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Real Estate Listings Go Hi-Tech

Published:Sunday | April 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM

by Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

In a move which has the potential to stimulate a soft real-estate market, the Realtors Association of Jamaica (RAJ) says next month it will launch a Web-based multiple-listing service (MLS) designed to make property listings available to a wider audience of brokers, agents, appraisers, buyers and renters.

The roll-out of the service is backed by a J$4 million marketing initiative, co-sponsored by the RAJ and Realty International, said realtor Deborah Cummings.

Cummings, first vice-president of the RAJ and chief executive officer of Century 21 Heave Ho Properties, said the new property-listing service will utilise technology provided by Realtor Server International (RSI), from which it has purchased rights to the new real-estate-listing platform.

The RAJ has already paid for the customisation of the software for the new real estate marketing tool, but Cummings declined to comment on set-up costs and the annual subscription fee, payable monthly, involved.

The deal required the RAJ to pledge to RSI a certain amount of user buy-in.

Full participation expected

"We had to guarantee 100 members (and) we expect all 230 members to participate, with more to come on," the RAJ executive said.

Cummings said that use of the listing service to post properties and updates was open to all paid-up RAJ members whose subscription fees amounted to an annual $17,960 for sales associates, and $19,960 for brokers.

Viewing access to the system will be free for the public, for whom the benefit will be a quick snapshot of prevailing market prices and available investments, and multiple listings of properties.

The global umbrella group of real-estate agents, Realty International, is said to be partnering with the local association in the venture.

The 50-year-old MLS system is an online facility where properties for rent or sale can be viewed with accompanying details such as the property's location, age, size, amenities, conditions of sale, and proximity to social, commercial and recreational facilities and services. It is an important feature of the real-estate market in Canada and the United States and is said to account for 95 per cent of property sales in those countries.

Guaranteed exposure

"The seller will only have to work with one realtor while being guaranteed maximum exposure for the property, the best possible price, in the best possible time frame," Cummings said, adding that access to comparable properties that are currently listed and recently sold would help in determining competitive real-estate pricings.

The principals of RSI, Wayne Berthin and Brian Hodgson, told Sunday Business that the MLS replaces both "open" and "exclusive" listings, with a new national database, which benefits both buyers and sellers.

With the MLS, the first realtor who lists a property will be guaranteed commission payment on a transaction involving that property, while all others will be free to show the property on behalf of the seller.

The commission is shared between the listing company and the real estate agency which eventually identifies a buyer through its showing of the property.

"Listing with the MLS is effectively listing with the whole association (RAJ). It is an information-pooling device to which all agents will have access," said Berthin, RSI's managing director.

"With open listing the seller is free to list with as many people as possible, and anyone who sells gets the commission, but the real motivation to push for a sale is missing. In exclusive listings, the motivation is higher as the commission is assured, but the seller is at a disadvantage with reduced listings."

Cummings, the Jamaican realtor and umbrella group official, said the new website would create a win-win situation or sellers of real estate in Jamaica.

"The seller will only have to work with one realtor while being guaranteed maximum exposure for the property, the best possible price in the best possible time frame," she pointed out.

She added that access to comparable listed and sold properties would help determine competitive listing prices.

"Sellers will have access to all properties on the market for sale listed with a realtor."

According to the RAJ too, the MLS is a also a means by which buyers or tenants and sellers or landlords have the benefit of professional independent representation by a licensed professional of their choice during the selling or renting process.

"Realtors will be using standard documentation and clients can feel secure that they are dealing with a licensed professional, who is governed by the rules and regulations of the Realtors Association of Jamaica and the MLS," Cummings said.

The association is mounting a series of workshops in Montego Bay, Mandeville and Kingston to roll out the new listing service to real estate agents.

Cummings notes that for sellers, their properties will have increased exposure in the marketplace as an online listing has the potential of reaching millions across the globe.

"The MLS will also create transparency in the marketplace. The true values of properties will be available, thereby decreasing the potential for inflation of property values," she told Sunday Business.

"Also, agents and brokers will be better able to serve their clients in a more efficient and speedy fashion with the introduction of access to a wider base of information through the MLS. Shopping, of course, becomes easier as real estate listing will be available in one place."