This is what makes real estate in America so unique.



The multiple listing service in Warsaw, Poland lasted only one hour.

Janet Choinovski Inman said she started working in Poland at the end of the Cold War. She was soon found by several American companies and hired as a real estate consultant, and by the mid-1990s she was already running a brokerage firm in Warsaw.

But the exit from communism meant that Polish real estate was not as developed as the US industry.

Janet Choinovski

“They had no rules regarding the sale of private property because there was no private property,” she recalls.

One of the things Choinowski says was particularly lacking at the time is multiple list service (MLS). The result was multiple agents representing the same real estate, agents who were reluctant to share information, and a thicket of confusion hampering the real estate industry.

Towards the end of the 1990s, Chojnowski and others in the area had finally convinced the entire Warsaw real estate community to unite and create an MLS in which “even the worst enemies will see it as a plus.” It was sometime in 1999 and everyone was in the local Marriott ballroom. The congregation leaders then began to review the lists.

“In cases where one person had one tape, that was your tape,” Choinowski said. “But where seven of us had one, we had to paint to see who it belonged to. They put it in a box, shuffle it and take it out. They looked at all the advertisements for sale in Warsaw. “

The meeting dragged on for two days, and the agents literally refused to leave the ballroom so as not to enter the rival and collect their lists.

“Nobody trusts anyone,” she said. “If you leave, you will be deceived.”

After several days of sorting, the Warsaw real estate community finally brought order to chaos. Listings were organized and the MLS was born. And then, an hour later, it fell apart.

“One of the city brokerages downloaded the entire MLS,” Choinovski said. “They took a copy of it and then said, ‘We thought about it and decided that this is not for us.’ This was the end of the MLS. It was free for everyone. “

Chojnowski eventually sold her brokerage in Warsaw to investment giant CBRE, but today she still works in international real estate as the founder and CEO of a training, data processing and technology firm. Immobel… And she said that little has changed in all the years that have passed.

“It kind of holds back the profession,” she added.

Choinovski’s account of the “one-hour MLS,” as she called it, came from the same country.

But this episode also highlights that real estate in most parts of the world works very differently than it does in the United States. To better understand what some of the major differences are, Inman recently reached out to agents and industry leaders around the world. And while each place has its own strengths and weaknesses, the consensus that emerged from these conversations was that some of the main differences between the United States and other countries are MLS, agent compensation, and cultural attitudes that shape agents’ attitudes as to work. and to their lists.

MLS and exclusive listings

Philip Gagnon

Time and time again, real estate professionals who interviewed Inman for this story pointed to a lack of MLS as one of the main differences between English-speaking North America and other parts of the world. For example, Philippe Gagnon is a consulting and franchising service provider with a focus on France. And he said that despite all the attempts, there is still no MLS in the country.

“They’ve been working on this for 25 years,” Gagnon added.

Peter Shravemade is a former Australian broker who now works for a real estate visualization firm. BoxBrownie, which serves agents in several countries, noted a similar point. He said that in Australia popular News Corpown consumer portal, but no MLS that consolidates listings into a portal. As a result, the portal itself is costly for agents.

“How much does it cost to install anything on the MLS? Well, you pay an annual fee, “Shravemad said of US real estate.” I hear complaints about posting on multiple MLS, but here we have to sacrifice our firstborn to get our listing. “

Lily Olspo

Lily Olspo, a Texas agent who also sells homes in various Latin american countries said there is an MLS in Colombia… But this is pretty basic.

“This is inconvenient for the user,” she said. “I noticed that in Colombia you cannot search around the city. This is not a smart MLS. “

John Sterling, who worked to launch Keller Williams in several countries and is now based in Tbilisi, Georgia, runs the international real estate firm Espatriati, said such conditions are prevalent around the world.

“I have not found an MLS anywhere in the world (with a few minor exceptions in Mexico, where they serve mostly US customers and are licensed for MLS software in the US),” Sterling told Inman by email. “Even with exceptions, the MLS has no real ‘power’ to enforce cooperation for the distribution of fees other than the threat of denying intruders access to the system.”

One of the results of the lack of MLS is that listings in many other countries are generally not as exclusive as in the US. Most of the people who spoke to Inman for this article also stated that this situation results in less collaboration between industry professionals. … And agents in other parts of the world tend to pay more attention to sellers than to buyers.

