When MLS Systems Compete, You Lose

by Osman Parvez

Unbeknownst to most buyers and sellers, Colorado's largest MLS's have been battling in recent weeks over data sharing. On September 1st, the MLS which covers the Denver metro area (REColorado) cut off the MLS which covers Boulder and most of Northern Colorado (IRES) completely from their data. REColorado only re-established the link after IRES agreed to severely limit data provided to their agents.  

As a Buyer Or Seller, What Does This Mean For You? 
The risk of incomplete data is that you're making decisions without getting the full picture. You might be leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table in exchange of bragging rights over how quickly "your" agent sold it. If you're buying and find yourself in a situation of intense pressure, you might be grossly overpaying because you didn't have access to the full comp set.  

The Colorado Division of Real Estate regulates our industry but the burden of providing complete and accurate information falls largely to self regulation. If you think that works well, ask the owners of diesel Volkswagen's how they feel about self-regulation. 

What can you do? Make sure your Realtor is providing you with a comprehensive and fully analyzed set of comparable properties. Whether you're buying or selling, you can't make intelligent decisions without the facts about market conditions specific to your unique situation. In some locations, there is significant overlap between MLS systems (including Boulder). To get the complete data set means an agent needs to cross check IRES, REColorado, and the public record for off MLS transactions. Most Realtor's in Boulder only subscribe to IRES (MLS's require a paid subscription) and rarely check the public record for off MLS transactions, much less check all three. They should be checking all available data sources. 

Ask about data sources. If your Realtor dismisses your concerns, get a better Realtor

Marketing Cluster F*$#!
If you're a seller, it goes well beyond incomplete comps. The MLS your agent subscribes to has a HUGE impact on the marketing effectiveness.    

Here's a real life example. Imagine you're the seller of XXXX Louisville.   It's a fresh listing that hit the market on Thursday. You chose a Denver agent who only submitted the listing to REColorado. IRES subscribers and potential buyers being served by IRES subscribers can't see the photographs.  

It's possible that the photos will filter eventually to all subscribers, but right now, during the most critical time possible for marketing your house, a huge number of potential buyers can't see the photos! Why? Because of data sharing agreements between IRES and REColorado. 

This isn't a small issue. As of this writing, only 18% of the listings in Louisville are REColorado listings. The vast majority of agents serving Louisville use IRES and most will set their clients up with search alerts for IRES only. This means the vast majority of potential buyers are not seeing photographs of this house.  

Take a look at the screenshots below [comparing IRES vs REColorado listings].  

[One of buyers want to write an offer on this house, so screenshots and other identifying info are removed until we're done negotiating]

This is why Realty Unique subscribes and markets our listings on both MLS systems. There is no alternative. 

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The ideas and strategies described in this blog are the opinion of the writer and subject to business, economic, and competitive uncertainties.   We strongly recommend conducting rigorous due diligence and obtaining professional advice before buying or selling real estate. 

image credit:  Ray Dumas (CC 2.0)

Please Note

This document contains forward-looking statements. You are strongly cautioned that investment results are subject to business, economic and other uncertainties. There are no guarantees associated with any forecast and the opinions stated here are subject to change at any time. Always consult your financial advisor before making an investment decision.