Friday, February 6, 2009

What is Wrong with MLS?

I am the broker and owner of an independant real estate brokerage in Lethbridge Alberta. I have been a member of the Lethbridge Real Estate Board, the Alberta Real Estate Association, and the Canadian Real Estate Association, for approximately 15 years now. I have watched the organized real estate industry make several changes and evolve for all these years. Some of the changes have been progressive while others have seemed to be misdirected.

I have experienced the change from corporate owned offices to franchises, the rise of independant contractor status, the introduction of the 100% commission split, the introduction of new technologies, the alteration of the terminology, at least half a dozen revisions of the standard purchase contract from a simple 1 page form to a 2 page form to a 3 page form, into an even longer 'plain english' form, then back to a 3 page form, into whatever it is today. I have watched commissions fluctuate, but almost always downward. I remember back in the day when we used to fill in the commission rate we were charging (7%, which we commonly split 50/50) before we even left the office with the contract. Today as I browse my local MLS listings I see less then a half dozen listings offering anything other then 2% of the selling price as commission. Perhaps the trained and skilled agents working our streets back then were worth 3 times more then all the recent licensees, or perhaps someone forgot to train new licensees to negotiate their brokerage fee, or perhaps we have given away so much of our expertise, data, and value that we are getting paid exactly what we are worth? At any rate, that is not my biggest beef with the current situation.

What has really bothered me in recent years has been the direction that organized real estate has gone concerning client data and information. It is obvious that in this day and age of identity theft, organized crime through electronic means, and spam marketing, that consumers are more concerned then ever about their personal information. Even legislators at the municipal, provincial, and federal level have enacted laws in an attempt to control and protect consumers identities and information. Despite this, the amount of information required to submit a listing to MLS is at an all time high. You currently have to provide more information then ever before to submit a listing to MLS. What happens to that information afterwards seems to be a bit of an unknown, and definitely varies in different juristictions.

Some of the information is unquestionably made public, some is shared with various levels of Government, and some is stored in dirty old filing cabinets and hard drives some place apparently forever. The fact that every new listing seems to receive various marketing materials mysteriously in the mail points to the fact that the information reaches the hands of various other commercial interests as well. Who owns this information and what level of privacy and disclosure is the consumer entitled to? Obviously if you were to ask a consumer if they wished their data to be shared or held forever to be potentially shared at a later date, most would opt out of that idea. Many of my own friends and clients specifically choose to avoid MLS listing their property to avoid the potential of their information falling into the hands of others or being shared publicly.

I belive in the spirit of the MLS system, but not with its practices. As the information age progresses, it will be interesting to see if this data collection by the MLS system will be its saviour or its downfall. Until then, I will leave my personal data withheld.

Here are a few of my favorite past articles from my Lethbridge real estate and mortgage blog you might have missed or wish to recommend them to a friend.

Common Financial Problems - Avoid these financial mistakes
Get Your Credit Score UP - Invaluable insight into your credit score
Mortgage Guidelines Get Tighter - Harder and harder to borrow money
Is Your Mortgage Company Out of Business in 2009? - What to do when your bank goes broke
What is wrong with MLS - Is your info being abused?
Survivor - Real Estate Edition - Let's vote a few more off the island

Robert May is a Realtor, as well as the broker and owner of Rainbow Realty of Lethbridge Alberta. He is also a licensed mortgage associate and financing expert with Canada First Mortgage of Calgary Alberta. He has been in the real estate industry since 1993 and offers full MLS real estate services to Lethbridge and surrounding area, as well as mortgage financing, refinancing/renewals, preapprovals, and home equity financing to Lethbridge and Southern Alberta. He can be found online at

Let me share my 15 years experience in the local Lethbridge real estate and financing market with you! It is the first step towards making a profitable real estate decision.

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