“You can’t go to the MLS and just search the listings,” Gagnon explained, focusing on sellers, not buyers. “You really have nothing to sell.”

All of this may sound foreign to North Americans, but in many parts of the world the industry continues to exist because consumers support it.

“People don’t want to sign up for an exclusive dealership,” Olspo said. “They believe that signing a representation agreement will have a negative impact because other agents will not show their property.”

None of this means that one system is inherently superior to the other. But the industry members who spoke to Inman for the story generally tended to be fans of the MLS system in the US.

“The lack of an MLS / collaboration system is bad for consumers. It’s like turning back the clock in the US before buying agency became a reality, ”Sterling said. “Buyers have to talk to a dozen different brokerages (and get into a dozen email lists) to get an idea of ​​all the properties on the market that might fit their needs, and sellers love to post multiple-agent listings because in reality there is no advantage to giving a listing agent an exclusive listing when you have to rely on that one agent and this one agent database to sell the property. ”


Another big difference between the US and other parts of the world that many in the industry have mentioned in this story is the level of entrepreneurship.

“It’s a much less entrepreneurial environment,” Gagnon said of French real estate. “That kind of thinking just doesn’t happen.”

In part, this difference may be the result of differences in cultural attitudes.

David Hennessy

David Hennessy, founder of ESREA France, which connects people with English-speaking French real estate professionals, told Inman in an email that “a good comparison with North America is that many French agencies are closed on weekends or open by appointment only on Saturdays. … … “

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an agency open on Sundays, and yet a lot of people in France work Monday through Friday and are only available on weekends to inspect properties,” Hennessy explained.

All of this means that in some parts of the world there are simply different views on how people should reconcile work and life.

Sterling agreed that cultural differences could explain the relatively low level of interest in entrepreneurship in other countries. But there could be other factors as well, such as the high cost of living in places like the UK.

John Sterling

“It’s damn expensive to live there that people cannot do without a stable salary for several months in order to open a new business and at the same time keep their homes, spouses, etc.” he said. “Fear, uncertainty and doubt are widespread there and do not allow many to take any risks.”

In other cases, the entrepreneurship that does occur is more ruthless in nature.

Hoynowski said that as she ran her brokerage in Poland, she discovered that some of her agents had secretly opened a rival office across town and paid a secretary at the head office to redirect clients to their clandestine operation.

“They copied our ad database,” she said. “In a sense, they are robbing the company blindly.”

Over time, Hoynowski learned that she had to install security cameras in her office and eavesdrop on agents in the break room to find out who was planning to defraud the company – measures that were not particularly unusual in Poland at the time.

“It was a wild ride,” she recalled. “It was harsh environment in many ways.”

One of the factors that prevent this from happening in the United States is the licensing of agents, as well as the rules set by organizations such as National Association of Realtors (NAR) – both are also relatively unique to North America. But other important parts of the equation include cultural attitudes towards work and collaboration.

Commissions and prestige

Everyone who told Inman about the story said that the agent’s salary tends to vary significantly from country to country. For example, when Olspo sells property in Belize, she sometimes receives a 10 percent commission. In Colombia, on the other hand, fees are usually 3%.

Gagnon said commissions in Europe are also generally lower than in the US, and Shravemad has said the same for his home country.

Peter Shravemade

“Agents are paid less than their American counterparts,” Shravemad said.

On the other hand, since agents in many parts of the world only focus on listings and not buyers, they end most of their deals twice.

Shravemade said agents are viewed differently in different parts of the world. He noted that being a real estate agent is a respectable profession in the US, and NAR even has the clout to get incumbent presidents to speak at events.

“They are not necessarily seen as dodgy bastards who want to take your money,” Shravemade said of American agents.

Unlike Australia, agents have less prestige. Shravemad said that if an agent showed up at a barbecue next door, he or she would probably try to steer the conversation away from their profession.

“I don’t believe anyone really enters the real estate profession as their chosen industry unless they were born in it,” he added.

Shravemad noted that American real estate has many opportunities for development, for example, closer integration of services such as real estate management and agents increasing their marketing game. There is no place perfect or fundamentally better.

But whether it’s commission, MLS, or just public standing, everyone agrees that US real estate is unique.

“I personally think that what we have in the US is better for everyone,” concluded Gagnon. “This is because it is more competitive. And when there is competition in the market, it benefits consumers. ”

Email Jim Dalrymple II


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