The vendor for the California MLSAlliance, a real estate data-sharing system in California that pools property information from multiple listing service organizations across the state, announced this month that three more groups have joined the system, bringing the total to 15.

The South Tahoe Association of Realtors, Coastal Mendocino Association of Realtors, and Lake County Association of Realtors are the latest additions to the group, according to an announcement by eNeighborhoods, a company that supplies technology for the platform.

California MLSAlliance was created in August 2007 through an agreement among 10 MLSs serving 45 local real estate associations.

Meanwhile, other separate MLS collaborative projects are proceeding in California.

CALMLS (see Inman News), a subsidiary of the California Association of Realtors, has received nonbinding letters of intent from most of the MLSs in the state to participate in a statewide MLS effort that will feature a statewide property information database that could become the default MLS system for participants.

Another effort, dubbed CARETS (see Inman News), has participation from a group of six MLSs, most of them in Southern California. CARETS is a data-sharing and standardization effort that seeks to create a common MLS database and common rules for users of participating MLSs.

A major driver for data-sharing efforts is to eliminate the need for agents and brokers to join several MLSs in order to effectively serve their clients, as MLSs can have separate membership fees, rules, forms and data fields for describing for-sale properties. And there are in some cases several MLSs serving the same market areas.

The California MLSAlliance data-sharing effort covers most of the state’s 58 counties and is available to about 190,000 brokers and agents who are members of 53 local real estate associations, according to eNeighborhoods — there were about 544,000 total real estate licensees in the state in May 2008, including 391,400 salespersons and 152,600 brokers, according to state licensing statistics.

And there were about 170,200 Realtors in the state as of May 31, according to National Association of Realtors statistics.

About 50,000 agents and brokers used the MLSAlliance system to search for property listings in the state during the month of May, eNeighborhoods reported, which was the highest level since the system was established.

The system provides access to information about 4 million for-sale and off-market properties in the state.

Woolley said that San Diego and San Jose are the only large metro areas that are not served by the MLSAlliance system.

He noted that there are "several parallel efforts" in the state to share MLS data with real estate professionals. The MLSAlliance system preserves the structure of participating MLSs.

Brokers who participate in the system can get data feeds for all properties shared through the MLSAlliance system, Woolley said, "instead of going to individual MLSs" to get separate feeds. Those feeds, which are compliant with Internet Data Exchange rules for sharing properties among brokers, can be displayed on brokers’ Web sites, he said.

Agents and brokers who are members of groups that participate in the MLSAlliance can access the shared system through their MLS or by visiting the MLSAlliance site directly.

Woolley said there is definitely potential for the California MLSAlliance to spread outside of the state.

ENeighborhoods operates similar data-sharing networks in the Gulf Coast region of Florida and in Virginia. "They typically start with a core group (of participants), he said. Once they are up and functioning and live they attract other MLSs around that area."

The California alliance began as two separate regional systems that joined together.

The CALMLS effort, launched by the California Association of Realtors, is in the process of reviewing bids for the technology company that will operate the statewide database, said Mike Silvas, broker-owner of Napa-based Morgan Lane Inc. who leads the CALMLS board appointed in May. The board of directors are scheduled to meet on Wednesday.

Silvas said that members of the CALMLS board have been making presentations throughout the state to inform real estate agents and brokers about plans for the statewide initiative.

Some agents and brokers continue to express concerns about a statewide system allowing "agents who come into their marketplace who are not conversant with the marketplace," Silvas said.

He said that there appears to be a bit of a generational gap and a tech gap in the acceptance of the statewide MLS initiative, with some younger members of the real estate community responding that, "Hey, we need to get this done — we need to get this done yesterday," and others who are not quite as tech-oriented commenting that "I don’t nearly see the need."

He added, "This is just an educational process. All we’re trying to do is bring them up to speed on where everything is at. We’re trying to be as transparent as we possibly can and we’re trying to be as inclusive as we can."

The board has begun the process in forming advisory groups — each with a special focus such as technology, rules and governance, Silvas said.


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