They’re some of the fastest-growing counties in the country that share a number of desirable housing communities. But in order to view various residential listings throughout the Lower Cape Fear Region, Realtors must join the different multiple listing services offered in the area.
But that could be changing.
After finally renewing its reciprocal data access and key sharing agreement with the Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors (WRAR), officials with the Brunswick County Association of Realtors (BCAR) are calling for a more regional approach for data access, housing inventory and residential sales in the area – forming a regional multiple listing service, or MLS.
“The models for providing MLS service to both consumers and members in the coastal Carolinas region are old, tired and antiquated, including the reciprocal agreement,” BCAR president Larry McNeill said in a May email to its members.
“It is time that we move forward from the possessiveness and lingering histories of the past.”
The vision is to consolidate the MLS systems of five different realty groups – WRAR, BCAR, the Topsail Island Association of Realtors, the Jacksonville Board of Realtors and Myrtle Beach, S.C.-based Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors – into one system that can be accessed by all Realtors regardless of their geographic group affiliation.
While no meeting with the different realty groups has been established, McNeill’s email stated that a number of stakeholders were interested in the possible merger.
McNeill, along with representatives from the five realty groups, did not return calls for comment about forming a regional MLS that could extend from the Grand Strand to the Crystal Coast.
Forming regional MLS systems is nothing new in North Carolina.
Realtors in the Triangle, Triad and Asheville areas, have all formed regional multiple listing services over the past decade.
“Once again, it is time to move forward and begin negotiations for the establishment of a regional MLS,” McNeill’s email stated.
And area Realtor leaders agree.
“I do believe that if it’s done correctly, it will be very good for the local real estate industry,” said Tim Milam, president and CEO of Wilmington-based Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage. “I would love for all five of the MLS groups to sit at the table and see if this can be done right.”
Milam, who oversees 300 Realtors in 10 offices that span from Shallotte to Jacksonville, said merging the multiple MLS groups would save area Realtors time and money. He said he is working with BCAR and WRAR officials to identify other stakeholders who may want to consolidate MLS systems.
“We need to be taking advantage of the new technology that is now available,” Milam said. “Having one MLS is a step in the right direction and will have benefits for everyone.”
To gain access to an MLS system, Realtors must pay each group a flat monthly fee to access the housing data within the realty group’s territory and access to keys for the lock boxes of properties – a process, Milam said, can add up and become confusing for agents.
“Right now, I have members paying into five different MLS systems,” Milam said. “Each one of those MLS groups has a different vendor, which means that while the agent is paying into these separate systems, they are also having to fill out five different forms … and that can get confusing.”
Jim Wallace, founder and CEO of Wilmington-based Intracoastal Realty Corp., said forming a regional MLS could be advantageous to homebuyers and sellers.
“Merging the MLS groups and being able to list a home into one system will eliminate the crossover between the groups,” Wallace said.
“It also gives the agent, the seller and the buyer more options to have their property marketed to a larger group of Realtors that may be able to sell their properties faster.”
Intracoastal Realty operates multiple offices throughout the greater Wilmington area, and like Milam, Wallace is looking for ways to cut costs for his agents.
“It’s been done around the country,” Wallace said of the regional MLS concept. “Many states and large metro areas have regional reciprocal MLS groups with much success, and I think it’s time that we embrace the concept here.”
Jeff Sweyer, owner of Wilmington-based Century 21 Sweyer & Associates, said making access to available properties should be a priority – adding that having one set of keys and one MLS to access listings on the market would benefit the market.
“I couldn’t agree more that the buyer and seller will have increased access under a regional MLS,” Sweyer said. “To be able to sell and list homes from Brunswick County to Onslow County is an incredibly worthwhile endeavor that I hope will be seriously pursued because it needs to happen.”
But while regional realty executives agree a consolidated system is a step in the right direction, Milam said the process was going to be a long one. He said all stakeholders must research the models that have worked in some regions and unsuccessful models that have crashed in others in order to form a strong regional MLS that would benefit the region.
“I see cooperation among the different boards,” Milam said. “But is this going to happen overnight? No. It could take six months, it could take nine months, it could take a year. But everything needs to be placed on the table, and I feel discussing the merger is a step in the right direction that is going to have positive benefits for the region.”
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