When North Carolina Mountains Multiple Listing Service (NCMMLS) decided to become part of CarolinaMLS, Lisa Brown joked about her litmus test for success.
“I said if we do this with Charlotte and don’t hear from our members, then we know we’ve done a good job,” says Brown, association director for the Haywood Realtor® Association, one of three NCMMLS owners.
She was only half joking.
A smooth transition was important, but the most important thing was that the NCMMLS directors had done their due diligence and knew their subscribers would benefit from being part of CarolinaMLS, says Brown and others.
“Not in every instance is bigger better,” Brown says. “It was to our benefit because Charlotte has great support staff, leadership and they are looking 10 to 20 miles down the road. They have the structure in place and the horsepower. (CEO) Anne Marie DeCatsye is recognized nationally. She is involved with roundtables and discussion groups on the national level and brings that knowledge.
“Just because we are a smaller association doesn’t mean our agents shouldn’t have that level of service,” Brown continues. “I think our agents got the best possible system to enhance their business at an affordable price.”
Furthermore, “we want to be at the grown-up table,” she notes. “With our second-home market, we need to be playing with the big boys.”
And yes, the transition went well.
“It was seamless,” says Brenda Jarvis, association executive for the Hendersonville Board of Realtors®, also a NCMMLS owner (the third owner was Land of the Sky Association of Realtors® in Asheville). “The members didn’t really know that there was a transition happening because nothing changed for them — the login was the same, the home page was the same.”
Says Brown, “We promised our subscribers they wouldn’t have to learn new passwords or go through a conversion, and support would still be there.”
That was all true because NCMMLS had entered into an agreement in October 2015 with CarolinaMLS to be its wholesale vendor, when its MLS executive retired. For more than two years, CarolinaMLS provided core services to NCMMLS, such as access to the Matrix™ MLS platform as well as multiple interactive real estate analysis tools and reports.
“Knowing we have to keep pace with technology demands and expectations from the end consumer, our members and NAR, it was a good time to latch on to somebody with all the infrastructure in place,” says 2017 NCMMLS President Dave Noyes. “If we as a regional MLS wanted to pursue that on our own, it would have been horribly expensive and the cost to our membership would have gone up greatly.”
During the time CarolinaMLS served as NCMMLS’s wholesale vendor, the directors of NCMMLS had “to determine our relevance as an entity and what is best for our members,” Noyes says.
NCMMLS had formed in 2003 when five MLSs in the mountain area of North Carolina merged. When it sold in January, NCMMLS served Realtors® from the following counties: Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Transylvania, Yancey and part of Jackson.
Since NCMMLS’s creation, MLSs across the country have continued to consolidate as technology has improved and real estate firms serving regions, and even broader areas, balk at paying fees to multiple MLSs and paying costs internally to accommodate the varying data within their firms.
Noyes uses the firm he’s a part of, Wilkinson ERA in Hendersonville, as an example of a company with a large geographic footprint. “We are a multistate, multiregion firm from the beach to the mountains in North Carolina and South Carolina. To have the MLS conform to one standard would help a firm’s IT (information technology) department and administration when trying to get sales data and market data from the MLS.”
While his company still has to belong to multiple MLSs, NCMMLS’s decision to become a part of CarolinaMLS is a step in the right direction, he says. “There is a little jump in geography between us and Charlotte, but I think we will see over time that all that space will be filled in and our brokers will belong to even fewer MLSs.”
Still, Brown notes, it was a big decision to join CarolinaMLS. “It was a scary move for us to make — for a small association to give up their MLS, which has traditionally been an income stream,” she says, “but I am super proud of my directors. They listened and made a hard decision that focused on what would best serve Realtors® in Haywood County, and they made sure they got the best deal.
“Throughout our experience with CarolinaMLS, we had the opportunity to have input and ask questions; it was very collaborative,” she says. “Hopefully we’ll be a poster child for smaller associations to consider this. We would recommend it.”