In an industry where competition is fierce, five leading MLSs in Northern California are rethinking how they collaborate to help their agents work more efficiently and profitably. This unprecedented collaboration provides agents with access to multiple listing services with a single MLS membership and third-party integrations designed to improve the agent experience, like RentSpree.
In this article, we’ll examine how the San Francisco Association of Realtors®, MLSListings, bridgeMLS, Contra Costa Association of Realtors® and Bay East Association of Realtors® are working to give their agents the data and tools necessary to help their clients succeed.
The challenges of working with siloed MLS systems
Historically, each MLS operated in a silo where its members could only access listing data in that specific MLS. This meant that agents often needed to pay, and train on, multiple MLS memberships for access to property listings in a wide geographic area. Agents needed to navigate a different operating system for each MLS, costing them valuable time to master each system and enter the same listing in different regions.
Operating in silos creates a poor experience for both the agent and their clients. In addition to the challenges listed above, agents working with multiple MLSs might encounter issues like:
- Increased financial burden: Without a unified system, an agent must pay for multiple MLS memberships to cover a wider geographic area and access more property listings, creating a significant financial burden.
- Wasted time: Working with multiple MLSs means agents have to spend additional time entering their listings into each regional MLS and learning a new operating system.
- Impacted client relationships: If agents cannot meet their client's needs within their local MLS, they risk losing or damaging that relationship. It becomes difficult to serve clients who want to move to another county or switch to renting; such clients may seek another agent.
From competitors to collaborators
By sharing listing data with one another, seven Northern California MLSs are ensuring their member agents can best serve their clients regardless of which neighborhoods they live in.
"Instead of us creating little walled gardens, we set that aside to create a larger MLS service area that was greater than the sum of its parts,” says Jay Pepper-Martens, Chief Technology Officer at the San Francisco Association of Realtors® (SFAR). “We feel we achieved something remarkable on a technical level... [and] the benefit is really for those consumers and landlords, while still keeping agents at the center.”
This innovative MLS data integration project removes the challenges of siloed data by allowing its members MLSs to share their data. Agents will continue to work with an MLS system they’re accustomed to, but now they’ll have access to substantially more listing data across a wider geographic area. As a result of this datashare, agents across the seven MLSs benefit from:
- Access to more regional listing data: Agents have a wider range of properties to choose from, making it easier for them to find the perfect property for their clients.
- One MLS membership: This is a significant cost saving for agents. In addition to saving money, this also streamlines the listing process for agents and reduces the time spent navigating different MLS systems.
- Integrated history, listings, and agent records: A shared database creates a more efficient and accurate MLS system by minimizing duplicate listings, disconnected history, and duplicate agent records; this increases the confidence of the agents and clients in the data provided. Agents belonging to one of the seven MLS partners can rely on accurate and up-to-date information from a unified database, making it easier for agents to find the information they need quickly and easily.
Elevating agents’ service offerings with RentSpree
In addition to solving the challenges that come with siloed listing, five of the seven MLSs are sharing their integration with third-party tools to enhance the experience of their member agents. As more agents transition to rentals from retail, few vendor integrations are as valuable as RentSpree.
“A major benefit of the collaborative data exchange is the ability to integrate 3rd party solutions across multiple MLS platforms,” said Sheiren Diaz, CEO of Contra Costa Association of REALTORS®. “Not only does it benefit MLS Subscribers but benefits all consumers looking to buy or rent in the Greater Bay Area. RentSpree is a great example of the impact the competitive yet collaborative MLS landscape in the Bay Area can benefit PropTech Vendors, MLSs, and consumers.”
With the five MLSs participating in a data exchange, it no longer matters where a rental listing originated. Any agent belonging to one of the five MLSs can access listing data from a participating MLS and any of their clients can apply to list their rental property through RentSpree. Dave Wetzel, President and CEO of MLSListings, says, “We quickly realized that standardizing this implementation would reach more prospective tenants across the Bay Area and therefore benefit our subscribers’ clients, but that it would require a collaborative effort on all of our parts to create a streamlined solution.”
DaVina Lara, CEO of bridgeMLS, adds: “A renter of today has the potential to be a homeowner of tomorrow. Now, more than ever, we need to empower our subscribers for their profession. RentSpree does just that. As one of the first adopters in the Bay Area, we have been providing our members with this cutting-edge tool allowing them to show their renting clients the possibility of future homeownership.”
The power of RentSpree is multiplied by the network effect of having more eyes on more rentals with more tenant applications. RentSpree provides everything from listing pages to tenant screening, robust application and payment tools to help power an agent’s work with rental property, landlords, and tenants. “RentSpree’s tool allows our agents to automate and streamline the tenant verification process,” says Tricia Thomas, CEO of the Bay East Association of REALTORS®. “It saves our members precious time by providing a complete rental application, credit report, and background check.”
Once members like MLSListings and SFAR realized they were using RentSpree separately, figuring out how to standardize this integration across the other three members using RentSpree became the next step.
“MLSListing’s engineering and product teams worked very closely with RentSpree developers to utilize RentSpree APIs to make it work,” says Olga Ermolin, Director of Engineering at MLSListings. “Effective cooperation among neighboring MLSs, combined with agile engineering between the MLSListings and RentSpree development teams, resulted in a mutually beneficial solution for everyone.”
When MLSs work together, everyone wins
The success of the NORCAL MLS Alliance proves that working together always beats working alone, and when MLSs can find solutions across borders, everyone wins. “We’re technically competitors, but we’ve found a way to work very collaboratively together and put consumers’ and agents’ interests and benefits first,” notes Wetzel.
Pepper-Martens adds: “Now that we’ve done the heavy lifting of creating the deep reciprocal data exchange infrastructure, we can extend it to provide better services and experiences for members. RentSpree is a good example of what MLSs can do when they compete for members but collaborate on solutions.”
Since the implementation of the NORCAL MLS Alliance in late 2020, listing data covering more than 32,500 square miles and 26 counties is now accessible to over 57,000 real estate professionals. Additionally, the NORCAL MLS Alliance serves a population area of more than 11.1 million people and provides agents with support from local experts who have knowledge of unique marketplace conditions and best practices.
As a result of their participation in data sharing and exchange, members of the five MLSs have access to listing data covering more than 32,500 square miles and 26 counties is now accessible to over 57,000 real estate professionals. Additionally, the shared integration with RentSpree has also yielded impressive results such as:
- Rental inventories from the five MLSs have increased nearly tenfold, from roughly 30 listings per month to nearly 300 per month.
- In 2022, each property representative received an average of 3.63 reports per listing. Over the last 2 years, each user averaged 8 reports total.
Shared cooperation and a collaborative approach to problem solving means these five MLSs can increase efficiency and convenience for their member agents. The addition of third-party tools like RentSpree only further elevates the level of service their members can provide to their clients, creating a win-win situation for everyone involved.