To fight online competitors like Yahoo and Zillow, real estate agents in 42 counties have created a Hoosier alliance.
The newly formed Indiana Regional MLS will feature a consumer website where house hunters can eventually view more than 750,000 listings from 13 Realtor associations in Indiana. Presently, the Upstate Alliance of Realtors in Fort Wayne, Lafayette Regional Association of Realtors and Bloomington Board of Realtors are participants.
By the middle of next year, prospective buyers will be able to go to www.reindiana.com to get information from the other 10 housing groups. The goal is to drive Internet traffic to the regional website instead of other online sources.
Much is at stake.
Residential real estate transactions have a more than $34 million economic impact on the states economy, according to the Indiana Association of Realtors. Property sellers in Fort Wayne realize that and were the first to join the Indiana Regional MLS collaborative.
Upstate covers Allen, Adams, DeKalb, Huntington, Noble, Wells and Whitley counties. Leaders of the alliance say they immediately saw advantages of the union. In 2012, 6,602 existing homes sold in the seven-county area – an increase of 10.1 percent from the previous year. The association last year also saw the average sale price rise nearly 9 percent from 2011 to $126,513. Participation in Indiana Regional MLS may boost those numbers.
Were still in our infancy, but the website will have the most up-to-date housing information about our area, said Patrick Maloblocki, broker/owner with Coldwell Banker Roth Wehrly Graber in Fort Wayne and an Upstate representative with the Regional MLS, or multiple listing service.
Too often, the data on many of the other websites has wrong prices, incorrect square footage and other things.
Theres enough misinformation on the Internet without the Indiana housing market being thrown into the fray, real estate agents say.
Part of the problem is that the data go through various channels before reaching one of the national online resources, Maloblocki said. He likens the problem to the game that starts with one player whispering something in anothers ear; the information becomes jumbled as its recounted by different players.
The national online websites buy housing market information from third-party sources and obtain data from government sources. Trouble is, the information isnt always current.
It wont be that way with the new website, because it deals directly with the (local) real estate companies, Maloblocki said.
While www.reindiana.com may prove a good housing tool for consumers and agents, the Indiana Regional MLS also benefits agents in another way. They now wont have to pay multiple dues and other fees for doing business in real estate markets outside their areas.
For instance, Coldwell Banker Roth Wehrly Graber has more than 200 agents. If each one wanted to do business outside of its MLS area, it could easily cost $200,000 – and thats not counting cases in which an agent wants to venture into several MLS areas. Real estate firms participating in the Indiana Regional MLS can avoid those costs.
Carrie Kendall, general manager of the Indiana Regional MLS, said that has been a sticking point for agents for years.
It used to be that if you wanted to list a house in a MLS outside of your area, you had to be a registered agent there, said Kendall, executive officer of the Lafayette Regional Association of Realtors. This eliminates that cost while streamlining our system. We dont have to operate independently. It is our hope that more Realtor groups will join.
The Indiana Regional MLS is not the only one of its kind in the nation, but Kendall said such cooperation hasnt been done in 15 years.
One of the first things people want to know is, how did we get these organizations to let go of control and come together, she said. Its because they see the value in it and wanted it.
Officials are working on search-engine optimization software to ensure that when people Google key phrases like Indiana real estate, www.reindiana.com is among the first results to appear. Once at the website, those interested in Indiana home markets can find demographics, taxes, school districts and related information.
Were working on having virtual tours and other things on the website to be right at a persons fingertips, Kendall said.
Real estate firms in Indiana arent the only ones trying to boost their Internet presence.
The National Association of Realtors is in the midst of improving its website, www.realtor.com, to fend off other online sites. It dropped to No. 3 last year behind Zillow and Trulia, respectively.
National association President Gary Thomas said the groups board authorized broadening the sites listings and adding other features. Realtor.com has housing statistics funneled to it from its member groups nationwide. A major change is the allowance of listings for new construction, residential developments and rentals. The website is even allowing listings by non-members.
Lynn Reecer, co-owner of Reecer Properties, applauds the cooperation between area agents and feels the public will benefit – and so will her business.
Reecer said the Indiana Regional MLS portal allows her to see how she compares with competitors. For instance, Reecers partner and brother-in-law, James, is the top real estate agent in Fort Wayne, based on dollar volume, so far this year.
Maloblocki said ranking wasnt an intended use of the service, but he understands the reality of the making such information available to agents.
It is what it is, I guess, he said. In the end, Realtors are salespeople, and they will use what they can.
Reecer sees no need to feel guilty.
When I worked at Xerox, we wanted to know how we were doing against Kodak in selling copiers, she said.