An ongoing effort by the California Association of Realtors to build a statewide multiple listing service could get a major boost if a planned merger with a regional MLS in Southern California goes through.

The merger of CAR’s calREDD MLS system with Pomona, Calif.-based Multi-Regional Multiple Listing Service Inc. (MRMLS) would create a single MLS serving more than 33,000 real estate professionals and 22 Realtor associations, the companies said in an announcement today.

The concept of a merger has been approved by both companies’ board of directors, but hinges on approval by MRMLS’ 12 member associations and final approval by CAR’s board of directors. If MRLMS’ members green light the merger in May, CAR’s board could grant approval when it meets in June.

A merger would not only expand the footprint of the fledgling statewide MLS to Southern California, but MRMLS’ involvement in the effort would allow for a more rapid expansion, said Mike Silvas, chairman of the CAR subsidiary that operates calREDD.

"They have a full-blown MLS staff, while we’ve been operating with a much smaller staff, only growing as necessary," Silvas said. "They have staff and procedures in place that will benefit (existing calREDD members) and accommodate growth more quickly."

In a statement, MRMLS President Richard Stone said "We look forward to a beneficial relationship that builds on our past successes and will continue to deliver an innovative, state-of-the-art MLS system to our expanded membership."

MRMLS CEO Art Carter said the idea of a merger grew out of discussions he and CAR Executive Vice President Joel Singer had about "exploring some deeper partnerships between calREDD and MRMLS. My board was intrigued by the possibility of putting something together."

Carter said the benefits of a merger for MRMLS members include more choice, and expanding the footprint of MRMLS and a regional data sharing effort it participates in, CARETS (California Real Estate Technology Services). 

CalREDD had planned to join CARETS, which serves 30 Realtor associations in six counties in Southern California, but those plans were put on hold in January after CARETS implemented a moratorium on new members in order to address growth-related technical issues (see story).

Shirley Skerbelis, executive vice president of MRMLS member The Inland Gateway Association of Realtors (TIGAR) in Corona, said plans for a merger are "tremendously huge news and great for our members."

"I have always been for the member and by the member and this is just a little step toward the future of a statewide MLS" members can rely on, Skerbelis said. Carter "and his magnificent team" are well suited to manage the system, she added. …CONTINUED

While the merger could be another step toward making a statewide MLS a reality, it also signifies a new approach with a potentially smaller role for CAR.

The merger means that the statewide MLS "will be a local association directed initiative," Carter said.

CAR would have only a partial ownership stake of the resulting company. Silvas said details of the merger are still being worked out, but that the company’s board of directors would initially consist of MRMLS’ 12 board members, and nine from calREDD’s board.

CAR president Steve Goddard disagreed that the group’s role in creating a statewide MLS will be diminished, saying CAR will remain "a fundamental part of the equation."

"The merger makes us a sizable entity, and that’s what our members have been asking for — to provide services to the entire state," Goddard said.

The calREDD system, which launched in August, is operated by a subsidiary of CAR, California MLS Inc., and uses a single software platform developed by Concentric Software LLC. CAR said today it has purchased exclusive rights to the software platform in California from Concentric.

If the merger is approved, members of the statewide MLS would eventually have the choice of using the Concentric software platform, or the Tarasoft Matrix platform in use by MRMLS members, Silvas said. That choice would be available after the databases of the two MLSs are merged, possibly by the end of the year, Silvas said.

Having two proven software platforms will provide reassurance to larger Realtor associations who had concerns about the Concentric platform, Silvas said, "so I would anticipate we’ll see some interest here fairly shortly" from larger associations.

Since going live with three Realtor associations in August, calREDD has grown more slowly than planned.

One of the associations on board for the calREDD launch, Fresno, withdrew after members complained of difficulties using the Concentric software platform, and the schedule for bringing others on was stretched out to accommodate requests for customization (see story).

With the launch of Mariposa County Board of Realtors this week, calREDD currently serves seven Realtor associations, with a total of 13 scheduled to be live by August. Most are relatively small associations located in the northern half of the state.

MRMLS, by contrast, serves a dozen Realtor associations in a sprawling area that includes the San Gabriel Valley and parts of Los Angeles and Riverside counties.



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