Northwest MLS brings members state-of-the-art technology

by Stuart Heath

As the leading resource for the region’s residential real estate industry, member-owned Northwest Multiple Listing Service is committed to providing its members with the tools, information and resources to help all licensees and subscribers succeed. 

The Northwest MLS board of directors, elected by the membership and with representation from each district in its service area (currently encompassing 26 counties), oversees the general “business, property and affairs” of the organization, with support from various committees. The president and CEO, Tom Hurdelbrink, and his staff at the Kirkland headquarters office and 21 local service centers, are responsible for maintaining day-to-day operations and delivering services for our not-for-profit organization.

Data sharing, communications, training and promoting cooperation, professionalism and ethical conduct are integral parts of the NWMLS  purpose.

NWMLS has earned a reputation for being forward-thinking in adapting technology and service enhancements that help elevate the profession and help members better serve their clients and the public in all real estate transactions. In general, NWMLS also earns high marks in its biennial Member Satisfaction Survey. This feedback from its diverse membership, which now totals more than 2,600 member firm offices and 34,000 brokers across the state, helps identify areas for improvement and training opportunities.

Within the membership are independent brokers who, like me, are members of Northwest Independent Brokers Association (NWIBA), a nonprofit group of 55 independent small businesses representing over 1,000 real estate brokers in the Puget Sound region. They routinely propose insightful considerations from the perspective of non-franchised brokers who promote education and share best practices.

Data drives Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

To illustrate the array of member interactions, consider a few metrics from 2021:

  • The Call Center handled 154,629 calls.
  • The User Guide Library was accessed 84,402 times.
  • 471 broadcast emails were sent with updates, notices and other relevant news reaching more than 2.3 million recipients.
  • 35 new training, marketing and statistical videos were watched 51,101 times.
  • 40,347 attendees availed themselves of an array of classes, workshops and webinars. 

Also impressive is system usage.

Matrix, the industry’s most powerful multiple listing service platform in the business, notched more than 24 million logins (an average of more than 15,000 per day).

Members logged in to Realist, a public-record database, 7 million times, and created 2.5 million property showings using ShowingTime, an online scheduling and management tool to enhance productivity. Members accessed TransactionDesk 13 million times, which is NWMLS’s secure online forms platform that provides transaction management, cloud storage and an electronic signature service.

Equipping members with state-of-the-art products and services is always a focus for Northwest MLS. Staff rose to the challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, the MLS team created a new online version of COVID-19 communications and resources during 2021. Included were a comprehensive FAQ document, best practices, firm toolkits for office reopenings and open houses, and numerous reminders as mandates and guidelines changed.

Other significant achievements during 2021 included upgrades to Matrix, adjustments and additions to various fields on the Matrix platform, and the launch of OneHome™, a new client portal platform. Since the rollout of OneHome™, NWMLS brokers have registered 45,000 clients who have tallied 3.7 million online views just during March!

Last year’s accomplishments included the publication of 11 new forms, along with significant revisions to more than three dozen forms, ranging from listing agreements to purchase and sale agreements, financing forms, an inspection addendum and others. Northwest MLS is the creator and proprietor of the standard residential real estate forms for Washington.

The database became more robust with allowances for larger photos and the addition of Oregon data to accommodate the expansion of NWMLS services areas into Walla Walla, Columbia and Umatilla counties.

Other hubs of activity are centered on compliance and cooperation.

Recent Legal Bulletins covered forms revisions, changes to the Landlord-Tenant Act affecting MLS lease and rental forms, and several rules revisions.

To encourage an accurate and reliable listing database, brokers may notify NWMLS of listing errors for review and correction. Common errors include an incorrect tax ID or address, inaccurate square footage, inaccurate map pin placement, incorrect map area, failure to update the status of a listing, and inaccurate architectural style code. The MLS has a one-hour webinar summarizing the “top 10” rule violations and how to avoid them.

Another recent achievement incorporates artificial intelligence (RESTB.AI), which enables the MLS quality assurance team to better monitor photos to uncover items that are not permitted (e.g., phone numbers, license plates, people, or watermarks).

NWMLS promotes cooperation in several ways, often in tandem with an education or information message and in conjunction with industry affiliates or partners.

One example is workplace safety. NWMLS posts links, tips and alerts to promote safety and help brokers avoid dangerous situations.  A safety timer mobile app is also available.

Authorized vendors may access data upon registering and completing a licensing agreement and onboarding call. (The MLS has eligibility requirements for associate members such as financial institutions, title insurance companies, mortgage insurance companies, escrow companies and other business services.)

Also in the spirit of cooperation, Northwest MLS supports efforts to preserve and expand real property rights and housing affordability. As part of that commitment, the MLS assists governmental affairs efforts at 15 local REALTOR® associations across the state.

Volunteering in industry associations can be time consuming, but in my experience, the opportunities for networking, learning about best practices, staying abreast of technology, and camaraderie are immensely gratifying.

Stuart Heath is 2022 chairperson of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service board of directors. He is the owner of Bellmark Real Estate in Bellevue and has extensive service on various industry, civic and nonprofit boards, including the Northwest Independent Brokers Association.

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