MLS/Assn in Focus - Brad Bjelke, CEO,
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

In Focus: How the MLS drives innovation in real estate CEO Brad Bjelke believes the wealth of data provided by MLSs makes them “more important today than at any point in time.”

February 19, 2024
4 minutes

MLSs and associations are the backbone of residential real estate, from small but innovative players to regional powerhouses. How are these organizations supporting their members and moving forward in a time of change? We asked their leaders to share their perspectives.

For the past nine years, Brad Bjelke has been at the helm of Utah's largest MLS, moving it forward with an eye on tech and a focus on customer support.

With nearly 20,000 subscribers, is also one of the biggest multiple listing services in the country, and Bjelke has leveraged that scale to innovate and collaborate with other forward-thinking MLS organizations. 

Bjelke believes the MLS is among "the greatest innovations" of the past century, and he has been at the forefront of continued advancements in MLS technology and data, investing in in-house development and forming partnerships that can help move into a new era.

He shared his thoughts about the value of the MLS, the benefits of homegrown tech, and where he thinks the industry is headed. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

What do you wish people generally understood about MLSs?

The MLS is one of the greatest innovations of the past 100 years. The accuracy of MLS data makes the homebuying experience more transparent for consumers and agents, and an MLS like the one I run does an amazing job distributing that real estate data to hundreds of companies who provide services and software to brokers, agents, and the public — making the MLS data more readily available and allowing for innovation in the industry.

What makes stand out?

We've developed our primary MLS system in-house, which allows us to customize the system to serve the needs of our local communities quickly and efficiently. We are not restricted by many of the limitations of "out of the box" software providers, so we can rapidly institute a new feature or function that separates us from the competition — leading to unprecedented innovation. 

We also have one of the most visited public real estate websites in the country, with nearly 7 million visitors coming to the website each year. We provide accurate and timely information to those looking for homes in our markets, and we have a brand that is trusted. 

What is unique about the Utah market?

Utah is a true high-growth state. In the past 10 years, we have witnessed an influx of new residents coming from outside of the state — that has placed a demand on home builders to build more units, and it has raised the cost of housing. As the population has grown, we have also seen an unprecedented number of technology companies relocate to the state, which has spurred new startups.

What are you most excited about right now?

I think the MLS — with the statistics, historical databases and information we can provide to our members and the consumer — is more important today than at any point in time. As AI becomes more readily available, we will be able to calculate statistics more efficiently and quickly than ever before, enriching the data that can be used in the purchase of a home. Building out these technologies at my MLS is one of the things that excites me about the next few years.

How do you think residential real estate will be different in the next 5-10 years?

It is hard to predict what real estate will be like in 2 years, so it's difficult to speculate 5-10 years out. But looking back 10 years in most industries, you will see an evolution due to advances and changes in technology, science, and human behavior. I think we are likely to see the same things change real estate over the next decade. 

New generations of homebuyers and sellers will be influenced by how they grew up, their comfort with technology, and their use of data — and the MLS will need to be ready to adapt and change with the times.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I feel lucky to work in an industry that provides some of the greatest moments and memories in a person's life. The buying and selling of a home, the memories made in a home, and the wealth that homeownership can provide is a big part of the American Dream. Working at the MLS, we get to play a vital role in those property transactions, and for that I am thankful.

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