Bright MLS Brian Donnellan

Bright MLS: Creating 'a better experience for everyone' with data 

Brian Donnellan, Bright’s CEO and president, says the effective use of data is key to "helping agents in their business of helping consumers."

December 28, 2022
3 minutes

Key points:

  • Donnellan believes Bright is well-positioned to deliver evidence-based information and insights to agents.
  • Bright MLS has invested in data-focused roles, recently hiring a chief data officer and chief economist — MLS industry firsts.
  • Donnellan is excited about Bright's potential to improve and advance the industry by fully optimizing the data at its fingertips.

Too often, Brian Donnellan sees real estate professionals making important decisions on gut instinct without the benefit of evidence-based data to inform them.

As the leader of one of the nation's largest multiple listings services, Donnellan, CEO and president of Bright MLS, is determined to change that. "We have all this data, and as an industry, we make all these assertions. But they're really feelings, because nobody has fully deployed the data to support them," Donnellan told Real Estate News. 

Donnellan says the real estate industry often lags in the adoption of technology because of the complicated nature of transactions, which he described as "hundreds of little activities that have to happen." 

Bright MLS is at the beginning stages of making the best use of the highly detailed information that MLSs routinely collect, said Donnellan, whose goal is to provide data analysis that helps agents, brokers and the industry assist consumers and creates a "better experience for everyone."

As an example, Donnellan said that MLSs can use the data collected to examine more closely how the industry changes, adapts and evolves over time, including in the area of agent turnover and retention.

Donnellan also noted that multiple listing services have data from 2009 and 2010 showing how the market behaved during the Great Recession, which could help to inform the activities of real estate professionals today, as the industry experiences a cooling off period after a runup in prices. 

Investing in data-focused leadership

Donnellan's emphasis on understanding the market better through data analysis is underscored by new leadership positions at Bright MLS.

The organization recently hired Tom Morgan as chief data officer — a new role for Bright, and a first among MLSs. In another first, Bright brought on Dr. Lisa Sturtevant last spring, the first chief economist on staff at a multiple listing service.

Bright's investment in data sets them apart, and it will enable them to improve and advance the industry by using the data at its fingertips, Donnellan said. He noted that one of his goals is giving agents and brokers access to evidence-based information and insights that are timely, useful and reliable. 

It will be a watershed moment for Bright and the industry as a whole when the data gathered in the homebuying journey can be fully optimized and deployed, Donnellan said. "Our job is to figure out what it is we can do with that data and how we can help agents in their business of helping consumers," Donnellan said.

Bright's role in 'changing hearts and minds'

Donnellan is a veteran of the MLS industry. He has led Bright MLS as CEO and president for three years, and before that served as chief operating officer. He also was a leader at MRIS for a decade. Today MRIS is among the multiple listing services that make up Bright.

The product of consolidation, Bright is a pioneer in the MLS world with a coverage area that extends across the mid-Atlantic region and serves more than 100,000 brokers and agents. 

Asked about the future of collaboration among MLSs at large, Donnellan noted that "as we've been successful at Bright, I think other folks may see that as competitive to what they're doing, and not be as open as I hoped to collaborate a little bit more." 

"So, you know, it's about changing some hearts and minds," Donnellan said. "It's about getting people to see you as a trusted partner."

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