Sunday, March 23, 2008

Northern California's MLS's & California Association of Realtors Statewide MLS

Except for this year, I have been a director of the Bay East Association of Realtors for over 11 years. I also sat on our MLS committee and the joint committee for Contra Costa, East Bay Regional and Bay East Associations and have been a CAR director since 1992. The MLS is forever changing and the politics just seem to be keeping us from having one Northern Calfornia MLS. Each association does feel they are looking out for the best interest of their members but the reality is that some just want to keep their positions (jobs), protect and keep other agents from selling in their areas and they do not keep in mind what is best for their members or sellers.

Most agents are not receiving the information regarding issues that are coming up within their MLS's and some agents have apathy. Below is some information that is happening in Northern California. The directors at the last couple of meetings at CAR overwhelmingly voted to have CAR move forward in putting together a statewide MLS. This is moving ahead very rapidly! What agents do not understand is that most of us will not sell out of our areas of expertise but we will be able to help our buyers and sellers find good information on properties in the areas in which they are relocating.

We need to start thinking outside the box and get rid of all these fears. We should also be asking questions and receiving proper information of the agents and/or brokers who are running the MLS's and ask them why they do not want to merge into one MLS which is in the best interest of their members. If we do not join forces and come together as one, then someone else might do it for us. We will then not have any control with our data.

Please read below what is happening in Northern California.

It has been difficult to keep up with everything that is going on regarding possible MLS mergers and other data consolidation efforts, especially since it has been changing so rapidly. Expanding our MLS coverage is a goal we have been trying to accomplish for some time. Over the past three years, several alternatives have been proposed. The primary one has been to merge with MLSListings Inc. (formerly NCREX) to form a Bay Area MLS. Unfortunately, this has not worked out because BAREIS (North Bay) and Metrolist (Sacramento valley area) declined to join the merger initially, and then both San Francisco and EBRD decided not to participate.

Although there are other concerns too, without EBRD as a member, merging with MLSListings Inc. would require our members to join two MLSs to get all of the East Bay listings, which would be a move in the wrong direction. Keeping the East Bay together on a single platform is critical to our members' ability to do business. Recognizing this, Bay East, Contra Costa Association and EBRD have agreed to remain on a single MLS platform for at least the next two years. After careful consideration, both Bay East and Contra Costa Associations' Boards of Directors have concluded that merging with MLSListings Inc. is not in the best interest of our members at this time, and the effort to do so has been terminated.

What other opportunities to expand MLS coverage beyond the East Bay have been considered?We have signed the Statement of Intent to take part in the CAR Statewide MLS Initiative, which demonstrates our support for the concept of a statewide MLS. This effort has already gained considerable support throughout the state. To-date, 59 associations and MLS (representing more than 200,000 agents and brokers in California) have signed the Statement of Intent. We have looked at QUATTRO, the data sharing solution that is being used by San Francisco, BAREIS and Metrolist that allows agents to input and search listings in each other's systems. We are also reviewing CARETS, the Southern California group that is currently merging the data from several MLSs into a single database.

The CARETS approach, with its uniform data content and simplified interface with existing MLS systems, appears to have some advantages that we feel are worth exploring further, and might even be something that could be included in CAR's Statewide MLS.Doesn't the CA MLS Alliance do what we need? It provides complete listing information from many of the largest Northern and Southern California MLSs?We believe the CA MLS Alliance ( is an excellent data sharing product that meets many of our needs. But it falls short of being a unified MLS. It does not create a common set of rules for all participants. Brokers and agents may still have to belong to more than one MLS if they work across MLS boundaries. It does not have uniform information or report content or format. All of these things and more would be possible if there was a single MLS provider across the full area of interest.

Now that the CA MLS Alliance is available to our members, will we continue with the MLSXchange?The MLSXchange is no longer needed, now that the information from all participants is available from the CA MLS Alliance. Therefore, it will be stopped on Monday, April 21, 2008.

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