Home listings in Maryland going regional Area Realtors to join computer system that crosses state lines

'A work in progress'

Plan promises lower costs to agents, more information to buyers

November 03, 1996|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Real estate sales agents and brokers in most of metropolitan Baltimore are about to link into what could become the nation's largest electronic home-selling system -- one promising greater efficiency for consumers and lower costs for agents.

Realtors in the city and in Baltimore, Howard, Harford and Carroll counties are switching from a multiple-listing service covering only those jurisdictions to one covering most of Maryland and extending across state lines to the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia and part of West Virginia.

The Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. (MRIS) will replace eight local MLS systems with a single source of information on homes for sale, neighborhoods, deed transfers and deed assessments.

Earlier this month, the system added a feature providing information on mortgage costs, buyer qualifications, and buyer and seller closing costs.

"This is catapulting us into the 21st century, and should serve us well for some time to come," said Christine Vasiliou, executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, one of four boards in the region that share a listing service.

The regional conversion is the latest evolution in recording homes for sale -- once kept by hand in books, then on cards in file boxes before going electronic -- said Jonathan Hill, director of administration for the Rockville-based MRIS.

The system will eventually give users more flexibility, for instance, in creating reports and brochures for their clients.

"This is a work in progress," Hill said. "This is moving our local industry forward. One of the important things is we're bringing local Realtors into the computer age."

Plans include placing ads, with the permission of the broker, at various Internet sites; offering online real estate forms such as listing agreements; and generating statistics, such as recent home sale prices and a directory in which local home improvement contractors could advertise on the Internet.

MRIS incorporated in July 1993 with 15 member boards and a start-up investment of $600,000, after Realtors in Northern Virginia, Washington and Montgomery County decided to pool their resources.

Twenty-five local Realtor boards or associations now own stock in the company.

The first boards began transferring to the regional system this year.

As of August, associations in Caroline, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Kent, Montgomery and Queen Anne's counties, greater Hagerstown and the District of Columbia had gone online.

Realtors in Northern Virginia expect to hook up to MRIS late this month. West Virginia's eastern panhandle counties are to make the switch at the end of December.

The Greater Baltimore board and associations in Howard, Harford and Carroll counties expect to move to the new system in early January, when the current MLS, run by Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Information Technologies (MARIT), will come to an end.

The remaining MRIS shareholders -- associations in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties and another covering Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties -- are expected to make the transition in the next couple of years, Hill said.

Boards in Allegany County and the southern part of the Eastern Shore have not joined the regional system, he said.

By 1997, MRIS is expected to have 30,000 users, which would make it the nation's largest listing system, Hill said, eclipsing a Chicago-area service with 25,000 users.

With a single regional system, agents won't be forced to join and pay dues to multiple boards and listing services to sell property in, for instance, Baltimore, Montgomery and Frederick counties.

Multiple-listing services are widely considered to be the most effective way of linking buyers and sellers.

"It should help bring down everyone's cost of doing business, provide economies of scale and break down the barriers," Vasiliou said.

Both large and small brokerages should benefit from the state-of-the-art, Windows-based system, she said.

"To the public, I think eventually it will mean faster access to more information, particularly out-of-town folks coming in, people trying to make decisions about whether to live in Maryland, Virginia or D.C.," said Patrick J. Kane, vice president of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc. and a member of the MRIS Board of Directors.

Pub Date: 11/03/96

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