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MLS Solutions Continue Search for a Problem

Needed: A Couch

Three beagles and three children can take their toll on household furniture, particularly reclining sofas. I’ve spent more than a little time over the past few months replacing bolts that either were jolted loose or broken by kids catapulting off of the sofa over an armrest or beagles using the back cushion as a trampoline to help them ambush another member of the yowling pack.

But my patience has started to wear thin and as it has done so, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to buy a new couch. So, being the responsible consumer that I am, I went to the Internet this morning to find the National CLS – the National Couch Listing Service, a databse where the details of every couch for sale in America, whether being sold by a manufacturer or by a hippie trying to eliminate the odor of his hydroponic marijuana, will be listed.

Except such a site doesn’t exist.

Shaking off that disappointment, I decided maybe I ought to start pricing cars in case my soon-to-be 17-year-old finally decides to take us up on our year-long bargain that she can get her drivers’ license as soon as she gets a job and can pay for insurance.

Again, I turned to the Internet so I could find the entire inventory of cars available in America all on one site.

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And again, I was stunned to discover such a site doesn’t exist.

Don’t get me wrong – there are a ton of websites available with information on cars or couches for sale, but there’s no single depository of all the possible information that I can visit to aid me in my purchase.

National MLS Based on Flawed Argument

So I can’t visit a single website and find all of the inventory of couches and cars (and countless other items, for that matter) but there seems to be a constant drumbeat from some quarters that just such a database needs to be established for real estate, that the sites provided by local MLS boards and local agents aren’t nearly enough in this day of age.

And my question now, as it always has been, is what makes housing different than any other commodity? It can’t be cost – there are bank owned homes in Phoenix less expensive than an automobile. It can’t be the necessity of buying – the bubble bloggers have been telling people to rent for years.

For the most part, the argument for a single national MLS comes from disgruntled unrepresented sellers who were unsuccessful selling their own home. By their logic: they couldn’t sell their home, they didn’t have access to the MLS, ergo they couldn’t sell their home because they didn’t have MLS access.

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It’s clearly a flawed argument.

This morning, a RE/MAX broker from the Bay Area wrote in a letter to Inman News:

Many of the current, standard multiple listing service rules … continue to act as if it was meant for real estate professionals’ use exclusively.

Well, yeah. It is. The MLS and its data belong to the members who pay to subscribe to and maintain the service. It’s not actually public information, though most us do all we can to get that data in front of as many sets of eyes as we possibly can.

I would argue an unrepresented seller can sell their home without use of the MLS simply by using the wide array of web sites and tools currently available, assuming they have the knowledge and the time. But at the end of the day, it’s not the lack of exposure that dooms most unrepresented sellers as much as their own unrealistic pricing and their own inexperience in sales.

They fail to sell because they generally don’t know what they’re doing, not because they don’t have access to a single listings depository.

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MLS systems are marketing tools but they’re marketing tools supported and subscribed to by real estate professionals and with that in mind, the systems generally work.

Want access? Cross the incredibly low bar to access to the industry and write the checks for dues and subscriptions and you’re in.

Personally, I think there are bigger fish to fry. There are a lot more people like me who need a new couch than there are people who need to purchase a new home these days. Let’s get us couch shoppers squared away first.

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Written By

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. fred

    February 2, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I’m not sure how you can compare homes for sale with couches or cars… but I do agree that a national MLS is not needed. The one reason it might be good is to make data entry uniform, but other than that, just not needed since realtor.com displays all the listings anyhow.

  2. teresa boardman

    February 2, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    A national MLS might help with a few things like data mapping so I don’t have to manually input my listings on a zillion sites. It would also be nice if the sites with some of the listings instead of all of the listings that are national type sites that are supposed to have all the listings really had all the listings. On the other hand few people look for homes in several states so I don’t think individual consumers are inconvenienced, unless of course they got to one of the sites with some of the listings, which they do.

    It would make more sense to have a national couch site than a national real estate site because conducting a nation wide search for a couch makes way more sense than searching nationwide for a house. You really have me confused now Jonathan and I only have one dog.

  3. Marvin Jensen

    February 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Real Estate is local, period!

  4. Elaine Reese

    February 2, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    I don’t understand what benefit there would be to a national MLS, since Realtor.com is already that, as Fred mentioned. I find that many buyers start with R.com, then find an easy-to-use local broker’s site which they use thereafter.

  5. Mark Eibner

    February 2, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    we’re at it again MLS Solutions Continue Search for a Problem: Get out of your feed reader and .. https://tinyurl.com/d58eaz

  6. Missy Caulk

    February 2, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Good analogy as someone who spent last night watching the Super Bowl and scanning web sites to find some Queen Anne chairs that need replacing in my formal dining room.

    Don’t get me going on couch repairs, I keep buying ones from sellers and the kids keep breaking them.

  7. Russell Shaw

    February 3, 2009 at 3:01 am

    Great post, Jonathan. The Re/Max broker you quoted also had several other destructive (read anti-Realtor) ideas besides the one you quoted.

    A national MLS that does not offer co-broke commissions (which is the actual purpose of the MLS) was another gem he proposed.

    If he wants out of the real estate business, just leave.

  8. Vicki Moore

    February 3, 2009 at 11:26 am

    That information is not free. I pay for it. If anyone wants access to it, it’s available – for a fee.

  9. fred

    February 3, 2009 at 11:34 am

    If there were a national mls it could benefit everyone, possibly allowing for national commission offering, and one single point of entry. That doesn’t mean it would be free, of course we still would pay for it.

    On the flip side – Think about all the local mls locations that would close… that’s alot of folks out of work.

  10. Jonathan Dalton

    February 3, 2009 at 11:38 am

    But who would a national commission offering benefit? a) I have no knowledge of most states outside my own and b) I’m not licensed in other states so collecting a commission would be illegal.

  11. fred

    February 3, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Good point… maybe we should nationalize the real estate license too! In this day and age of the Internet, agents could sell homes out of state.

  12. Matt Stigliano

    February 3, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    By their logic: they couldn’t sell their home, they didn’t have access to the MLS, ergo they couldn’t sell their home because they didn’t have MLS access.

    I love the logic of this. You also mentioned sellers using the various tools and websites widely available today. Its interesting because most of the things we use on a regular basis – anyone could use. There’s no “insert license number” section on most of the sign ups for sites, so the tools are there, but because a seller isn’t using them day in and day out, they don’t know where to look or how to use them.

    I agree with your idea of, if you want to use the MLS, then go get a license and pay your dues. There are plenty of non-MLS ways to look at homes or list homes and these days with buyers looking online before even approaching an agent, I’d propose that the MLS isn’t really the be-all end-all of real estate that it used to be anyway. With so many listing tools out there, you could list your home yourself and get it seen, much like an agent could. Of course there’s time, money, and effort involved…which is what keeps so many away.

    And that’s without even covering the actual sale of the home – I’ll leave that for another day.

    Matt911

  13. Lisa Sanderson

    February 5, 2009 at 6:42 am

    I get so mad when I hear people saying that the MLS should be open to the public. We designed it, maintain it, pay for it, etc…how dare people try to come in and take it from us. Pay the piper, baby!

    As for nationalization of the MLS (which is a separate issue, is it not?) – I don’t really see the point. However, I do see the point of some of the small MLS’s regionalizing a bit to accommodate consumer needs and agents’ businesses. Some of these Associations are trying to protect their imaginary-to-everyone-but-them borders for, it seems to me, selfish reasons.

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