Realtors in Central Pennsylvania brace for new listing serviceLocal associations adjust to lost revenue, new opportunities
An idea embraced by 43 Realtor associations across the Mid-Atlantic — creation of a regional home listing service — will become reality this fall in Central Pennsylvania.
Officials for the new Bright MLS said the regional service, which will be one of the nation’s largest home-sales lists, will make its debut on Oct. 23. The list will feature 10 million property records and cover a market spanning 40,000 square miles in six states and Washington, D.C.
Its first users will be Realtors in Central Pennsylvania, as the MLS systems they use now will be rolled into Bright.
MLS systems run by other regional associations will be converted to Bright over the coming months.
About 4,000 to 4,500 agents and brokers use MLS systems in Central Pennsylvania. They belong to the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors, Lancaster County Association of Realtors, Lebanon County Association of Realtors and the Realtors Association of York and Adams Counties.
Brokers use MLS services to share information about properties they are selling with other real estate professionals.
MLS consolidation has been a national trend and something that local groups have considered over the years to streamline association fees and regional listing systems. But before that could happen in Central Pennsylvania, Bright emerged.
The regional listing service started in 2015 as a collaboration between King of Prussia-based Delaware Valley Real Estate Information Network Inc., more commonly known as TREND, and Maryland-based Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc., or MRIS.
TREND and MRIS officials, who now lead Bright, began approaching other associations.
The Central Pennsylvania associations voted last fall to join the effort.
“For the people making the industry happen, the brokers and the sales people, it’s huge for efficiencies and cost savings,” said Frank Christoffel III, executive vice president of the Lancaster County Association of Realtors.
Bright will have about 85,000 members to start and officials said they are open to expanding into surrounding markets.
“Part of the issue Bright is trying to solve is duplication and overlap in many markets, including Central Pennsylvania,” said Sharon Lukens, Bright’s vice president of communications and customer engagement. “There is deep overlap (in listing data and memberships) and it makes the most sense to convert everyone as a single unit in one market.”
Bright is willing to talk with adjacent markets about future integrations, Lukens added.
There are currently about 700 MLS systems in the country. Will there eventually be one national MLS? Probably not, Lukens and other association leaders said.
“It’s all about where consumers are moving and traveling and working,” she said. “I don’t think one MLS is the magic number.”
Savings and change
So, what will be different for MLS users converting to Bright?
For starters, monthly costs will go down.
The goal is to cut Bright user costs down to $35 per month by 2019 through a phased approach, Lukens said. Current costs vary by MLS, but most are higher. And users, especially in Central Pennsylvania, are paying fees to multiple MLS providers.
Shanna Terroso, executive officer at the Realtors Association of York and Adams Counties, projects the average RAYAC MLS user will save about $150 per year once the Bright cost gets down to $35 per month. Locally, Bright will start around $41 per month.
But monthly MLS fees are not the only costs that could fall. A lot of companies also pay tech professionals to integrate MLS data into their websites and back-office systems.
A centralized MLS also will save users time, which should improve customer service. In addition, agents will have quick access to listings in other markets, which would allow them to expand their businesses or help buyers who may be looking for a home in another part of the Bright coverage area.
For example, agents who live in York may want to do more business in Maryland. Bright will make it easier to move between local markets and other states, assuming agents are licensed in those states.
The early downside for local associations will be the loss of revenue from their MLS systems. That could hurt association membership and lead to staff cuts.
Bright, which has 135 employees, hired at least two local MLS specialists.
To offset the revenue hit, the associations said they will continue to look for ways to grow other services, including educational offerings, networking opportunities, government affairs and advocacy efforts.
“As in any business, we need to adapt and evolve,” said Kathy Ludwig, CEO of the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors. “This has given us an opportunity to take a look at everything we do from a products and benefits standpoint. We would like to think our members will continue to see the value.”