California Regional MLS, the largest multiple listing service in the nation, is getting bigger while sending a message to the industry that more comprehensive data is better for everyone.
CRMLS subscribers can submit listings located anywhere in California to the database, but they are required to submit active listings located in the CRMLS service area to the MLS — unless they send in a seller exclusion form signed by their broker. With that rule in place — and in line with CRMLS’s long-running push for a statewide MLS — starting May 1, that service area will expand to include nearly four dozen ZIP codes in the Victor Valley, Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear regions in Southern California.
CRMLS counts 1,003 members agents and brokers in those regions, or 35 percent of the market, and most already submit their listings to CRMLS. The official service area designation is meant to encourage the stragglers.
Ultimately, more complete data means more listing exposure for sellers and more options for buyers, CRMLS CEO Art Carter told Inman via email. Overall, CRMLS already has more than 86,000 subscribers in the Golden State and those agents buy and sell real estate in 17 of the state’s counties.
A sign of the ‘more aggressive’ times?
The choice to expand to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear in particular is notable given that a broker on a January panel regarding the future of the MLS complained the MLSs in those areas didn’t “talk” to each other, i.e. share listing data.
At that panel, Carter suggested that MLSs who are willing to cooperate become “more aggressive” with those who are not.
“Consolidate with the willing. Data share with the unwilling to consolidate. And go around those willing to do neither,” Carter said.
“I think that you are going to see a lot of MLSs … that are going to start going directly after the brokerages and communities outside of areas that they naturally control with their underlying associations.”
And that is exactly what CRMLS has done. While the MLS has previously added entire Realtor associations as members to expand its user base, this time it is encroaching on the MLS service areas of the regions’ three local Realtor associations — the High Desert Association of Realtors, the Rim O’ The World Association of Realtors, and the Big Bear Association of Realtors — without contracting with them for MLS services.
The High Desert and Rim O’ The World associations did not respond to Inman’s requests for comment. Robin Lee, chief executive of the Big Bear association, declined to comment, saying she would need approval from the association’s board of directors before doing so.
“[This change] is CRMLS being more aggressive. In talking with my membership with respect to these three other MLSs, it is a constant point of pain to them” that they have to join multiple MLSs for a complete view of their marketplace, Carter said in a phone interview.
“[This service area change expansion is] an effort to give the most complete data that we possibly can. The intent isn’t to force anybody to join CRMLS,” he added.
“If those marketplaces had been sharing data with CRMLS we would not have done this because … [we] would have a complete view of the listings in that marketplace.”
Is CRMLS trying to compete with its neighbors?
According to Carter, no. But “I would have an expectation that brokers and agents are going to migrate to whichever MLS gives them the most complete data experience, which we are trying to do,” he said.
CRMLS has pursued the goal of a statewide MLS for years, though it is currently doing so through various cooperative agreements with associations and MLSs, including data shares. That, he admits, is part of the reason he doesn’t want to say he’s competing with other MLSs — he doesn’t want to jeopardize any data shares.
“My board [of directors] is pretty adamant that there needs to be a single data source for the whole entire state of California. That data source would be any number of MLSs that would share data,” Carter said.
CRMLS believes it is best for Realtors in the state to be served by fewer MLSs that can offer economies of scale, but in the end, whichever MLS an agent belongs to should offer listing data for the entire state of California, he said.
Carter cited “the sheer amounts of money being poured into technology and the real estate industry” as the reason why the CRMLS board was willing to “push the envelope” to provide a better experience across the state for agents, brokers, and consumers.
“Wall Street’s woken up to the amount of money that is being exchanged in the real estate industry and there is going to be much more attention on portability of data in the future than there is even today. If we can’t figure out a way to solve some of our broker pain points, they’re going to be solved and they’re going to be solved outside of the MLS system,” he said.
“At the end of the day, let’s just be honest with ourselves, it’s ludicrous as an industry that we’ve limited ourselves by these artificial boundaries when the consumer has no such boundaries,” he added.
Growth in San Diego
This move comes after CRMLS extended its services to two of the Realtor associations that own San Diego-based MLS Sandicor in December: the North San Diego Association of Realtors and the Pacific Southwest Association of Realtors, giving their 7,000 or so combined members the choice to use either MLS. The associations are currently suing to dissolve Sandicor and are set to go to trial in late April.
The deal with the San Diego associations added about six dozen ZIP codes to CRMLS’s service area and association members that choose to join CRMLS are required to submit their listings in those ZIP codes. A data share between CRMLS and Sandicor continues.