"The Ten" Art Carter, CEO of CRMLS and Brian Donnellan, President and CEO of Bright MLS
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

The Ten: MLS leaders bond over industry shifts — and Sammy Hagar? 

Art Carter and Brian Donnellan, CEOs of the nation’s largest MLSs, are pals as well as colleagues, walking the talk of collaboration in challenging times.

December 19, 2023
4 minutes

Editor's Note: In a historic year shaped by trials — of all kinds — a handful of people and themes have emerged as defining forces. Real Estate News has selected the top newsmakers of 2023 who have left a mark on the industry or shown perseverance in the face of epic challenges and opportunities. They are The Ten.

The Ten: Art Carter and Brian Donnellan, MLS CEOs on a mission

When you're navigating a challenging road — or finding a way forward where no road exists — it helps to have friends by your side.

That's how it is for Art Carter and Brian Donnellan, CEOs of the nation's two largest and most influential MLSs. Carter has been CEO of CRMLS since 2005. Donnellan became CEO at Bright in 2019 after more than a decade in MLS executive roles.

The two talk at least twice a week, and Carter says one of his most prized possessions is a gift from his pal Donnellan: a guitar signed by "I Can't Drive 55" rock star and Cabo Wabo entrepreneur Sammy Hagar.

This year, they've had a LOT to talk about. The industry has faced lawsuits that could change the way agents get paid, and while the cases are not yet concluded, they have begun to influence MLS operations. In August, Bright started allowing users to make $0 buyer broker compensation offers, opening the door for other MLSs to follow, especially now that NAR has confirmed its acceptance of the practice.

More shifts seem likely.

"Today brokers need to — and should — demand more from their MLS," Donnellan said. "At Bright, we make every decision large and small informed by what's best for our brokers. It's nice that Art shares the same feeling. When people are aligned to the correct North Star, it lifts all of us."

So how is all that MLS collaboration going?

Carter and Donnellan are at the heart of some of the industry's most significant collaborative initiatives: Nestfully, a consumer-facing home search portal and a source of free leads launched in March. REdistribute, which launched soon after, monetizes MLS data and shares profits with participants.

Nestfully, which is powered by Miami Realtors, BeachesMLS and REcolorado in addition to Bright and CRMLS, "continues to grow and expand its footprint," Carter said. It is now available to more than 300,000 agents and will be launching a blog that will cover topics of interest to agents as well as consumers, he added.

"While we've had our share of successes and challenges, we are where we thought we'd be," Donnellan said. "Our focus is on 2024. We feel what Nestfully is doing helps all of us in this industry, not just one or two select players."  

REdistribute, meanwhile, has received an "enthusiastic response," Carter said. It has data coverage for about half of the homes in the U.S. provided by 40 MLSs, a bit short of the goal of 70-80% coverage by the end of 2023, but Carter said more MLSs are close to signing. 

Donnellan said REdistribute added five customers for its data in the last 60 days and "is on track to meet or exceed revenue forecasts for 2024." REdistribute's key selling point is its fresh-from-the-MLSs data, in contrast to the sometimes-outdated public records typically used by institutions like mortgage and insurance companies.

New ventures on the horizon in 2024

Carter will continue his tech focus in the new year with REcore, which he described as "the next generation in real estate technologies." The company was created by CRMLS, but operates separately to bring software and data solutions to other MLSs. REcore already supported the adoption of a new SSO login dashboard at Minnesota-based Northstar MLS ahead of the technology's official launch in January.

Donnellan was a little more cagey about Bright's plans for the new year. "As we all know, enormous shifts took place in the industry in 2023, and they continue to accelerate," he said. "While I cannot dive too deeply into specific details, our strategic plan puts Bright in a fantastic position to rise up and meet those challenges head on."

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