MRIS opens Web site for homebuyers

Regional listing firm gives Md. consumers easier access to data

`A pretty rich system'

April 11, 1999|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

Searching for a home to buy in Maryland on the Internet may have become a little easier as the Metropolitan Regional Information System -- the multiple-listing database for local Realtors -- has launched its own consumer Web site:

Instead of having to sift through an assortment of national real estate Web sites and then focus on Maryland, the site provides consumers with an easier pathway to find homes for sale in the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan areas.

The site, which was launched late last month, complements MRIS' other Web site -- -- which Director of Administration Jonathan B. Hill described as more of a cyber corporate brochure.

"We had two ways to go, either the or the," Hill said. "MRIS is our identity, but it doesn't mean anything to the public in general. We had some name ID out there; if you have listed or sold your house, you probably know what MRIS is."

Yet for buyers, this new site hits closer to home.

"This is the same information that the

Realtors are using; it's not 100 percent of what the Realtors have in their system, [but] we feel it is a pretty rich system," Hill said.

MRIS, which was formed in 1993 and went online three years later, boasts more than 63,000 active listings of homes for sale, spanning all but three Maryland counties -- Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester. It also covers Washington, Northern and Central Virginia and parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. More than 26,000 real estate professionals use the service, making it the second-largest multiple-list service in the country behind Chicago.

When home-buying surfers go to the site, they are asked to choose from one of the states MRIS covers, then select a specific area. They are then asked to fill in other criteria pertinent to their search.

What buyers will see is much of the same material -- exterior picture, interior descriptions, school systems, taxes -- that Realtors compile when they do their own searches.

In time, Hill hopes to enhance the site with additional school information, community demographics and eventually provide consumers the ability to search for previously sold homes. Also in the works is a "slide show" of interior photos as well as a 360-degree virtual tour of the home.

"What we are trying to do is pull information into our site that is relevant to the purchase, relevant to the transaction," Hill said.

"I think it gives the consumer a little more market knowledge so that they don't feel as intimidated when they are talking with a real estate broker," said Norma Jean Marsho, owner-broker of Re/Max Columbia and a member of the MRIS board of directors.

Since the MRIS database is dependent upon the permission of brokers to allow their listings to be viewed on the Internet, Hill said there are some brokers who have not agreed to release their listings to

"We export 95 to 96 percent of our listings to [Web site for the National Association of Realtors], and we've been doing this for the past three years. We haven't gotten as high of a percentage from brokers to go to HomesDatabase, just because it hasn't been around as long," Hill said. "We are going back to brokers now who don't even know about HomesDatabase."

Hill and Marsho also said consumers get a big benefit from compared with the two other national sites that take MRIS listings -- and -- in that the database is more timely.

But with all the Internet tools at hand, Marsho says, sales still revolve around financing, inventory and mortgage rates. "No matter how much information you put up there [on the site], you just don't increase the market unless the financing and the availability of properties is there."

Home search Web sites (http: // This is the behemoth of the field, the official Web site of the National Association of Realtors, with more than 1.3 million active homes for sale. Homes that are listed by the Metropolitan Regional Information System -- the multiple-listing database for the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors -- can be found here. This site claims to have 681,000 listings on its site. MRIS also feeds its database to this site, which is updated once a week.

Microsoft's Probably the best-looking and easiest-to-navigate major home real estate site, HomeAdvisor walks you through all the key stages of a purchase, and is particularly strong in its community analysis features. What it lacks is comprehensive, nationwide listings. It's got upward of 500,000 homes for sale, but is hit-or-miss in some major markets. It can, however, get you a home mortgage online. If you want to see lots of active home listings and the loan quotes of multiple mortgage lenders all in one place, this is it. HomeShark lets you price-shop national and local mortgage companies by annual percentage rates (APRs) and closing costs. While Cyberhomes' 650,000 properties for sale represent just half of what offers, the site does have snazzy features like street-level mapping if you're visiting from far away, and an e-mail-alert service that contacts you when a home comes on the market that fits your criteria.

SOURCE: Washington Post Writers Group

Pub Date: 4/11/99

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