For years the real estate industry has been talking about offering agents an MLS “front end of choice” — or alternative interfaces for agents to input and search for listings — and on Wednesday the biggest multiple listing service in the country made it happen for its more than 85,000 members.

For years the real estate industry has been talking about offering agents an MLS “front end of choice” — or alternative interfaces for agents to input and search for listings — and on Wednesday the biggest multiple listing service in the country made it happen for its more than 85,000 members.

Starting Wednesday, all members of California Regional MLS (CRMLS) can use Cloud MLX, a front-end MLS interface from real estate software firm W&R Studios, at no additional cost.

Cloud MLX / Photo courtesy of Greg Robertson

Previously, Cloud MLX had been available to CRMLS members at a discounted rate as part of the CRMLS Marketplace, but CRMLS wanted to give all of its members the choice to use either Cloud MLX or the CoreLogic Matrix platform to search real estate listings and share them with consumers, CRMLS spokesperson Nicole Aguilar told Inman.

Greg Robertson

In recent years, brokers have increasingly called for more options when it comes to MLS interfaces — most MLSs only offer one, usually the same interface provided by the MLS vendor supplying the MLS database (i.e. the MLS’s “back end”). But some MLS vendors have started to separate the front and back ends and offer them separately, including Rapattoni Corp. and FBS. W&R Studios is different in that it doesn’t offer an MLS back end, but created a front end to plug into other vendors’ back ends.

Greg Robertson, co-founder of W&R Studios, touts Cloud MLX’s smart search bar, which auto-completes results as the user types, as its main differentiating feature.

“Imagine being able to type in the way you think. ‘Four bedrooms, Noe Valley, $500K,'” he told Inman, likening the experience to a Google search.

Cloud MLX also lets users create uniquely-shaped map areas, includes an agent-to-agent instant messaging service, and offers a slick user interface that has more in common with today’s consumer apps than with the clunky UIs of some traditional MLS system vendors. Cloud MLX does not offer listing input, though Robertson said his firm was “looking into that.”

“MLSs are tired of waiting for traditional vendors to deliver a better experience for their members,” Robertson said.

He considers W&R Studios’ deal with CRMLS an industry turning point, showing that front end of choice is “a legit movement.”

Cloud MLX launched in May 2016. With the addition of CRMLS, six MLSs with a combined membership of some 173,000 agents, brokers and appraisers are now making Cloud MLX available to all of their members.

Cloud MLX / Photo courtesy of Greg Robertson

The others are Realcomp in the Detroit area, Charleston Trident MLS, First MLS in Georgia, Northern Nevada Regional MLS, San Francisco MLS, BAREIS in the North San Francisco Bay Area, and NTREIS in the Dallas area.

In September 2015, CRMLS announced an agreement with Black Knight to offer its Paragon MLS as an alternative front end for CRMLS members. Wednesday, CRMLS’s Aguilar said CRMLS still plans to offer Paragon as another alternative front end.

“We are still in the progress of working out the fine details behind that agreement, so at this time, we are unable to provide an exact date. However, it is safe to say it is coming,” she said via email.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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