here’s what makes me say that.
One day I was sitting in the Ophthalmological Oncology Waiting Room at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia feeling sorry for myself. I was about one year into regular treatment and not looking forward to getting another shot in the eyeball. A little girl wearing an eyepatch came in with her mom and sat down across from me. She was about 10, about the age of my little niece. In that moment I realized that I had not been thankful. I felt like a petulant kid at Christmas who did not get the requested present. It was not a good feeling.
As Dr Sacks said, he has traveled, written, read, lived, loved and has been loved. Me too. I have two daughters who have grown into healthy, productive adults. They are really pretty cool people too, people I love to spend time with. My wife of almost thirty years is a constant companion and my best friend in the world. I miss her right now and we’ve only been apart for about three hours and that relationship is a gift from above. It’s also something that the little girl at Wills may never know.
So, how long is long enough to live? I don’t know the answer to that but I want to strive to be the person who is thankful for however long it is. It reminds me of this song “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry.
If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song
The sharp knife of a short life, oh well
I’ve had just enough time…
But I am pretty sure no one really feels that way; even if you die in your 80’s like Dr Sacks probably will. It’s hard not to covet more time but that’s my prayer for my fourth anniversary. That I can listen to that Band Perry song and sing along with those lyrics with an honest voice. A voice that says, yep, I’d like more but I’ve had just enough time. Thanks be to God.
Two announcements in one day is heavy for us. But, there’s another one! About 400 brokers in the Birmingham area are getting notices today that the Spring MLS API has been released for GreaterAlabamaMLS.com. For the first time ever, broker members can signup for an API key and interact with the MLS real time. Post here for more information and look for an Early Adopter announcement Monday. Innovation is cool! See more at www.solidearth.com
Hey Huntsville people I know a Young Lifer looking for an apt or a room to rent. Anyone got a good situation for a sweet young lady?
One of our staff was assaulted while taking her baby into Jackson Way daycare by the child’s father. He’s psycho and not stable. Pray for healing for all involved, especially this lost and misguided little shit who hurt his baby’s momma. Hope he has a looooonnnngg time think about it in the poky. Very soon. Today preferably.