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Thai Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

Many people have asked whether or not there is a Thai Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Many professional real estate agents have discussed the potential, but there is still no Thai MLS which I am aware of. That is the short answer to the question. However, I think there is considerable potential for one in today's internet age, though it would need to be implemented in a way which fits the current Thai real estate industry.

Along those lines, I have drafted a Thai MLS business model with rules, standard operating procedures, a system to limit access to need to know on a case by case basis, methods of detecting, cutting out, and reporting cheaters, ways of ranking honorable agents/agencies, and a management system, which may work well in scaling up.

It may help to understand my viewpoint on this. Many other agents have gotten into real estate by just applying for a job at some other franchise or company and getting indoctrinated by their training. I did not. I started with my own ideas and approach, and built up my real estate business from the ground up. It was not a lazy effort to get rich quick based on tricks and shortcuts, unlike many agents out there. It was based on a fascination about luxury properties in detail, curiosity about exploring greater Bangkok, and the enjoyment of meeting and getting to know high level expat clients socially as well. Some of the things I have learned from this are applicable to my viewpoint, so I would like to briefly review this history, some of my experiences, and some of my critical thinking and creative solutions -- thinking outside the box.

My first exposure to Thailand's real estate industry was in the mid-1990s when I was searching for a home for myself, as well as helping incoming expat associates with their thailand home search as a favor. I saw places with various Thai real estate agents and took the opportunity to talk with some of them, which gave me some understanding of the system here and its limitations.

At one point, I found a wonderful suburban neighborhood, which I chose to move to and live in. My first venture into real estate began as a small quasi-hobby by surveying this neighborhood, meeting landlords as well as some agents, and promoting the neighborhood and houses inside. This is a long story which I will make very short here: I had a lot of fun surveying that niche area and meeting some entertaining landlords, heard a lot of gripes about other real estate agents, and then started to bring in appropriate clients. I expanded the business a niche at a time for awhile, though eventually took on the city center, too, and was highly successful there, as well, based on the methodology I had learned along the way, but with some major adjustments for the city center. I hired and trained agents, but it wasn't enough to cover all of the areas of incoming demand. Beyond employees, I also met some good freelance agents / agencies who handled just their own suburban niches, so I put together some co-agent arrangements.

Meanwhile, many agents contacted us asking to "co-agent" for their client who was requesting a property in an area they didn't cover well, usually a particular suburb, but sometimes just a particular unit in a highrise which they didn't have in their stock. Our experience in coagent efforts has been mixed, but those were good experiences and got me thinking ...

All of this experience made me consider going beyond surveying properties and finding clients. I started to think of starting up a separate organization to manage "co-agents" -- to facilitate other agents/agencies, other than my own, as a kind of broker of brokers, and maybe an escrow. An agent may have a client looking for properties beyond their stock, and another agent may have properties looking for clients, whereby there is a match, if they consider the best interests of the client. What is the best way to handle this situation? A Thai Multiple Listing Service.

A Thai Multiple Listing Service would be much more of an I.T. operation, instead of an out in the field experience of surveying properties and showing clients around.

There is not any good "Multiple Listing Service" in Thailand, so at one point I considered starting one and got ThaiMLS. Others have also discussed the concept of a Thai MLS. Many local people don't really understand how MLS systems work in other countries, so it's important to learn how they really work. You could start with Wikipedia by just looking up Multiple Listing Service, i.e., here: wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_listing_service ... HOWEVER, I have some ideas how this MLS concept could be modified to work much better in Thailand, based on how the internet has evolved, as well as how the diverse Thai real estate industry currently works.

Some agents/agencies are skeptical about an MLS working in Thailand. Their reasons have never been convincing to me, as I have thought about solutions. Some might not want to see somebody else implement this, out of fear of disruption, and don't know how to do it well themselves. Also, some agents are just too paranoid whereby their fear and imagination can dominate, and are quickly willing to "throw out the baby with the bath water". Yeah, I've also had some bad experiences with coagents and other people, but I've also had many good experiences with coagents. You win some and you lose some ... but I focus on the wins, and roll with the punches. Overall, dealing with many coagents has been profitable and worthwhile, despite some bad experiences of wasted time, effort, expense, and attempts to "steal" our stock, so I have continued because the profits have far exceeded the losses. With an MLS, sure, there will be some people who try to cheat or game the system, but there are ways to detect this and blacklist them, and limit the losses, while still making good profit with the honorable people, without obsessing over the bad apples. The profit and honorable people are what count.

The scalability of an MLS is very high, far beyond one real estate agency. However, a Multiple Listing Service is a different kind of business, less people oriented (clients, landlords), less field oriented (exploring Bangkok and seeing luxury places), more office or digital nomad oriented, and more challenging in its scale.

An MLS could be disruptive to some extent, but there are ways it can improve business for agencies and agents who are honorable and adaptive, and help them serve their clients well. It may also help clients find good agents.

My plans took a detour when COVID started in early 2020. My property business was based mainly on incoming expats as clients by that time. That dropped off dramatically with the COVID travel ban, so our company had no viable choice but to downsize dramatically and quickly, in order to survive, whereby we planned to hold on a few years based on savings, as we have. However, now, in 2022, I am at the age of 62 and not looking to start a new business of this size or intensity. I could help as an advisor or in some other role, or just sell it off if you think you can do it all and if the price is acceptable.

I would like to see how a launch of a ThaiMLS would go, but for any newcomer to the real estate sector in Thailand, I would strongly recommend first doing work as a real estate agent or agency such as kkBkk for two reasons: experience, and nearterm income until the MLS gets going well enough. Any MLS would need a good database to start with, which we have. If interested, click here for an opportunity.

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