NEW ORLEANS — Realtor associations and Realtor-affiliated multiple listing services will soon be able to manage most of their affairs using a Web-based service that’s being customized by a nonprofit cooperative venture to meet their needs.

The Realtor Association Management System (RAMCO), scheduled to go live in March, is being constructed on a platform developed by The Cobalt Cos. that’s currently in use by many associations and MLSs.

The National Association of Realtors purchased the source code for Cobalt’s real estate association management platform and recruited a project team from member associations to customize the software based on feedback from tech directors and association executives.

As part of its deal with NAR, Cobalt agreed that it will no longer provide its association management system to Realtor associations or Realtor-affiliated MLSs. The RAMCO Cooperative will eventually incorporate as a nonprofit company to be run by participating associations and MLSs.

Briefing association executives attending NAR’s annual convention in New Orleans, Travis Kessler, CEO of the Texas Association of Realtors, said seven associations and MLSs are scheduled to begin testing the system in January, and a total of 20 will be on board for an official March launch at the Association Executives Institute in Dallas.

Eight more contracts are in the works, meaning 28 associations and MLSs intend to make the switch to RAMCO, Kessler said.

Tempe-based Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS) is the largest MLS participating in the RAMCO testing, and the Minnesota Association of Realtors is the largest association, Kessler said.

Minnesota is home to a number of RAMCO early adopters, including Northstar MLS and the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and St. Cloud associations. The Arnold, Md.-based Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors rounds out the list of RAMCO test sites — illustrating the intention to serve associations and MLSs of all sizes.

State associations with confirmed or pending RAMCO contracts include Washington, Massachusetts, Alaska and Arkansas, according to an implementation schedule posted on the RAMCO website.

Kessler, one of three co-chairs of NAR’s RAMCO project team, assured state association executives that RAMCO is "more than a membership system," and is "not COBALT."

Existing membership systems aren’t taking full advantage of Web-based "software as a service" (SaaS) capabilities, according to a RAMCO presentation at NAR’s annual convention.

RAMCO will fully integrate with NAR’s National Realtor Database System (NRDS), which was created to facilitate the exchange of data and was never intended to be a membership system, the presentation said.

According to a "frequently asked questions" (FAQ) bulletin posted on the RAMCO website, Realtor association tech directors identified 183 features and functions they wanted to be added to COBALT, and more features were added based on the recommendations of association executives who attended three focus groups.

RAMCO will allow associations and MLSs to automate tasks that once had to be done by hand, from processing new member applications and event registrations to sending out meeting notices and reminders.

For association and MLS members, that means new applicants can fill out membership applications and pay their initial membership dues online using a secure Web portal. Existing members can pay dues and other invoices, and designated Realtors can pay their agents’ dues for them.

RAMCO integrates with NAR’s e-Commerce gateway, allowing for the processing of dues, event registration, course registration, product purchases and other payments.

For association and MLS staff, RAMCO will provide a set of tools on launch to help them register members for events and classes; conduct polls and surveys to gather feedback from members; track mediation and arbitration processes, complaints from the public, and MLS citations; create and manage committee memberships; track and manage Realtor Political Action Committee (RPAC) donations; manage relationships with vendors; and generate orders and invoices for products and services.

Cobalt’s foundation is Microsoft Dynamics CRM (customer relationship management), which RAMCO says has the best track record of integrating with Microsoft applications in use by Realtor nationwide.

RAMCO can import Excel files directly and merge member data into Microsoft Word templates to print mailing labels or event tickets. Association and MLS staff can view and update member data within Microsoft Outlook without accessing the RAMCO system.

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