Business Profile | Russ Bergeron

February 2012 View more

This industry leader is at the forefront of real estate data service innovations

NMAG0212_BusinessThat old real estate mantra—location, location, location—is alive and well along the Illinois Technology and Research Corridor, along which Fortune 1000 companies seem to flock. Nestled along Warrenville Road, between corporate giants Navistar and Molex, lies Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED)—comparatively tiny in size, but huge among service providers in the country’s real estate market. By listing volume, MRED is the largest multiple listing service (MLS) in the country, born out of the merger of two smaller MLSs in 2008. As the data aggregator and distributor for nearly 8,000 real estate offices and 40,000 real estate professionals in northeast Illinois—including brokers, agents, and appraisers—MRED serves as the backbone of 90 percent of the real estate transactions in the state.

When he assumed MRED’s chief executive officer position in 2010, Russ Bergeron brought with him nearly a half-century of experience in technical management and leadership in high-growth, high-technology, computer-based services. Real estate news service Inman News named Bergeron one of the nation’s 100 Most Influential Leaders in Real Estate for the last three consecutive years, and he currently sits on advisory boards of,, Supra, and CoreLogic/Realist. Naperville Magazine recently sat down with Bergeron to get to know this local leader and to learn more about the MLS industry.

There is no single authoritative MLS, and no universal data format. How do you and your team decide what functions to include in our northern Illinois MLS system?

You have hit on a major point to which I have dedicated myself over the years—data standards. MRED is one of the founding members of RESO (Real Estate Standards Organization), which has been chartered with the task of creating just such a standard. That being said, much of the data in each of the hundreds of MLSs across the country is pretty similar.
Our philosophy is simple: We continuously scour the country looking for new products and services. When our team finds something of interest we check it out thoroughly and decide if it is something that ALL of our customers should have, or if it’s a product that our customers could optionally purchase.

You coined the term “Public Service Apps” in the real estate industry, and recently launched the Down Payment Resource™ app to your MLS system. How do these web-based tools help both homebuyers and Realtors® who use your system?

Great question. As everyone knows, the real estate market of the past few years has not seen stellar performance. Couple that with tighter credit and demand for higher down payments and you have the perfect storm to bring the market crashing down. Through our Down Payment Resource we are addressing that situation by linking for-sale properties and potential buyers with the hundreds of available assistance programs of which most are not aware. If we can assist buyers through their Realtor®, we will have created a win-win situation for all concerned.
In addition to the Down Payment Resource we have also implemented the Fannie Mae Short Sale Assistance Desk. MRED and Fannie Mae can get involved to help speed the process along and get a property sold that may have languished in short sale limbo and eventually may be foreclosed upon.

You’ve seen MLS listings migrate from hard copy to the Internet to mobile platforms. How is the industry keeping up, and what is on the horizon for agent/brokers and MRED?

You’re right about that—I started my MLS career printing MLS books back in the ’70s. When I founded SoCalMLS in California we were the first MLS to place the entire listing inventory on the Internet in 1995, and it hasn’t slowed down. Obviously the biggest driver today is social media, in all of its different forms.

At MRED we have developed a social media widget, which enables our customers to easily post an attractive “ad” about their listings onto the major social sites—Facebook, Twitter, and recently, Craigslist. This all ties in with the “mocial” aspect of computing—mobile social activity. Our main MLS system already runs on all browsers so supporting the various tablets, like iPads, is a snap for us. We currently have about 20 percent of our customers using some form of mobile device to directly access the MLS system itself.

You worked and attended college on the east coast, lived in Southern California for decades, and now you’re in the Midwest. What are the biggest differences in the real estate markets across the country?

I think the biggest difference is in the scale of house prices. Regardless of location, the highs and lows were very comparable—just at varying degrees. Here in the Midwest, with more modest prices, the percentages of change were probably similar—yet not as astronomical—as in the west. No one was immune from the downfall, but my gut says that our area will probably be able to get things turned around, or at least stabilized more quickly, than other areas.
The Naperville market is one of the stronger areas. We have had our share of distressed sales (short sales and foreclosures) but overall the pricing has stayed pretty strong. If you segregate out the traditional sales from the distressed sales you will see some drop in average price, but nowhere near as severe as in other areas locally or around the country. I don’t think anyone is predicting a skyrocketing leap in house prices, but in Naperville we are holding our own.

How are you and your wife Janet enjoying your new life here in Naperville?

The first question that people asked when we announced our move to the Midwest from southern California was, “WHY?” Obviously the challenge and opportunity of heading up MRED was at the top of the list, but having never lived in the Midwest we saw this as a great opportunity to get to know a part of the country that was new to us. The transition was surprisingly easy and we have found that the people here could not be nicer. I think there is definitely a much more relaxed lifestyle here—unlike the faster pace and higher pressure of the west coast.

Of course the weather is a bit different, but—although a bit of a cliché—experiencing the seasons has been exhilarating. We just bought a home in Naperville and just love the neighborhood; we’re meeting new neighbors and enjoying the walkability of the neighborhood—it couldn’t be better. Prior to moving here we had not spent much time in the city, other than at airport hotels and the like. But since the move we have come to love Chicago and it is now our favorite big city. We’re happy to say that Naperville has truly become our home.


Photo by Mike Hudson