Hamlet said the question is “to be or not to be”.
Yeah, well forget Hamlet. To require MLS registration or not: THAT is the question!
(For those that don’t know, MLS means Multiple Listing Service/System. The big giant data base that includes most homes currently for sale)
At last count, there are over 3.2 bazillion real estate web sites out there. Most have an data feed to their MLS that allows web site visitors to search homes on the local MLS. (And those that don’t have it, should).
Some real estate sites require visitors to “register” prior to getting access to the MLS search, some don’t. Registration usually entails providing your name, email address, phone number and occasionally a commitment to give up your first born child.
On our main web site, PhoenixRealEstateGuy.com, no registration is required. I’ve tried it with and without registration and I’ve found that my visitor count drops off dramatically when I require registration. And given the names I get with registrations, those that do register all seem to be related to Disney characters. I must have a dozen different email addresses for Mickey Mouse and his friends. Some guy named Ben Dover registers frequently too.
I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years about requiring MLS registration and gotten a plethora of opinions.
Proponents of MLS registration say things like:
- Don’t give everything away for free
- Serious buyers will register
- What’s the point in having a website if you don’t capture visitor information
- You can’t convert visitors to clients if you don’t know who they are
Opponents of MLS registration argue:
- If you require registration, people will just go to the next site that doesn’t
- You get too many bogus registrations
- Internet buyers tend to be a long way off from buying and want to remain anonymous in the beginning
- There are other ways to capture visitor information
- If you provide great service, the serious buyers/sellers will identify themselves
I get visitors to my site every single day that find us using search terms like “Phoenix MLS search no registration”, “Arizona MLS no registration”, or even plain old generic “no registration MLS”. We rank #1 on Google for “Phoenix MLS search no registration”. When I required registration, not one single visitor arrived by searching for a site that requires registration.
*Many* real estate agents have said to me,
Jay, you’re nuts. You HAVE to require registration to capture leads!
To them I say, “fooey”.
First, I don’t believe people inherently WANT to register on any web site. I hate registering on web sites, which is a main reason I have a hard time asking people to do it on my site.
Second, I’m a big fan of the Internet. I’m a bigger fan of free information. A person armed with information is a powerful person. I like to arm my web site visitors with information. I have enough inherent trust in humanity that if I provide a potential home seller or buyer with information then they will appreciate that, see that I’m an all around swell guy, and flock to us to help them buy or sell real estate.
And finally, I know that if you provide great customer service, they will come.
Several of my digital pals have written on the subject of the MLS. Todd Tarson expounds in I am not a philosopher. Jeff Tomlin has a great piece on the Future of the MLS. Judy Orr talks of MLS’s forbidding agents to use the term MLS on their web sites (!) and how her MLS *forces* her to require registration. (Not all MLS’s are created equal.) And Cathleen Collins over on the Bloodhoundblog opines more eloquently than I could ever dream of.