No Closer to Multiple Listing Service in Manhattan

Remember our cautious excitement last year when we learned that a "sort of" MLS was coming to Manhattan?  I had my own opinions of why I welcomed this event but was skeptical that it would ever come to fruition: Ultra Luxury and open Listings.  And how can we forget that opposition to the Manhattan MLS began immediately from smaller firms.  The saga continues and it appears that we are much further from joining the ranks of real estate markets around the country in developing and utilizing a Multiple Listing Service.  Now the BIG firms who control 63% of the cities housing inventory are balking at the idea.

Last week, Josh Barbanel of The New York Times reported on the reluctance of Prudential Douglas Elliman and The Corcoran Group to adopt or participate in a Manhattan Multiple Listing Service.

After weeks of maneuvering by the board to meet the objections of smaller firms, the two largest brokerage companies in Manhattan, Prudential Douglas Elliman and the Corcoran Group, announced last week that, partly because of the costs involved, they were planning to boycott the new Web site (name and address yet to be determined).

“We are not participating,” said Pamela Liebman, the president and chief executive of Corcoran. “We wish the Real Estate Board good luck.”

Ms. Liebman said that Corcoran’s sister companies — Citi Habitats and the Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group — will also decline to participate.

Dorothy Herman, the president and chief executive of Prudential Douglas Elliman, said in an interview, “At this point we are not joining, either.”

My knee jerk reaction was "here we go again!" But in reading further and listening to the big firms objections, I can see their point.

But the objections of the large firms seem to be a more difficult obstacle. Corcoran and Elliman officials complained that they had spent large sums branding their own Web sites and persuading buyers to look there first and didn’t want to divert their marketing budgets to pay for an unknown industry site.

“I spent a lot of money on my Internet site,” Ms. Herman said. “I have not seen a comprehensive business plan showing how they are going to market it and how they are going to build traffic.”

My only question is why weren’t these concerns reported on earlier in the process?  I have to believe that Prudential Douglas Elliman and The Corcoran Group had these concerns from the very start.  And if so, then why can’t they, the smaller firms, and the Real Estate Board of New York find a way to address everyone’s concerns and make a Manhattan MLS a reality.  I continue to be puzzled at why the rest of the country has adopted MLS’s and Manhattan has not.  Let’s not forget that the big firms are big because they are smart and have deep pockets.  Although some may think that an MLS would serve to level the playing field, I’m not buying it.  I still maintain that regardless of the availability of information (i.e. listings), those who know what to do with this information and have the deep pockets to support major marketing efforts on behalf of their clients will rise to the top of the industry.  I just wish we could all get along.

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