Is NYC finally getting an MLS?

Westchester, Long Island realtors outline framework for regional listings hub

UPDATED, Feb. 5, 10:40 a.m.: Realtors from Westchester and Long Island said Friday that they’re taking a stab at something that’s evaded New York City brokers for decades: a metro area multiple listings service.

The Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors and the Long Island Board of Realtors — which together represent 36,000 agents — said they plan to merge their MLS systems into a single entity that would include the entire metro area, including the five boroughs.

“Our goal is to offer MLS services to the city,” said Richard Haggerty, HGAR’s CEO.

Haggerty said the discussions around creating larger, regional MLS systems have been percolating for years across the country. Last year, HGAR absorbed the Manhattan Association of Realtors, whose membership had dwindled to about 100.

HGAR and LIBOR first got together in June to discuss the possibility of a single MLS, they said. The Long Island MLS currently has around 21,000 listings and the Westchester one currently has 13,000.

Sources said the talks are still preliminary, and any final action would require approval from both boards. The MLS would include Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Orange counties, as well as the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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One of the ironies of New York City real estate is that despite a tremendous volume of high-priced deals, the city’s residential firms do not share a central listings system. The last time the industry tried to create an MLS was 17 years ago, but it never panned out.

This summer, the Real Estate Board of New York syndicated its listings feed, called the residential listings service (RLS), which now serves as a de facto MLS but is not yet consumer facing. The RLS has around 19,000 listings.

Haggerty said REBNY has been extremely effective when it comes to advocating for its members, including operating the RLS.

“We’re going to be coming in offering a different type of service. Our MLS is very robust,” Haggerty said. “We think we already have a product that will solve a lot of needs the broker community has expressed — in terms of wanting to access accurate data quickly.”

REBNY did not immediately comment on HGAR and LIBOR’s plan on Friday.

Outside of REBNY’s auspices, the Brooklyn MLS is an independent listings service covering all of Brooklyn, but with a stronger presence in southern and eastern parts of the borough. It’s seen its membership jump more than 50 percent over the past five years, and now includes 4,100 agents. It’s achieved those numbers independent of lobbying groups such as REBNY and the National Association of Realtors, and without the membership of major residential firms including the Corcoran Group, Halstead Property and Citi Habitats. President Barbara LaBarca recently told The Real Deal that the organization intends to remain independent.

Meanwhile, Seattle-based Zillow has seized the opportunity to become the most popular place to post and search for NYC listings, after acquiring StreetEasy in 2013. The website currently has 18,225 for-sale listings in the five boroughs. Last year, Zillow bought a prominent Long Island real estate portal — Hamptons Real Estate Online (HREO) — for an undisclosed sum. The firm did not immediately return a request for comment on the new MLS plan.