And then there were five.

A planned regional MLS consolidation in Northern California has lost one of its founding members, according to an announcement Wednesday.

Board members for the San Francisco Association of Realtors have “indicated they are temporarily withdrawing their participation in the Northern California Real Estate Exchange (NCREX), an effort by a group of MLSs to merge into a single MLS with a common database, common rules and a single fee for members.

NCREX is hopeful that SFAR will make a decision to continue its full participation in NCREX,” according to a statement released Wednesday by the Bay East Association of Realtors, a member of NCREX. Other members of the regional MLS effort include Central Valley MLS, Contra Costa MLS, East Bay Regional Data, and RE Infolink MLSs.

There are other examples across the country of MLSs seeking to consolidate data and operations, often at the request of large brokers who want greater efficiencies, such as the standardization of MLS data and rules, and a single membership in a regional MLS for their sales associates rather than multiple memberships in local MLSs.

Tricia Thomas, CEO for the Bay East Association, which has about 7,000 members, said that officials at the San Francisco association have indicated that they are withdrawing from participation in NCREX “to focus efforts on getting up and running with the Quattro project.” The Quattro project, announced Sept. 25, is a separate effort by three Northern California MLSs — including the San Francisco Association, Bay Area Real Estate Information Services Inc. (BAREIS) and MetroList Services Inc. — to form a common, searchable data set while continuing to operate as separate MLSs.

“Quattro is proof that individual MLSs in a short period of time can cooperate to enhance user services through reciprocal data access and sharing arrangements without spending endless hours attempting to solve issues related to ownership structures and governance,” said Tom Beede, president and CEO for MetroList Services Inc., in a statement about the formation of Quattro.

Quattro and NCREX represent two different approaches for the consolidation of MLS data, though both of them seek to make it easier for members to access regional MLS data at a glance rather than requiring members to search in separate databases.

Representatives for Quattro’s participating members were not immediately available today to comment about their effort and about the San Francisco association’s withdrawal from NCREX.

Thomas said that the NCREX will proceed as planned. “It doesn’t slow us down. In fact it has brought higher attention to this issue. We have great support from the brokerage community,” she said. “It kind of tells us that we’re on the right track. They are even more strongly motivated than ever before to move forward with us.”

NCREX participants have had contact with BAREIS and MetroList, Thomas said, “and they have chosen not to move forward with us,” though she said the door remains open for MLSs to join with the consolidation plan. “It’s a very inclusive project. The hope is that as we go live with the system we will continue to do outreach and encourage them to participate.

“It’s the direction that the MLSs feel that we should be going, to have one regional MLS. It’s the direction that the state association has encouraged. We’ve had a lot of encouragement from (California Association of Realtors) leadership. And it’s the direction that the brokerage community has strongly been encouraging for a number of years now,” Thomas said.

Member MLS of the NCREX effort have agreed to a common set of MLS rules, she noted, and received approval from the National Association of Realtors for the regional MLS. “It has been signed off on by all the attorneys. Now we’re in the process of implementing it,” she said.

The various MLS databases have been mapped and the process of aggregating the databases as a single, unified MLS database will likely begin in early 2007, she added. “It’s kind of like building a house. You seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on building the foundation … once you’ve got that up and running, the rest goes rather smoothly.”

NCREX and Quattro both represent about 40,000 MLS subscribers.

Rapattoni Corp., a real estate technology company based in Simi Valley, Calif., is supplying the technology to support Quattro and may also bid to provide technology for the NCREX effort, said Andy Rapattoni, company president and CEO.

Rapattoni Corp. was already a supplier of MLS software for the three members of Quattro, he said, and “the three MLSs are the ones that got together and developed the concept of Quattro and then came to us,” he said.

“The most important element to (Quattro), the way it is structured, (is that we) did not have to get into the politics of forming a single-owner of the MLS. They keep all of their management in place and their own members. The idea was to satisfy the big brokers’ needs, and they have also normalized their rules of operation so they all have common rules,” Rapattoni said.

Members of Quattro will be able to view any of the individual MLS databases or access combined data from all of the Quattro MLSs, he said. “All four databases are synchronized.” The system will be phased in and will likely be available by January, he said.

The technology is available to form a consolidated database for NCREX and Quattro, he said, which would encompass a far larger geographic area for participating members. “Even if we’re not the vendor in NCREX we could still establish the technology to bring NCREX into Quattro,” he said.

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