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by G. Sax, Director of Growth Management, RESO

Matt Fowler and Greg SaxThree Questions is an interview series that introduces you to real estate industry professionals, their businesses and how they interact with real estate standards with a goal of humanizing the tech side of the industry, fun included.

This week’s interview is with Matt Fowler, Executive Director at Triangle MLS in Cary, North Carolina. We talked about building MLS systems vs. running an MLS, his appraisal background, working with family and more. Enjoy!

Q1: How has the experience of building and operating the Solid Earth MLS system helped inform your role as someone who now serves as an Executive Director of an MLS?

Matt: That has to start with negotiating. I was an energetic competitor with people in the MLS software space for many years. Before anyone even mentions contract renewal, it’s awkward, but in a fun way! For me at least.

My dad told me don’t burn bridges and don’t be rude to employees. You may work for them one day or need something from them. Basically, don’t be an ass. I guess that’s one reason I’ve survived for so long. And it’s not just me. This industry is eager to work together.

Q2: You worked in the valuation and appraisal space for several years prior to 2000. Have you continued to follow along with developments in automated valuation models (AVMs) and the notion of desktop appraisals?

Did you see this coming 20 years ago? What role should MLSs play in regards to technology companies working to perfect their appraisal techniques?

Matt: When I started in appraisal in 1993, one appraiser told me to rent, not buy. He assumed that the appraisal would be so automated that there was no career path forward for me.

A few years later, I was involved in writing AVMs. We all recognized that appraisers who don’t use AVMs are not going to be appraisers.

Artificial intelligence is not going to put REALTORS® out of business, but you will put yourself out of business if you don’t use AI. Much like the AVM, AI is a productivity tool, not an existential threat.

There are more appraisers now than there were when I was practicing, and we actually need more of them now, way more. 

I see the Triangle MLS of the future as a set of data products, like Rackspace or AWS. You’ll pick the data that matches your license, get an API key and have your data properly arranged for your software of choice.

We want to be a high-availability warehouse full of compiled data from all sorts of places. We have already included data from places like the Green Building Registry and Fiber Homes, which tracks broadband service – anything that helps with listing fidelity to further help consumers make decisions.

Maps are another great example of why I don’t want to bet on one particular tech. I don’t want to pick a front end if I can help it. We’re moving to a front end of choice model and getting out of the way of innovation. 

Q3: You worked with your brother and industry veteran, Bill Fowler, on the Solid Earth MLS system. Based on this experience, what advice do you have for those who decide to do business with a sibling, spouse or other family member?

Matt (wryly): Gosh, I guess for most people, I would say don’t do it.

Bill and I are nine years apart. He was just eight years old when I went off to college, so we’ve had more of an adult relationship.

I’ve always respected his creativity and awareness. Having someone on your team that you trust completely is so valuable. There was never any conflict in our relationship at Solid Earth with Bill there.

G. Sax (Not a RESO Question): I’ve had the good fortune of meeting and partying with your mother in Louisville, Kentucky, so I’d like to close out this interview as Andy Samberg doing an impression of Mark Wahlberg. Say hi to your mother for me.

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