Another Stammtisch question: Should the full MLS be available to the public?

In one of our recent posts wondering why realtors are arrogant and a$$holes, Eddy brought up the topic of MLS, “It’s a separate discussion; but the full MLS should be available to consumer(s) on a subscription basis.”

Should it?

11 thoughts on “Another Stammtisch question: Should the full MLS be available to the public?”

  1. Yes, of course. I’d be interested to hear any reasons why some believe it shouldn’t be available.

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  2. Full access for a fee sounds fine to me. As the owner of a boutique real estate brokerage in the city, I have no issues with the general public accessing the same property data as I have access to. It’s public information and I’m all for empowering people so they can made educated and financially sound decisions.

    Here’s the rub – if the general public had access to the MLS, they’d be even more pissed at the Realtor community. You’d be amazed at the amount of Realtors who choose not to list square footage or spend a minute spell checking or proofing their listing information – The square footage omission is done intentionally to avoid showing the price per square foot. It’s hysterical to me as you can click on the tax record and see the recorded square footage – but it requires some extra work and there are some in the industry that don’t like to work hard. There are several great examples of this “game” right now in 175 Bluxome St. If you do research you’ll see identical units priced at $703 per sqft, $765 per sqft, $793 per sqft and the most recent sale at $650 per sqft. None of the units show the exact square footage- – but fear not, they are all marketed as “great investments.”

    I tend to think opening the system to the general public will force the Realtor community to step up their game and will weed out some of the BS — like the sqft game or the bs game of advertising homes that are not really for sale on Craigslist.

    Short term solution – create a relationship with an honest Realtor and that individual can easily give you all the info you are interested in – active / sold / withdrawn / etc.

  3. Full access for a fee sounds fine to me. I have no issues with the general public accessing the same property data as I have access to. It’s public information and I’m all for empowering people so they can made educated and financially sound decisions.

    I tend to think opening the system to the general public will force the Realtor community to step up their game and will weed out some of the BS — IE – not listing the square footage of the home, advertising properties on Craigslist that are not for sale / in contract, to name a few.

    Short term solution – create a relationship with an honest Realtor and that individual can easily give you all the info you are interested in – active / sold / withdrawn / etc.

  4. I agree with Greg. (A lot of readers will probably say “of course you would, you’re a Realtor.) The system is a long way from being over-hauled, so in the meantime, do what you can to gain full access. I have long been an advocate of sharing any and all information with my clients that I can, which is why I started my other business. I wanted them to not only get the information on property that just hit the market, but also the ever-so secretive “sold” information. The more my clients are educated about the market, the less I have to sell them on the idea that, “well, if you really want this place, you’re gonna have to pay $100k over.” If they’re seeing it on the comps themselves on a daily or weekly basis, they will know I’m not blowing smoke. Then when I sit them down to discuss price, we’re on the same page. I, personally, never want to be the one that says “you have to pay X to get this place”. I want to be able to say, “you’ve seen the comps, I think it will sell for this, what do you feel comfortable paying?” Something like that is easier when your clients have all the information in front of them. It gets a bit trickier when you have a brand new client, you just meet, they’re not educated on the market, and you sit down to write an offer. Talk about pressure…”Nice to have met you yesterday. The home you like that is asking $995,000, that you want to write an offer on….you’re going to have to pay $1,250,000 to get it.” Not fun.

  5. For a brief while I had access to the full sfarmls site. Trust me there is a world of information in the database that is incredibly useful. DOM? That’s nothing in terms of what’s available; and can’t be relied upon anyway since there is so much gamesmanship with that stat.

    The full database has pretty complete information on past sales (for comp purposes) and in a lot of cases actually has all the photos of old listings. So you can plug an address in and see the ‘before’ pics of previous sales. Quite interesting and valuable. It also shows listing price adjustments, links to title information. Plus, there is a realtor comments section that has mini-back-channel information to other agents that isn’t disclosed to the general public. Things like, 10k bonus to any agent that brings a buyer to close before the end of the month. Or direct links to the online disclosure packages. There is a ton of information but its also hard to get at it; and its not really practical for your agent to dig all that information up every time you say your interested in a property. And the information available varies from property to property. Honestly, it was like having a crystal ball. Thank god I lost my access cause I was addicted to the site and researching properties. Clean-offer is OK, but not great. Bottom line is that a buyer has no way to access this information and the MLS basically has a monopoly on the market. I’m not saying that they don’t have the right; but I really wish that I could buy or rent a subscription to the MLS for the period of time that I was looking at the market.

    A lot of people have much stronger arguments as to why the system should be open; but I’m mostly interested since I honestly beleive that I’m going to spend more time doing my homework than my agent. This wont be true for everyone; but it is for me.

    E.

  6. MLS systems are private databases owned and operated in every case that I know of by local boards of Realtors. Asking whether it “should” be open to the public is like asking if someone’s garage should be opened for public use.

  7. If agents (both buyer’s and seller’s agents) were allowed to compete on price, then you can bet that eventually someone would provide full MLS database access as part of their offered services.

    It doesn’t have to be “open”. But the market is very good at finding solutions, if it is only left free to do its work.

    The problem is that people don’t buy or sell houses very often, so this market will move much slower than other markets (like say, consumer electronics).

  8. All the comments on threads like this are rants about the FREE exchange of information. The public access boards of any MLS or REALTOR.com are advertising vehicles for agents and brokers to promote their listings. Where does our liability of free access stop when STALKER “BOB” hunts down his ex buying a property listed in Maiden name to escape. The comments are incredibly short sighted and purely selfish in their motivation.

  9. Not sure I follow that Agent Dave – the only “banner” ad’s on the MLS system are listing specific — meaning if it’s an XYZ Brokerage listing, their logo or banner appears on that page. That seems pretty fair and honest to me. I’ve never mentioned Realtor.com as I don’t think it’s a very timely resource for data.

    I’m suggesting that for a fee, Mr X can access the same property data / information as a Realtor – and you are telling me I’m selfish — that’s a gross misrepresentation on your part. It’s selfish for me to keep the information from the public – or show just the public the expensive comps, etc.

    Regarding your stalker comment – the tax record on a property is public. You can access the city tax records at the public library so I’m not sure how the MLS will serve as the gateway to crime.

  10. I would love to see the MLS system as we know it totally re-done. My only fear with having the MLS system completely open to the public is that there is a lot of private info in listings (such as vacancy & access info) and I would not feel comfortable having my sellers private info exposed to the entire world. But I have no problem offering a public site of the MLS that uses IDX or RETS, including sold listings, as long as it does not show the private info.

    A topic that I haven’t seen yet is taking commission out of the MLS. I feel that the Buyers Agent should be paid based on performance (Sellers Agent also). Maybe offer a low flat commission amount in the MLS with something additional if the Buyers Agent performs all of their duties. From what I hear having commission based on performance is illegal with the way the MLS rules are set up currently. Could we change things?

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