Backers of a plan to create a statewide multiple listing service in California are downplaying the long-term impact of a decision by the Fresno Association of Realtors to put participation in the system on hold just two weeks after its launch.

Fresno was one of three Realtor associations on board for the Aug. 17 launch of calREDD, a service of the California Association of Realtors’ CALMLS (California MLS Inc.) subsidiary. Ten other Realtor associations are slated to start using calREDD in the coming months.

Editor’s note: this story has been corrected to note that SoCalMLS, not CARETS, has signed a non-binding statement of intent to participate in calREDD.

Backers of a plan to create a statewide multiple listing service in California are downplaying the long-term impact of a decision by the Fresno Association of Realtors to put participation in the system on hold just two weeks after its launch.

Fresno was one of three Realtor associations on board for the Aug. 17 launch of calREDD, a service of the California Association of Realtors’ CALMLS (California MLS Inc.) subsidiary. Ten other Realtor associations are slated to start using calREDD in the coming months.

But calREDD, an acronym for California Real Estate Dynamic Data, proved to be controversial when launched, with some users complaining the system’s newly developed software was difficult to use and had bugs that hadn’t been worked out (see story).

The Fresno Association of Realtors’ board of directors voted Tuesday to put participation in calREDD on hold and go back to using MLS software provided by vendor Rapattoni Corp., said board president Jared Martin.

Martin, a broker with Westland Realty & Investment Inc., declined to elaborate on the decision.

CALMLS Chairman Mike Silvas said he and others involved in the effort to build a statewide MLS met with a contingent of Fresno brokers Monday morning.

"They supported calREDD but they wanted the system working before they got their people on it," Silvas said. Silvas said there were "a number of glitches" in the calREDD software platform when it was launched, but "we’re probably 90 percent fixed — maybe better than that."

Silvas, co-owner of Napa-based luxury broker Morgan Lane Real Estate, said he expects Fresno will come back into the calREDD fold once those glitches have been ironed out.

"A lot of them were little things — fields filling incorrectly, an agent’s number not there," Silva said. "I think in the short term we’re going to have some potential repercussions, but so far (others that have joined calREDD have) indicated they are going forward."

The two other Realtor associations on board for the launch, Madera and Merced, continue to use calREDD, and the Lake County Association of Realtors is scheduled to go live next month, Silva said. Nine other Realtor associations have joined calREDD — Amador, Chico, Mariposa, Oroville, Paradise, Plumas, Tehama, Yosemite Gateway and Scenic Coast.

In addition to the 13 Realtor associations that have joined calREDD, more than 50 other Realtor associations and MLSs have signed nonbinding statements of intent to participate in calREDD. All told, calREDD claims groups representing more than 120,000 Realtors have expressed interest in participating in the system.

Brian Lonchar, vice president of calREDD software developer Concentric Software, said the company supported the Fresno board’s decision to delay complete implementation of the calREDD system.

Lonchar, who’s also a Sacramento-based real estate broker, said the company understands how difficult it is to switch systems, especially when new technology is combined with creating a new regional system utilizing new business rules.

"This switch becomes even harder when the desire for change is not present at the member level, which we feel it was our responsibility to provide," Lonchar said. "Most of the members did not have a chance to view or comment on the new system until it was launched. This was a huge mistake."

Lonchar estimated that he helped train 1,000 agents before the launch, and only a dozen or so had seen the software before it went live.

"You can’t expect people to wake up on launch day to wake up and use the technology," Lonchar said. "I’m excited because we did so many enhancements in the last two weeks that never would have been done" otherwise, including tools tailored for generating appraisals and broker price opinions. …CONTINUED

Geoffrey Greene, a Fresno-area broker with Guarantee Real Estate who has been critical of the new system, said he’s not opposed to bringing back calREDD in the future. But "so many things were missing (at launch), it made it hard to look (at the system’s) potential."

The application was plagued by more than just glitches, he said — there were pieces of code that hadn’t even been written.

"This wasn’t a matter of debugging a program, it was writing the program on the fly," Greene said.

The calREDD launch included a dedicated training and member support page, as well as a hot line that was staffed 82 hours per week during August — from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. In September, the hot line will be staffed 66 hours a week — from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

The support page offers a searchable archive of "frequently asked questions." Questions and answers attracting the most views include "Can I search by multiple ZIP codes?" (yes, by separating each ZIP code by a comma and a space) and "Is there a 24-hour market watch that shows what’s new on the market or has sold?" (No, but a "Hotsheet search function" allows users to search for new-on-the-market and sold properties by any date range.)

Apart from the program’s functionality, there appeared to be problems with data conversion, Greene said, with some single-family properties being classified as farm, ranch and agricultural properties, for example.

There’s "no doubt" that the program improved after it was launched, but "not enough to come close to what we had with Rapattoni," Greene said.

Lonchar said Concentric Software looks forward to sharing its "superior technology and functionality" at upcoming CAR and National Association of Realtor conventions.

But he acknowledged that "you don’t get a second chance to make first impressions." For some of calREDD’s initial users, that first impression was, "This doesn’t allow me to do my job."

In the last week, Rapattoni has announced contract extensions with three MLSs that signed statements of intent to participate in calREDD.

Rapattoni today announced a multiyear contract extension with the South Tahoe Association of Realtors, and last week announced similar deals with three MLSs that make up the Ventura County Regional Data Share, including two that signed statements of intent with calREDD — the Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors and the Simi Valley-Moorpark Association of Realtors.

Silvas noted that Realtor associations and MLSs can join calREDD while keeping their existing MLS software vendor — a hybrid strategy that the Scenic Coast Association of Realtors plans to employ.

The California Real Estate Technology Services (CARETS), a data aggregation service serving 30 Realtor associations and more than 100,000 members in Southern California, allows member to access listing data using their choice of front-end system, said Russ Bergeron, chief executive officer of SoCalMLS who serves on the CARETS board.

Bergeron said the majority of Realtor associations and MLSs that have signed statements of intent to join calREDD are already CARETS members. SoCalMLS signed such a statement because it wanted the ability to nominate directors to the calREDD board, Bergeron said.

CALMLS and CARETS announced an agreement in June for calREDD to become a member of CARETS once it began providing MLS services (see story).

If every MLS contributed data to CARETS, "you’d have a statewide MLS," Bergeron said.

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