A group of brokers in Southern California cut ties with their association-owned multiple listing service to form their own independent MLS. And they’ve taken nearly one third of the association’s MLS members with them.

The new Bakersfield, Calif.-based entity is called Bakersfield Listing Service. Four of the region’s real estate brokers who collectively have more than half the area’s market share founded the MLS, which launched September 1.

A group of brokers in Southern California cut ties with their association-owned multiple listing service to form their own independent MLS. And they’ve taken nearly one third of the association’s MLS members with them.

The new Bakersfield, Calif.-based entity is called Bakersfield Listing Service. Four of the region’s real estate brokers who collectively have more than half the area’s market share founded the MLS, which launched September 1. The brokers include KW Associates, GMAC Stroope, Watson Realty and Coldwell Banker America West and Preferred, according to Karen Wass, broker/owner of KW Associates.

The Bakersfield brokers are following what seems to be a growing trend to separate from association-owned MLSs. Markets such as Washington, D.C., and Chicago have successful broker-owned MLSs in place.

Wass identified technology, management issues and a changing marketplace as some of the reasons the brokers decided to break off from Bakersfield MLS, which is operated by the Bakersfield Association of Realtors. She pointed to the rapid expansion of the Bakersfield housing market and claimed that the Bakersfield MLS’ was not keeping up as reasons for leaving, as well as a dissatisfaction with the committee structure of operating the MLS.

“We felt we had to centralize the management of the MLS so that we could give more support and respond more rapidly to some of these (market) changes,” Wass said.

The committee structure relies on volunteers, but participation has dropped off over the years, she added. Agents who are engaged in the market and know what’s happening are too busy to sit on the committees.

The new independent entity, Bakersfield Listing Service, is structured as a for-profit company. The founding brokers are investors and they’ve offered shares to others for a limited time, according to Wass. Members of the MLS will pay a subscription fee to join.

“We have a different kind of rules and enforcement procedure. We will have a three-broker panel, and hopefully enforce rules more evenly, more diligently and much more swiftly,” Wass said.

So far, a handful of brokers have joined the new independent MLS, with at least two joining at the investment level. Appraisers also have joined. The member brokers’ listings will be dually listed in the new MLS and the association-run MLS until Wednesday, Wass said.

The new independent MLS is in the process of training members how to use the MLS’ technology platform. The MLS doesn’t currently have a public Web site for consumers, but Wass said one is in the works.

The brokers’ decision to leave wasn’t hasty. Wass said they had a team of attorneys and consulted the National Association of Realtors’ MLS regulations before finalizing the decision.

The reactions of the Bakersfield association and Bakersfield MLS to the broker exodus are unclear. Bakersfield MLS Chairman Don Cohen wasn’t available to comment on the separation. A Bakersfield association spokeswoman said the MLS chairman will answer questions on Wednesday.

The Bakersfield association last week began posting messages to members on its Web site, stating that leadership had received “legal opinion on issues facing our MLS.”

“There was a lot of surprise and a little confusion,” Wass said of the MLS and association reaction. “There have been comments made about retaliation, but we’re right now having discussions about how we can cooperate.”

The separation took about 500 agents from the Bakersfield MLS, which had about 1,800 members before the brokers broke off to form their own. Most of the brokers intend to remain active members with the local Realtor association. Wass said the brokers and the association are still in negotiation on such issues as cooperative access for lockboxes so they’ll still be able to show each other’s listings to prospective buyers.

Wass said broker group remains committed to the local Realtor association. Most of the brokers served as past presidents of the Bakersfield association and intend to stay active. “Our issues are with the MLS,” she said.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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