In a move that should help home sellers and buyers, the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors voted yesterday to surrender monopoly control of the Central Maryland Multiple Listing Service. Ultimately, the result is expected to be a single statewide MLS for home sales.
The MLS is the computer system that real estate agents use to list real estate for sale. The local MLS is now a subsidiary of the Baltimore-area realty board.
The move to a statewide system should mean easier and significantly broader access to home listings for those buying or selling homes, said Carole Greenwald, who heads the Baltimore regional office of Prudential Preferred Properties. "The consumer will be the winner," she said.
In addition, large realty companies, which operate in several counties, will save on the membership fees they are paying to use several MLS services.
"This is a big deal," said Mary Bell Grempler, chairman of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty, the Towson-based real estate franchise chain.
Yesterday's vote came at the annual meeting of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors. It was considered a victory for the large real estate companies in the region that have lobbied for years for wider access to MLS services for a single fee.
Through an enlarged regional or statewide MLS, realty firms will be able to provide home-sale information to the public more quickly and conveniently, supporters say.
Real estate brokers and agents are now unable to get home-sale listings from adjoining counties unless they pay fees to an MLS system beyond their county line. A Howard County broker, for instance, could not gain access to home listings in Montgomery County unless he or she joined the Montgomery County Association of Realtors.
By making the multiple listing service more efficient, realty boards will also be better able to compete with companies, like IBM, that have indicated they may wish to expand into such fields.
"We need a statewide multiple listing service to make our industry more competitive," said Nancy Hubble, a principal at W.H.C. Wilson & Co. in Baltimore who was elected yesterday as president of the Baltimore-area realty board.
Details of the change in ownership of the Central Maryland MLS will be worked out at the end of December, at the earliest, said Warren Tunkel, its executive vice president. "There are many, many ideas about how this should be done, but nothing has been worked out yet," he said.
The Baltimore area MLS, set up in 1967, is already open to Realtors from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford and Carroll counties without any additional fee.