Brooklyn completes MLS merger, but major firms not included

By Candace Taylor | July 19, 2010 04:00PM

 

In a move that has been in the works for nearly two decades,
Brooklyn finally has one multiple listing service covering the entire
borough.

Sort of.

Early this month, Brooklyn’s last two remaining multiple listing services — the Brooklyn New York MLS
and the smaller Brooklyn MLS, also known as the Bay Ridge/Bensonhurst
MLS — officially merged. The new system, which will be known as the
Brooklyn New York MLS, has a membership of nearly 3,000 agents in 303
offices with 4,000 listings, according to Gerard Longo, the president
of the new organization.

The borough has historically been a crazy quilt of different
real estate groups. Over the years, organizations from different areas
began coming together, creating the BNYMLS, which in turn merged with
the Brooklyn Board of Realtors. The merger with the 400-agent Brooklyn
MLS is “the last piece of the puzzle,” Longo said, adding that the two
organizations first discussed merging 20 years ago.

“It is a big step for us,” said Longo, who is president of
Brooklyn-based brokerage Madison Estates and Properties. “We’re at a
point that we’ve always wanted to be at.”

There’s one sticking point: several of the borough’s largest firms are not members.

Brooklyn’s biggest real estate company, long-established family
business Fillmore Real Estate, is a member of the BNYMLS. But in recent
years, a number of Manhattan-based firms — the Corcoran Group, Brown
Harris Stevens, Prudential Douglas Elliman and Halstead Property —
have moved into Williamsburg and brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods like
Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights.

These large firms are not members of the BNYMLS. In part, that’s
because they belong to a larger, competing trade group — the
Manhattan-based Real Estate Board of New York.

“It’s an expense to be members of both organizations,” explained
Christopher Thomas, an executive vice president at BHS and managing
directors of sales in the company’s Brooklyn Heights office. Because
most of the BNYMLS listings are in Southern Brooklyn and not in
neighborhoods like Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights, he said, the
multiple listing service “doesn’t really suit our purposes.”

The Manhattan-based firms are already members of REBNY, however, and
the REBNY listing service, RLS, has all of their Brooklyn listings,
which tend to be in the Northwest Brooklyn neighborhoods they
specialize in.

“We allocate our marketing dollars where they’re best spent,” Thomas said. “It’s a cost-benefit analysis.”

RLS is not a multiple listings service, so it lacks some of the
information that an MLS requires of participating agents to share with
each other.

Steven Spinola, the president of REBNY, was not available for comment.

When asked whether the BNYMLS and REBNY might merge someday, Longo said
he has discussed data sharing with other city organizations. Until
recently, however, Brooklyn’s multiple listing services have had their
hands full with the complicated two-year process of merging with each
other. Now, they plan to focus on recruiting more Brooklyn members,
including the large Manhattan-based firms and smaller companies.

“We’d like to increase our influence with brokers [who] don’t currently
belong,” Longo said. “We’re going to be looking to get a little more of
brownstone Brooklyn.”

He said he’s hoping the merger of the organizations will facilitate that by cutting down on confusion among buyers and brokers.

“There was a state of confusion — which one would those brokers have
joined?” he said. “Now that we’re all together, it will make things
simpler.”

He added that as more agents join the BNYMLS — which lists all of its listings on Streeteasy.com — the industry will become more transparent.

To join the BNYMLS, firms must pay $160 for each agent, plus an
additional yearly fee to join the Brooklyn Board of Realtors. Member
firms must also buy stock in the share-holder-owned BNYMLS, which can
range in price from $10,000 to $20,000.

Michael Guerra, an executive vice president at Elliman and the
company’s director of sales for Brooklyn, said Elliman currently has no
plans to join the BNYMLS, since it “does not have a density of listings
and business in the areas that our company is currently most active in.”

However, he didn’t rule it out as an option for the future.

“We will always think about what tools make sense for the agents in our company,” he said.

Got a tip? E-mail Candace Taylor at ct@therealdeal.com