Newsmakers Spotlight: Colette Stevenson on the Value of Strategic Partnerships Between Brokerage and MLS

Colette Stevenson is CEO of REsides, an innovative Multiple Listing Service (MLS) model that ensures equitable ownership for all stakeholders. Dedicated to empowering brokers and agents with actionable data, she strives to provide value beyond industry conventions. 

“I believe that MLSs have a huge opportunity to get close to their customers in the midst of everything that is happening in the industry,” says Stevenson, who was named a Luminary in our 2024 class of Newsmakers.  

In this exclusive interview, Stevenson discusses the complexities of the MLS, and how having REsides as a strategic partner can positively impact brokerages, ultimately creating a seamless experience for the agent and their clients. 

Paige Brown: Last year, you put a spotlight on MLS portals and systems designed to empower agents and brokers. What is it about these portals and systems that make them so valuable? 

Colette Stevenson: Our MLS made a strategic decision to begin to spend our resources on the technology, the portals and the systems that are needed to enable us to pivot and give our clients the ability to pivot when they need to. Our goal has always been to meet our customers where they are, and it’s hard to do that. Each of our clients have a different business model, and you can’t force a one-size-fits-all solution.

So how do we develop a platform where our customers can get what they want, when they want it, and nothing that they don’t want? In order to do that, we had to step back and create a base. We had to take over our data, and we had to create a basic platform where we can offer more choices. We want to provide a platform that gives a broker or an agent a portal that’s powerful, a CRM that’s powerful and systems that are designed for them where they can plug and play data or integrate a piece of software.

Brokerages need to be thinking about the MLS as a strategic partner to get higher levels of integration, get better and more data, and get dynamic data when they need it. It’s very complex, and it’s not easy, but by partnering with your MLS, there can be economies of scale and higher levels of integration.  

PB: How does your company differentiate itself in a competitive landscape and create strategic partnerships within the industry?

CS: One of the ways we’re different is because we are the only MLS in the country with the equity ownership model that we have. I think more MLSs should be looking to do that for their clients. I tell brokers all the time, “You don’t have to look for it or form it. It’s already here.” Our MLS doesn’t have any boundaries. One of the first things we did was we went to an account management model to enable us to have better conversations with our clients whenever they reach out to us or whenever we reach out to them. 

The goal is for brokers to integrate their software with the MLS without giving us control of any of it. If someone wants to put a piece of software between us and the broker, I question “Why do we need that bridge or bandaid? Why is it not going straight from the broker to the MLS?”

With us, we created a way in which we can evaluate the data so we can determine the value of data by a product that we brought out this year called DataMetRE. As with anything, it changes because of data—the amount of data, what the data is and the age of the data. There are all these different factors that go into what we believe is the value of data. Right now, the MLS isn’t just data. It also needs to have the ability to monetize data in a meaningful way so that brokers can take advantage of the value of it. The more data you have, of course, the more valuable it is. 

PB: What type of value do these strategic partnerships offer for brokerages? 

CS: The MLS shouldn’t just be a subscription-based business model. We have looked at other sources of revenue for an MLS that are not traditional, and that would be with the technology changes we’re building and making with our subscription models. 

We really want the brokers to reap the most benefit from our MLS. Brokers need it to be really good, comprehensive data in the area they’re looking into or whatever project they’re working on that day, and they should get the benefit back. Our goal is to provide a platform that enables a broker the ability to do their business with very minimal disruption or disconnection in a transaction. 

The MLS has to provide a set of tools everybody wants while providing the flexibility for the customers who want to be able to pick and choose on an annual basis. Every company looks at their services and technology on an annual basis and asks, “Do I need this anymore? Where can I get it cheaper? Is there something better out there now?” 

PB: Please share your insights on how agents and brokers can embrace MLS portals and systems, and why this strategy can be so empowering for their business.

CS: As an MLS, we’re a B2C and B2C company. We don’t lose sight of the fact that with the brokers we’re dealing with, the ultimate customer is their client, and however they are appearing to that client—the services, the professionalism and the knowledge they’re giving that client—is where everybody wins. If brokers need to look to an MLS that’s willing to do that, and then also reward them by having them be part of that ecosystem where they have equity ownership in us, they receive a financial upside on top of it all.

In our particular situation, with an equity ownership model, there are financial upsides. Why is the MLS constantly 100% at the cost center? Why are we not in a profit center as well? Why are we not partnering together more to build up each brokerage on their own with the technology that could be integrated together to make them successful, help them differentiate themselves, help them expand strategically and get a financial upside? Why aren’t most brokers asking more of their MLS? They should be thinking about that. They should be pushing their MLSs to do that. Our goal is to be that MLS. By changing your mindset and thinking outside the box, there’s a huge opportunity.

We are strategically meeting with brokers who have big visions, and there have been some revelations that have occurred with brokers that are truly valuable to everyone in the industry, and ultimately the consumer wins. And that’s what we want. We want the consumer to see their brokers and agents as the professionals that most of them are and are invaluable to them. It’s already been proven that people find real estate agents extremely valuable, but sometimes they find the system to be clunky. We’ve been hearing it for nearly 15 years, and it hasn’t changed too much over that time. But now, brokers are more open to talking about it than they were in the past. If they are willing to make the changes, then they’ll be your partner for life. And we want our brokers to be partners for life, with the ultimate goal of getting the best result for their clients.

PB: What does it mean to you to be named one of RISMedia’s 2024 Real Estate Newsmakers? 

CS: I can’t tell you how appreciative and grateful I am that you are objective in looking at individuals and their companies, where they are focused on improving the industry as a whole and lifting everyone up. There are so many voices that should be heard and have something valuable to say in many instances. RISMedia looking for those voices that may not speak in traditional terms can add a lot of value to the industry as a whole. Sometimes it’s just one statement or one small idea, and the collective of all these voices can tell us something. A lot of it’s saying the same thing, but those that are maybe just a little different can help advance the industry. 

I’m honored that someone has been able to translate what I’m saying in a way that they think is valuable to the industry as a whole. And it’s not just for me. It’s for anyone who has an idea or is making some headway in whatever aspect you have recognized them for. You’re doing a great job of truly putting your ear to the ground and hearing what’s coming, and I appreciate that.

Thank you to our 2024 Real Estate Newsmakers Sponsors:

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