Board members for California MLS, a nonprofit, wholly owned subsidiary of the California Association of Realtors, will soon begin the process in selecting a vendor to operate a statewide property information database that could become the default MLS system for Realtors.
The CALMLS board, appointed this month by California Association of Realtors officers, has 17 members who are all real estate agents or brokers and is led by Mike Silvas, broker-owner of Napa-based Morgan Lane Inc.
Silvas, who had served on an MLS task force for the state Realtor group also served as a member of the board of directors for Real Estate Business Technologies, another subsidiary of the state Realtor association, said CALMLS represents a "historic opportunity" for industry participants.
"If we can do this right and we can do this to the benefit of everyone, it should be good for everyone in the state," he said.
The state Realtor group announced this month that 61 MLSs and local Realtor groups in the state have sent non-binding letters of intent to participate in the statewide MLS effort. There are 70 MLSs in the state.
Silvas said there are definitely some challenges remaining, as there are several regional MLS data-sharing and other collaborative efforts already under way in the state, and the statewide initiative has the potential to cause job losses if it replaces local MLSs.
"Anytime you do something new, people worry about it because it is new and different," he said. "Certainly there is the very real possibility that peoples’ positions are going to be displaced."
He said he believes that the MLS collaborations that have risen up in the state were inspired by the effort to launch the statewide initiative, and that a challenge for the CALMLS board is in "trying to figure out a way to work with (these efforts), not around them."
Some Realtor associations are contemplating whether to offer a direct feed to the statewide MLS system rather than through an affiliated Realtor-operated MLS, Silvas said, which is "creating a little bit of consternation," and those types of decisions are up to individual associations and MLSs.
Under the statewide initiative approved in October by California Association of Realtors directors, local Realtor associations and MLSs can decide whether or not to use the statewide database as their primary MLS database or whether to continue to maintain a separate MLS system while also offering access to the statewide database.
"Once a vendor is selected, the implementation process will begin," according to a California Association of Realtors announcement this month.
Silvas said the goal is to launch the statewide database either in the last quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2009.
There will be uniform rules for the statewide MLS system, and brokers and sales agents will be allowed to access the statewide property system by joining a single participating Realtor association or MLS, the trade group also announced.
Multiple sets of MLS and association membership fees, rules and real estate forms have been a driver for regional and statewide MLS collaborative efforts.
Jean Powers, an associate broker for Windermere Welcome Home in Alameda, Calif., who is a member of the California Realtor group’s board of directors, said she believes the statewide effort "is a positive move," though, "There are a lot of agents who think it’s not."
Some agents, she said, fear that a statewide MLS system would allow agents from outside the area to sell property in their local territories, and there is also a fear within MLSs of job losses.
Powers said she doesn’t believe this would be a big issue, as many agents would simply use the system to find agents to refer clients to in other parts of the state.
The system would, she said, assist brokers who own multiple offices by enabling them to join one MLS.
She noted that participation in the statewide database or MLS system is optional, though, "it will work best if everybody opts in."
The National Association of Realtors, meanwhile, is pursuing a national property information database for its members called the Library/Archive and formerly referred to as the Gateway and Real Estate Channel, though this effort is not envisioned as a national MLS system.
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