In the next couple of weeks, the Calgary MLS® System will undergo a bit of a transformation. Actually, all that is happening is that the MLS System is finally merging with 8 of the other 9 real estate boards in Alberta: One common MLS System that is being shared by almost all the real estate boards in the province and the majority of REALTORS®. The sole holdout is the Edmonton real estate board with whom we shared an MLS System up until about 5 years ago. The may yet see the light of the common system, and have apparently indicated that they may join in the future.
What does this mean for REALTORS®?
Once again, we get to see the full details of the listings in the other jurisdictions where our province-wide licence allows us to practise. The greatest benefit will be enjoyed by those agents on the outskirts of a real estate board, like Innisfail as and example. In order to effectively be able to sell homes in that town, the properties really need to be posted to be seen by REALTORS in both the Calgary board and those in the Red Deer board. This eliminates the membership fees in two real estate boards. It also means a small reduction in monthly MLS System subscription fees. A third benefit is that local REALTORS will be able to see ALL the local MLS listings within the platform. Apparently, some agents have been intentionally posting their listings on MLS Systems that were not native to their own real estate board's trading area. (e..g. Canmore agents posting on a northern Alberta MLS System so that other local agents wouldn't see the property listings unless they checked on one of the accumulator websites like REALTOR.ca.)
What does this mean for consumers?
Well, like that property listing in Innisfail as an example, being listed on two different real estate boards ends up have two not quite identical listings on REALTOR.ca and any of the data sharing websites. Many times the listing REALTOR will be shown as different, too (not that a consumer should be calling the listing REALTOR, but it undoubtedly still happens). So, the single MLS System eliminates this duplication and adds perhaps 5,000 or 6,000 more REALTORS to be able to look at the property listing. Not everyone of them will work in the neighbouring communities as they don't have the experience nor market knowledge, but a significant number do and will. So, more REALTORS viewing the property online will effectively expose their buyers to more listings. For example, as of today's date, consumers viewing this website will only be able to see listings that have been posted within the Calgary MLS System. In a few short weeks, they'll be able to search this one website and few almost every MLS listing within the province of Alberta (save Edmonton MLS listings). And, of course, they'll be able to continue to use their one point of contact.
All good news, right?
Well, not quite. In merging the MLS Systems, Calgary REALTORS will be required to give up a small number of Calgary specific MLS rules that have been created to eliminate some of the confusion that had been occurring once a common set of MLS System rules were developed several years ago. (I'm sure other real estate boards had similar unique rules that they were required to give up when they merged into the common system).
The one Calgary specific rule that is being lost relates to conditional sales. The rule that was developed was that if a homeowner accepted a conditional offer on their home but still wanted it shown to prospective buyers, their agent would simply code the listing as Under Contract which provided such disclosure within the MLS System, but not to the public. (For home owners that did not wish their home should during the time of a conditional sale would continue to have their property listing as coded as a Pending sale - not legally the correct term, but that was the one that has been used for decades.) What this new requirement will cause is home owners who accept conditional offers (which is most offers) will be forced to decide to mark the home as a Pending sale and marketing of the home effectively stops or hiding the sale within our MLS System as still an Active listing in order to keep marketing to continue until the offer to purchase is subject to a condition.
The other real estate boards have been able to get along without this status of Under Contract, I hope it doesn't become a huge deal for our Calgary consumers and REALTORS or we'll end up with hundreds of conditional sales hidden as Active listings. (Of course, legally, they are active, but it would sure be nice to be able to explain to my buyer clients upon viewing a home that the property we are viewing is currently subject to a conditional sale, but could possibly still be purchased if the buyer fails to perform on their conditions or should they decide to try to renegotiate the purchase price during this time.) I feel that, unfortunately, this is two steps forward and one step back as both potential buyers and sellers lose in this scenario.