When MLS of Choice took effect last July, it meant real estate agents were free to opt out of their brokerage’s MLS. But the same freedom isn’t allotted for members of every agent team. Find out how teams are affected and what solutions are available to them.

Beginning July 1, 2018, MLS of Choice became effective. This meant that no longer would a multiple listing service be allowed to require that every real estate agent in a brokerage join that particular MLS just because the broker belonged to it. This was a welcome policy change for many Realtors and firms.

However, to the surprise of many real estate teams, the same rule does not apply to them. Unlike brokerage firms, MLSs have the ability to consider participation on the team and the MLS benefits that extend to the rest of that person’s team members when considering qualification for a waiver.

Impact on teams

Considering the growing popularity of teams, this means that over 25 percent of the real estate profession may be impacted. Some MLSs, such as the MLS of Greater Cincinnati (CincyMLS), have taken advantage of this rule and adopted an “all in or all out” policy for teams. Smaller MLSs, like the Martin County Realtors of the Treasure Coast (MCRTC), are following suit.

This policy opens up an interesting series of questions. Often the answers are subject to the desires of a particular MLS.

What is a team?

MLSs may have discretionary authority to consider services extended to licensees who are members of a recognized brokerage team, but what is a recognized brokerage team?

Teams come in many forms. The most obvious “recognized brokerage team” would be one that advertises and promotes themselves as a team. These can range from a husband-and-wife team to one with 60 members.

Then there are more informal teams. These might consist of a couple agents who simply help each other out when one is busy or on vacation. There are also so-called teams where each member lives and works in a different trade area and refers customers back and forth.

Finally, there is the team that is not really a team. These are usually made up of a couple agents who claim to be part of a team simply because some members of the public think that working with a team is better than working with one agent.

What is the difference between a team and a brokerage firm?

Other than the legal definition and requirements, what is the difference between a 10-member team and a 10-member brokerage firm as far as the MLS is involved?

Both often operate in the exact same fashion, yet all of the agents on the 10-member team may still be required to join a particular MLS, while agents in the 10-member brokerage firm down the street are not.

Solutions for the teams affected?

Perhaps the simplest solution is to just quit the MLS that is enforcing the rule. Since many members of the team apparently don’t belong to it anyway, you need to question why that particular MLS is even needed.

Another solution is to remove yourself the team. Most teams become a victim of this MLS policy because they openly advertise themselves as a team. Unless you really are part of an organized and functional team, stop openly promoting yourself as a team. This will take the bull’s-eye off of you.

Don’t co-list properties in different MLSs. Most MLSs share data with each other. Although you may not put your associate, husband or wife as a co-listing agent in the MLS that you belong to (and that has the “all in or all out” rule), that MLS will see that information if it is in another MLS.

For more information go to NAR’s FAQ and look at question 33.

Jim Weix is a Broker Associate with The Keyes Company, Florida. He is best known as being the catalyst that brought about “MLS of Choice” nationally.

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