Consumers looking for homes in the Cincinnati area will no longer be able to browse for-sale listings on CincyMLS.com, the Multiple Listing Service of Greater Cincinnati’s public access Web site. Members of the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors voted this week to remove home listings from the site.
A group of small-sized brokerages that voted against closing down the listings portion of the Web site is planning a lawsuit against the association to try to get the site back up. The group says the move is a loss for consumers and smaller brokerages that rely on the exposure they receive from the site.
Geoffrey W. Barnes, president of the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors, today said he was not aware of plans for a lawsuit.
Ed Rothenberg, a local broker with Ed Rothenberg Realty in Cincinnati, is one of the MLS members who voted against eliminating listings on CincyMLS.com. He believes that erasing home listings from the public Web site will impact the business of the some 250 smaller brokerages in the region by decreasing their visibility while giving the eight or nine large brokers who have large listings sites a marketing advantage.
“The best thing about the public Web site was that it is neutral and unbiased,” he said. “The private Web sites are set up to guide the surfer to use (that company’s) sales people.”
Consumers will be able to access MLS listings online only on the broker sites that display them through broker reciprocity programs.
Opposing brokers feel the larger companies will benefit most from this week’s decision because they have the most attractive and heavily advertised Web sites.
The lawsuit against the association is being funded by hundreds of smaller brokers and sales associates, according to Rothenberg. The suit will seek a temporary restraining order to get the listings turned back on while litigation proceeds.
Meanwhile, CincyMLS.com continues to display open houses, community information, a mortgage calculator, a roster of local Realtors and links to those broker Web sites displaying listings online.
According to the Cincinnati MLS Web site, 1,051 members voted in favor of removing public access to the listings, and 611 members voted against. The board originally voted to close the listings portion of the site in September, but a group of small-sized brokerages protested and rounded up a petition to allow the entire membership to vote before the listings officially were removed.
Barnes said, “Listing information on www.CincyMLS.com started in 1996 and has served a very useful purpose…but with the advent of broker reciprocity in 2003, any Realtor firm in the area can now host virtually all the MLS information.”
A total of 78 Realtor firms currently have Web sites that display 98.5 percent of the local MLS listings, according to the announcement on CincyMLS.com, which provides links to those 78 sites.
“The important thing is that conusmers still visit Web sites at other real estate agencies as a result of broker reciprocity,” Barnes said.
Some consumers have already sent e-mails to the MLS in reaction to the decision, Barnes said. But, “it’s not surprising,” he added, “people are resistant to change when change comes about.”
Mike West, broker of Mike West Realtors in Cincinnati, said he would like to see the public listings site come back. He feels that the membership vote this week was not representative of all members’ views.
“The people who attended the meeting were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the site,” West said.
West’s company has its own Web site that links to CincyMLS.com. He plans to start using broker reciprocity to link consumers to the data on his company’s site.
“I’m certainly against taking the site down because it was a wonderful service for the public and certainly for the smaller companies,” West said.
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