Several times throughout the year, Directors of organized real estate in Ontario have an opportunity to meet and discuss the various challenges and opportunities that are commonplace for all boards within the province. While each of the boards are working on various projects, we are all making improvements to our systems with the same goal in mind – to benefit the working REALTORS®. Lately, it doesn’t take long for the conversation to move towards a Provincial MLS® system. In a perfect world, one MLS® system for the entire province would solve a number of problems; members would have access to all MLS® Listings in the Province without having to join and pay dues to multiple boards or pay inter-board listing fees. However, creating one MLS® system and dealing with the various requirements in each area, as well as the political issues, can be overwhelming and may take years to accomplish. In our case, the Directors decided to work together with our neighbouring boards to develop a Search Integration (SI) system that was offered by our MLS® provider. There were four boards involved and we were all using the same MLS® provider. Two of the boards were in a merge discussion and our board had just finished a merge, so in fact, we were really integrating the MLS® data for five boards, and the timing was perfect. The SI in theory removes the jurisdictional boundaries between the associations, when searching for listings or prospecting. It allows each association to remain autonomous with their own set of MLS® system business rules. Members can set their own “preferences” to trading areas as they can now. However, within the SI system, the search is greatly enhanced. For example, if a member from another board lists something in your trading area, the listing will now appear in a normal “seamless” search and you are not required to jump to the other board to complete the same search. Prospecting is greatly improved as you are now searching matches for all properties listed by members of all boards within the SI. Improved searching and prospecting is not the only benefit to be gained from an SI project as each board continues to operate their own MLS® system. It looks the same, tastes the same, but functions differently.
- In our case, over 1,500 REALTORS® working together within one system, allows for the creative expansion of future MLS® systems.
- No need to send inter-board listings to the neighbouring board – enter the listing into your own system, in the proper area and the listing will be displayed for all SI associations. Member savings will be realized when inter-board fees are eliminated within the group.
- Costs associated with future enhancements will be shared by our SI group of associations.
- Web Form costs will be shared by all associations
- The MLS® System will default to the home board, but allow wider searching capabilities.
- System generated reports can be unique to each association.
- Most system business rules (i.e. Mandatory fields) and MLS® Rules will remain unique to each association.
- Photos will be watermarked with unique association names.
- Board Messages remain unique to each Association.
- Subscriber Access Agreements remain the same and will be sold individually for access to each SI association.
Working together with your neighbouring board is a win-win for everyone. Most system providers have a technical solution for sharing the data, just ask and please don’t let the politics of working together slow you down. If we can’t have a provincial MLS® system tomorrow, maybe if we work together, we could have a few SI systems around the province which would benefit the local REALTORS®.
Susan Pond is the EO of Lakelands Association and an OREA Leadership guest blogger.