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 Jim Speer, CEO of OneKey MLS. OneKey MLS serves real estate professionals in the greater New York City area, from Long Island to Manhattan to the Hudson Valley. Here’s what Jim had to say:
Jim, you just launched a merged MLS – OneKey – in the middle of a pandemic, from the epicenter, no less. How did that go?
Timing is everything, as they say. While the pandemic has been absolutely terrible, the effects of social distancing and stay-at-home orders have somewhat helped the merger. As agents and brokers weren’t necessarily as busy as they were before, they took advantage of the downtime to learn new systems, processes, and all the things like that that happen during a merger. We turned a negative into a positive and actually gained something out of it.
How has OneKey responded to agents’ unique needs during the COVID-19 crisis?
After some discussion, we haven’t changed too many policies. For example, we didn’t pause days on market. We could have changed listings to temporarily off the market status, but then consumers can’t see them, and that’s not really all that beneficial. In leaving listings up, we can give consumers a point of reference and can indicate that the pandemic has delayed a transaction on a particular property. Additionally, we have allowed branded tours and open houses in public comments.
Also, as previously mentioned, we were in a unique situation with a merger. We’ve provided a lot of materials and training to help agents acclimate themselves to new systems and processes. And we’ve also encouraged agents to take advantage of tools to create virtual tours and open houses to market listings.
Which changes being implemented now do you expect to survive past the end of the pandemic? Will real estate be forever changed in your market?
I think this pandemic has caused agents to be more creative—they’re thinking outside of the box. I think that will stick. I think agents are realizing they need to deviate from traditional marketing plans, the type of stuff everyone is doing.
I also think virtual open houses and tours are staying for good, even after the pandemic ends. We’ve seen plenty of people take advantage of them, and agents can now reach two markets. When the pandemic ends, agents can host in-person open houses for those buyers who want to see a property live, and they can stage virtual open houses for those who may be a little wary or cautious of venturing out to an in-person event. It really is beneficial for everyone.
How are you keeping your staff focused and engaged during this time?
One of the things that gets lost in working from home is the personal connections staff make. So we’ve set up conference calls where everyone can just shoot the breeze, chat, and talk about their personal lives. I think you gain a lot by doing this, so work isn’t just sending emails back and forth.
What is the first restaurant you’re going to eat at when everything opens up again?
There’s this English pub called Crickets not far from the office. I’ve been there at least 200 times. They have the best French onion soup, the best lobster rolls, and the beer is always cold. I’ll be going there as soon as it opens.