The Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors is pursuing fines against members of its multiple listing service that fail to list property data for other members to view.

Charlie Brindel, executive officer at the Coastal Carolinas association, said the association began enforcing its MLS policy about a month ago, though it has been on the books for a long time.

There are about 3,000 members in the association’s MLS, which covers an area that includes Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island, among other communities.

The policy requires agents and brokers to enter information into the MLS system within 72 hours of receiving a contract to list a property for sale.

“The market is booming and we’re having to enforce the deadline. It’s always been a policy,” Brindel said. The MLS is intended to allow sharing of property information among its members, so that members have access to property information entered by other members.

This MLS property information often plays a key role in helping agents to locate homes for buyers. There was a concern that agents or companies might have intentionally kept listings out of the MLS in an attempt to work both sides of the real estate transaction.

“That concern is very prevalent with our association. We insist on fair play all around, from everyone,” Brindel said.

There are about 1,000 MLSs across the country, with about 80 percent of them controlled by local Realtor associations.

“A few people were bypassing the system – they got so busy that they overlooked the rules,” Brindel said, and they were entering information about the properties too late, in violation of the MLS policy.

Because of market conditions, properties were in some cases selling almost before agents listed them in the MLS, he said.

There are certain exceptions to the requirement to enter property listings into the MLS within 72 hours – and this is because the seller has specifically requested to keep a home out of the MLS, he noted.

“The owner has the right to keep it out of the multiple listing system,” he said, and this is typically because of a divorce another situation in which a seller requests confidentiality in the sale. In such cases, sellers are required to sign away their right to place the home in the MLS, Brindel added.

The association has asked several companies to submit a written response to explain suspected violations of the policy, Brindel said.

Because there are so many newcomer agents operating in the association’s market area, there is a “continuous process” of educating them about the MLS rules, he said.

Lenora Stephens, a real estate broker for Real Estate Today in Myrtle Beach, which was formerly known as A Place at Myrtle Beach, said she fully supports enforcement of the rule.

“I am very pleased with what the (association) is doing around here. They are enforcing things that are going to make agents more accountable and I like that,” she said.

The real estate market is very aggressive, Stephens said, with home-price appreciation going through the roof in several areas, in part because of out-of-state investors buying up properties. “People are coming here and investing (in local real estate), which is driving our market to an aggressive level that is almost unbelievable,” she said.

Stephens, a broker for 32 years who formerly worked in the North Carolina area, said her company actually received a notice of violation of this three-day MLS rule, though she said it was not an intentional violation on her part and she plans to pay the fine, if necessary.

There have been occasions when she has found incorrect or outdated property information listed in the MLS, Stephens said, and on occasion she has directly contacted those responsible for the listing information.

Since the association has stepped up its enforcement efforts, Stephens said it appears as though other brokers and agents are more willing to cooperate these days.

Rachel Broadhurst, broker for Century 21 Broadhurst in Myrtle Beach, said that the abuses of the MLS policy appeared to be most common with condo properties – especially new and pre-construction units.

“Units were not put in the MLS at all. It just became flagrant,” she said, adding that she spoke with some sellers who didn’t realize their properties were not listed in the MLS.

Broadhurst said she suspected the motivation was simply “money,” and that listing agents hoped to profit more from the transaction by not working with other MLS members.

“I think it was incumbent on our MLS to do something. If a seller doesn’t want a property in the MLS, that’s his total right and I respect that, but he deserves to know that that’s not happening,” Broadhurst said.

The South Carolina Association of Realtors, a statewide trade group, reported that the Coastal Carolinas region saw a 53 percent increase in home sales for the month of July compared to July 2004.

Median home prices in the Coastal Carolinas area were up 35.3 percent from second-quarter 2004 to second-quarter 2005, according to MLS statistics compiled by the state association, while July 2005 median home prices were up 20.6 percent over July 2004 prices.


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