Ask the MLS: Meet Merri Jo Cowen of MFRMLS

Ask the MLS: Meet Merri Jo Cowen of MFRMLS

Welcome to another edition of “Ask the MLS.” Here, we talk to people running innovative MLSs around the country and ask them questions about their markets, their members and what keeps them up at night.

Today’s post features Merri Jo Cowen, CEO of My Florida Regional MLS (MFRMLS). MFRMLS spans Central and Southwest Florida, launched Homesnap Pro in January 2018 and is a member of the Broker Public Portal. Here’s what Merri Jo had to say:

1. MFRMLS is one of the biggest MLSs in the country. How has the role of MFRMLS changed in your market over the last five years or so?

From the perspective of our customers, in the last five years the role of our MLS has remained unchanged. We did do a system upgrade about four years ago, and of course that was a bit traumatic for our customers.

However, we made that change so we could be fully mobile, which created a lot of value. For all the products we offer, mobile is a clear use choice.

Internally, what we have been doing over the last three years is strengthening our infrastructure to handle what we see as a big future of consolidation. Our Matrix™ system is now fully RESO Data Dictionary compliant, allowing us to provide services to multiple MLS “front-end” systems in the future.

We just launched Matrix in Spanish for our bi-lingual customers and their buyers/sellers. Everything we do has our customers in mind – both our existing 57,000 and those that will come in the future. Readiness and keeping up with technology continue to be a driving force for us.

We know that sitting still is the same as moving backwards. We are in motion for the future success of MFRMLS.

2. Tell us about the real estate market in MFRMLS right now. Are you seeing any slowdown?

Our market is extremely diverse as we serve 15 Shareholder associations that represent small beach communities, major metropolitan areas, rural and inland communities across Florida. The market overall is healthy, with the inventory crunch staying steady at three months average inventory overall.

Listings, pendings and closed sales are within 1 percent over last year; year-to-date residential sales are over $18 billion. Prices are climbing at a reasonable pace; the median price for all of MFRMLS is $241,000 — up 3 percent from last year. All in all, a healthy market!

3. What is the top request or concern that you hear from your customers?

They want simple and efficient products and services to make their jobs easier.

They’re looking for data that provides a deep understanding of market conditions, is easy to navigate, and backed by customer service that is prompt and helps them be productive.

They want to hold their significant value with consumers by having access to tools that will help them accomplish that.

4. Do you have advice for new agents starting out today? What is the most important thing for them to keep in mind for growing their business?

This business is not a “get-rich-quick” opportunity. The longevity of many of our customers shows that it can be satisfying both professionally and financially, but it really takes hard work to get started.

My best advice is to use the tools that are available to you first. Become an expert on each one and use them to your advantage.

Then, as your business grows, find other tools/products that will help you further your business goals. I guess I’m saying it’s worth taking the time to educate yourself on the tools that are provided by your broker, your association and of course, your MLS. There are more than enough resources between the three to start a successful business.

5. What keeps you up at night?

I can say what doesn’t keep me up at night, and that is fear that the MLS is going to implode and become irrelevant. What I am always thinking about is how we can ensure our customers have the tools to help them succeed – and make certain they know how to use those tools to their advantage.

The overall environment of real estate and what is happening in the industry can be overwhelming. It’s our job to stay on top of that, focus on keeping the MLS at the forefront of providing solutions, and allow our customers to focus on their business.

We’re always thinking of new ways to share our value as an organization with others and encourage collaboration and consolidation within the industry. Providing superior service, industry awareness and being prepared with a vision for the future are always top of mind.