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 Brian Donnellan, President & CEO of Bright MLS. Bright MLS serves parts of 6 states plus Washington, DC in the Mid-Atlantic region encompassing 85,000 real estate professionals who serve over 20 million consumers. Bright MLS real estate professionals facilitate approximately 250,000 transactions a year that are valued at more than $70 billion. Here’s what Brian had to say:
In many Bright regions, the real estate market is hotter than ever, with homes being sold quickly. What’s your take on the market right now? How long do you think we’ll see this level of activity?
While I’m not an economist, the market across the entire Bright footprint is very strong. That said, one of the first things I realized when we consolidated the Bright footprint is that real estate is very local, and the differences are noticeable. Within the various regions, we have areas that are super-hot and others that are not. COVID-19 had a huge impact in Pennsylvania, while Virginia was less impacted. When the market reopened in Pennsylvania, buyers rushed back in and we saw record new pending home sales.
Inventory continues to be a challenge across the entire region, and low interest rates will likely keep these inventory levels low for the foreseeable future. Looking forward, we have unknowns like the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19, a national election, and a brittle economy to consider. But, if I had to bet, I would bet on a very similar housing market for the rest of the year solely based on low rates driving buyer demand and tight inventory levels.
Bright is a large MLS with a substantial staff. How are you keeping your team connected and focused while working remotely?
Bright has always been “remote-work friendly,” but everything is different when remote work becomes mandatory – especially when you consider school closings and, in many cases, entire families at home at the same time. Communication is key, flexibility is key, patience is key, and goals are key. You need to have leadership not only at the top, but throughout your organization.
During the early days of the state lockdowns, our teams acted quickly and worked at 110% capacity to keep the markets moving and implement important updates. As those weeks turned into months, we’ve found creative ways to keep that momentum up and keep people engaged. I have personally really come to enjoy virtual meetings. If it is your meeting, you have to stay sharp, have an agenda, and discuss delivery dates and milestones.
Do you think that the process of home search will be permanently altered once we are on the other side of the pandemic?
Yes, I do. I think every time a new technology comes along with promises to change the world, some little (or more than little) piece of that technology becomes embedded in the process. I think more people will buy homes sight unseen – not all, but more than in the past. Buyers and sellers will demand more “technically” from their brokers and agents. Especially in today’s market, speed and accuracy is everything – missing out on a house will not be acceptable.
What’s your first vacation destination once travel restrictions are lifted?
I think Napa Valley wine country, or maybe the Caribbean islands.
Which non-work activity has taken up the biggest chunk of your time during quarantine?
Looking for paper towels.