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AE Profile: A Q&A with Chris Carrillo

January 1, 2010

MLSs Fight for Relevance

Chris Carrillo, CEO of the 4,000-member CRIS Regional MLS in northeast Ohio, has been in the MLS industry for more than 10 years. He keeps his organization strong by staying ahead of trends, but increasingly, he says, relevancy is becoming an MLS’s biggest battle.

“There is no shortage of issues facing MLSs today,” says Carrillo. “In fact, this is the busiest I’ve ever seen our industry collectively. There are technology challenges, increasing competition to provide data to members and consumers, evolving REALTOR® business practices to address, and the pressure of a depressed real estate market. But overall, it’s relevancy.”

Q. How can MLSs remain relevant?

The trick will be keeping up with how consumers want to see real estate information in the future. If the MLS doesn’t provide it, then it may come from another source, not necessarily friendly to our industry. Today MLSs not only strive to provide the most accurate and updated information to IDX feeds and third-party destinations, but many of us are also providing tax, mortgage, and economic data; school information; and many other kinds of demographic data in one comingled interface that empowers REALTORS® to quickly harness and present pertinent information about an individual property, neighborhood, or city to clients. But the role of the MLS seems to be changing practically daily, so we’re challenged to be more flexible and nimble than ever. We face ongoing technology demands from members and consumers, the challenge of listing inventory that conflicts with established MLS rules and regulations, plus the turbulent economy. Now more than ever, we strive to evolve quickly with how we look at and manage MLS content.

Q. What’s the purpose of your MLS Facebook page?

The CRIS MLS presence on Facebook has been extremely effective as a public relations and education tool. Members seem to appreciate the daily tech tips, system updates, and rules and regulations reminders. We are now actively including members in a dialogue about their MLS that never existed before. The members communicating with us (and one another) via Facebook would have never picked up the phone to call or taken the time to e-mail their questions or thoughts. But now they can help each other with MLS questions and concerns via a platform they’re comfortable with, plus provide us with valuable feedback.

Q. Last year you initiated sharing data with a neighboring MLS, NORMLS. The member benefits are clear, but what were the main challenges of this endeavor?

I’ve never been part of a more complex yet rewarding venture than when CRIS MLS and NORMLS decided to partner and create our blended MLS system NEOHREX. This was only possible because our collective leadership knew this was the right thing to do and would benefit all participants in both our MLSs.

Along with the expected challenges of data conversion and mapping across multiple property types and subtypes, there were also long sessions about system design and rules and regulations. Of course, just because you create a new, combined MLS system doesn’t mean that you won’t have challenges to manage going forward. NEOHREX is one MLS system administered by two MLSs, which means two sets of staff, two membership systems, two CEOs, two different business models, two governing boards, and, on occasion, two separate opinions. But it works because the foundation is a strong partnership with the goal of benefiting all REALTORS® in northeast Ohio. Our mutual objective has better enabled each organization to approach issues with an open mind and diligent discussion. Carl DeMusz, CEO of NORMLS, and I each took the bruises and pats on the back when times called for them.

Chris Carrillo, E-pro, is CEO of CRIS Regional MLS in Ohio. Contact him at 330-376-0015 or chris.carrillo@crismls.com.