There really is quite a bit to be said about the MLS (Multiple Listing System) and how it functions. (This is the computerized system that local Realtors use to put in their listings so that they inform one another of a property for sale. This is also where local Realtors state to one another what kind of compensation is offered to them for an offer that is accepted and closes. From there it goes to all the Realtors web sites and on to syndication.)
Today I'm addressing how MLS works for sellers. That is because there seems to be a fair amount of confusion over these systems and how they work for sellers (or perhaps don't).
Quite recently I had a potential buyer give me a list of Northern Neck properties they were interested in seeing. Most of them were easy to pull up on our MLS (the Northern Neck Association of Realtors' MLS). So that was great. A couple of others didn't show up so obviously they were not listed within our MLS, nor were they listed with a Northern Neck Realtor.(When this happens finding them is pretty easy either with Realtor.com or Zillow.com.) Properties that aren't listed in our MLS happens from time to time. Why? Well it is probably a myriad of reasons. One I have heard is that a seller wants their listing in the Northern Virginia MLS and that is what is most important to them. For that reason they choose either a Northern Virginia or a Fredericksburg Realtor to carry their listing. The expectation from the seller is that somehow they are getting closer to a Northern Virginia or DC buyer because they are in that MLS. Well if that is the only MLS they are in they are probably not doing the best in terms of really selling.
It may not be an easy decision on how to list a property, but making sure you are in the local MLS really is key. There are the times when the next door neighbor in DC or NoVA is a Realtor and you have a property to sell on the Northern Neck and it all seems easy. Well sure, it is. Sign the forms, into the local (MRIS system) and you're set to go. What doesn't happen in this instance is the following:
1. Who is going to show this property? If a call comes in and a Northern Neck Realtor does want to show it, how does it get shown? The answer is almost always, there's a lockbox and the Realtor with the buyer goes in and looks at the house.
2. How do questions get answered about the property? Over the phone and with someone who may or may not know the area and perhaps hardly knows the property.
3. How does the house feel when the people come in to look at it. Most often the house is cold, closed up and feels slightly abandoned (especially in the off season months). No one gets there early to turn up the heat. No one gets there early to turn on the lights. No one gets there early to open the blinds.
And the Realtor with the buyers is on a schedule and they may have been asked to show 6 or 8 or even 10 houses in a given day. Just think of the impact that showing has on the buyers....perhaps not the best one. This is still a buyers' market.
Okay, so I got a bit off track, but the above is important.
In speaking with one of the out-of-the-area Realtors I tried to gently suggest that he wasn't doing the best for his client because the listing couldn't be found in the Northern Neck Association of Realtors' MLS. Why this is important is as follows:
There are almost 200 Realtors in the Northern Neck Association of Realtors and a number of adjunct members who use the MLS too. To be a member of any MLS requires an up front fee and then ongoing fees, whether it is monthly, per listing and there may be others. To have a property in the Northern Neck and for those Realtors to NOT have the listing at their fingertips means that it may not be discovered in a search. Not having it in our MLS means that it is not going to be put onto the almost 200 web sites that members have for their listings. And if you as a buyer are looking to purchase in the Northern Neck, I'm betting that the words Northern Neck come up in your search. You are not expecting to look in the DC or the Maryland or the Richmond MLS to find your dream property here.
Yes, the way all MLSs work there is syndication. What this means is that beyond the sharing with fellow MLS members, the listing get sent out to Realtor.com, Zillow.com, Trulia.com, Homes.com and really dozens of other sites. So yes, if it isn't in the core MLS it does get out to the wider world.....the very wider world. It just has missed out on the people closest to the property, most likely to show the property because they are working with buyers daily and they know the territory. I think that is important.
Sometimes there are areas that overlap and so that makes it difficult to figure out the MLS. For instance, upper Westmoreland county is in the Northern Neck MLS, but quite often Realtors located up in that area are also in the Fredericksburg MLS. The market isn't specifically Northern Neck because it is close to Dahlgren and is also reasonably commutable to Fredericksburg and other places that have real jobs. Then you look at Essex county and you see something similar. There are plenty of Essex counties listings in the NNAR MLS, but they are often put into the Middle Peninsula MLS as well. It just isn't simple. (And add to all this the fact that most MLSs are for-profit entities....ours isn't.....and that's a whole other dimension.) One thing I can say is that I tried out putting my listings into MRIS for almost a year and I concluded that it did not assist my sales at all and it was costly and time consuming. The Northern Neck MLS is quite a good system and we are fortunate.
Recently I assisted a buyer in purchasing a property that was not listed in our local MLS but was right in the middle of our territory. The property was found by this buyer who was extremely diligent in looking at a variety of sites for their information. We look at the property and ultimately the property was purchased. Looking back on this process and property I'm pretty sure that because the property had been on the market for so long and hardly anyone had been to see it, that we were in a really good position to get a great value. And this buyer did!! Having other parties looking for something similar, I'd say I could have sold it the day after it closed for at lesat 20% more than the party paid. That's leaving some real money in the buyer's pocket and a seller who got short-changes.
We, as Realtors, can refer a client to another Realtor within a jurisdiction we are licensed. In the past, I had a good friend who wanted to buy a condo in Alexandria. I had worked with a Realtor in the past when selling a property here and that seller was buying in Northern Virginia the day the Northern Neck property closed. I had to coordinate closely with that Northern Virginia Realtor to make sure all went well and there weren't any glitches. Having had this experience, I knew this Realtor was capable and someone I could trust. It was easy to pick up the phone and ask if they'd take a referral from me, and of course the answer was yes. This meant that my friend could get the benefit of the best local knowledge in the market she was looking in and I could get a piece of the pie. This is what I think makes the most sense. Refer a property if you really can't fully represent it. Refer a buyer if you really can't offer them the full perspective they deserve. Refer, refer, refer. I have never understood why there isn't a rule requiring us to refer once the distance becomes too great or if the markets are so radically different. Then again perhaps it would be too hard to set up rules and work to have people adhere to them. We, as Realtors are supposed to follow the Golden Rule, and so let's hope that we really do....for our job is to work, and work well, for the buyers and sellers we encounter. That is our goal.
Please know that is soley my opinion on these matters, but 23 years of real estate experience does give me some perspective.