On June 11, 2019, 16 real estate brokers from around the state of Louisiana got together in Baton Rouge without any Realtor association or multiple listing service staff present and decided it was time for a consolidated MLS.
Brokers who belonged to multiple MLSs wanted to be able to train their staff on one MLS system, not two or more, and wanted to stop paying up to four MLS fees to do business across geographic areas, according to Craig Mirambell, broker-owner of Mirambell Realty in Metairie, Louisiana, who was at the meeting.
“For years, brokers have always wanted a unified system, one with a unified set of rules,” Mirambell told Inman in a phone interview.
So the idea for Roam MLS was born. Roam, which will launch sometime this summer, is a new mega MLS formed and jointly owned by four local Realtor associations who operate their own MLSs: the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors’s Gulf South Real Estate Information Network (GSREIN), the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors, the Greater Central Louisiana Association of Realtors and the Bayou Board of Realtors.
The New Orleans association has 7,183 members, the Baton Rouge association has 3,627 members, the Central association has 446 members and the Bayou association has 416 members, according to a Roam FAQ. That means that when each association’s MLS is combined into one database, Roam will cover nearly 12,000 of the state’s 15,000 Realtors, which will make Roam the biggest MLS in the state by far and include listings from Central Louisiana to the Gulf Coast.
Mirambell credited “the removal of fear” for the Roam’s imminent launch, after years of brokers calling for a unified database.
“There was a fear of ‘How could New Orleans work nicely with Central Louisiana and not let Central believe that they’re going to be consumed or merged or gobbled up?'” Mirambell said, though he clarified that it wasn’t just the Central association who was fearful.
“There was fear and no roadmap on how four existing MLSs could work together, combine data, rules, staff, etc. It was an overwhelming task, but one that was completed for our members,” he said.
Roam’s board of managers, which has eight members, is composed so that no single association holds a majority. Currently, the New Orleans association has four managers, the Baton Rouge association has two and the Central and Bayou associations each have one.
Roam will operate on a wholesale model, so the associations will each sell access to Roam separately and choose their own pricing.
“We wanted to be sensitive to the fact that most Realtors wanted to belong to an association that was local and then have local staff there and a local CEO and MLS director,” Mirambell, who is also Roam’s president, said.
For example, GSREIN, the largest among the four, will become “GSREIN powered by ROAM” and GSREIN’s members will have access to any ancillary services that GSREIN chooses to offer, according to Rosemary Scardina, GSREIN’s vice president of MLS and professional conduct.
“The [Roam] MLS itself is going to provide the core services, and based on its economy of scales, it’s going to be able to provide additional services based on their numbers to the shareholders and each of the shareholders are going to be able to be their own service center,” she said in a phone interview.
When Roam launches, agents and brokers won’t have to join a new MLS — the switch will be automatic — and they won’t have to change the MLS system they currently use to be part of Roam, which will initially offer CoreLogic’s Matrix system and Black Knight’s Paragon system, according to Scardina. Roam will have one set of MLS rules, fines and data requirements across associations, which will be enforced by Roam.
“Our primary objective is to deliver the benefits of consolidated MLS services with the least disruption to broker’s or agent’s established business practices or routines,” Roam states on its website.
One of the biggest benefits will be an expanded listing footprint, according to Scardina.
“So when I log into Matrix and I want to enter a listing, I can enter it into the Bayou area, and it will come up in a search of the Bayou area because you can do a search based on mapping, you can do it based on ZIP code and it’ll come up,” she said. “And that’s the beauty of this. That you’ll be able to go in and see this without the benefit of having to join another MLS, pay the duplicate fees, learn a new system, be accountable to two different sets or three different sets of MLS rules.
“These are all pain points that the brokers … brought to the MLSs’ attention. It’s been a long, long time and a lot of work to get to this point. It doesn’t just happen overnight and it’s looking really good and I’m very excited about it.”
Roam subscribers will gain access to residential inventory from across the four MLSs this summer and will get access to all remaining property types, include commercial and lease, sometime in first-quarter 2022 when Roam will be fully functional.
There are at least two other entities in Louisiana competing to become a statewide MLS: broker-owned Greater Southern MLS and LA State MLS, which is owned by a software company. But, according to Mirambell and Scardina, neither has a huge asset that Roam will offer: historical listing data produced by the vast majority of brokers and agents in the state.
“I’m an independent broker in New Orleans [and] I haven’t joined the [Greater Southern] MLS, so they will never have my historical data from my company that we produced over the last 12 or 13 years,” Mirambell said. “[Roam] will have all the historical data in there so appraisers will have an easier time finding [comps] inside of the Roam MLS.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with an additional comment from Mirambell and to clarify that agents and brokers won’t have to change the MLS system they currently use to be part of Roam; a previous version of this story said the vast majority would not have to.