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MLS looking global, seeking local membership boost

With approximately 25 percent of the Bahamas Real Estate Association’s(BREA) membership participating in its Multiple Listing Service(MLS), investigations into broadening the service to international markets are underway.

Franon Wilson, chairman of the MLS Committee, toldGuardian Businessyesterday that theMLS system was changing rapidly and”pregnant with opportunities.”According to him the goals for this year include increasing public awareness of the online property listing service, and substantially increasing real estate agent membership.

“These are unchartered waters, but we feel we can at least bring forth a proposal to the BREA board for them to consider,”Wilson said of the efforts, which include working with European and American real estate listing services. He said that he was not certain when the proposal would be submitted, as the timing will largely depended on interaction with the international organizations being considered.

The inclusion on international listing services may provide greater market access for Bahamian properties, but most local real estate agents have yet to become members. At December 31, 2010, BREA had around 620 licenced members, according to that association’s president Patti Birch. The MLS website, www.thebahamasmls.com showed a membership of 155 agents yesterday, a quarter of the association’s membership.

Wilson said that a formal target for MLS membership growth this year had yet to be set, but another BREA member said that 50 to 75 percent of the association’s membership would be a suitable goal.

One incentive for agents to try the service is a free 3 month trial period, according to Wilson. The annual fee for membership is$420.

One member of the MLS Committee, Matt Sweeting, toldGuardian Businesshe suspected that skepticism of things new, the nominal fee, and a lack of understanding of how the system is beneficial were the reasons membership was not higher.

“For every buyer that we talk to, every seller that we talk to, we need to be telling them(about)the power of the MLS, what the MLS is going to do for their property, the greater exposure that it’s going to provide for them,”Sweeting said.”Then when they interview another real estate agent they will enquire with them, are you on the MLS?”

According to Sweeting nearly 84%of all real estate searches start online, and if the MLS is not used clients have to go from site-to-site to gather information. The service allows for listings from all members to appear in a centralized database.

Wilson said this centralization positioned the MLS to help brokers sell inventory faster. He added that the online service was beta-testing an IDX(Internet Data Exchange)feed which would allow individual broker websites to access the MLS listings, which their customers could then see. The IDX feed is free with membership, according to Wilson.

Wilson also said that the MLS Committee was in the process of making the MLS a database from which appraisers could assess real estate sales information in real time, leading to better information in the marketplace.

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