To MLS or not to MLS


May 18, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Just months after launching in Yellowknife, and as its front-yard signs multiply at a healthy rate, Property Guys is making some bold claims about where it wants to be four months from now.

Ryan Sawatzky, owner of the Yellowknife chapter of national real estate lister Property Guys, says his company is aiming to build up to a 25 per cent market share by the end of the summer. - Guy Quenneville/NNSL photo "By the end of the summer, we've aiming to have a 25 per cent market share," said Ryan Sawatzky, co-owner of the online home lister's Yellowknife chapter. The franchise, which launched in Yellowknife during March and lets property owners sell homes and land themselves, is also in talks with a popular Yellowknife buy-and-sell website about a partnership that would see Property Guys featured on the site. One part of Sawatzky's plan that he still isn't sure about, however, is whether Property Guys should begin listing Yellowknife properties on the Multiple Listings Service (MLS) – a common practice among southern realtors, but one that hasn't caught on among companies in Yellowknife.

"Generally speaking, when you're dealing with an agent ... that's one of the big reasons you use an agent, so that you're on the MLS and you have that exposure," said Sawatzky. The MLS website, which lists houses up for sale across Canada, is run by the Canadian Real Estate Association and was, until recently, the exclusive tool of realtors. Late last year, however, the federal Competition Bureau ratified a new agreement with the association that allows homeowners to pay only for the services they want from their real estate agents. The new agreement means sellers can now pay realtors and other companies like Property Guys a flat rate for an MLS listing, sell their houses themselves and avoid paying for a full line of services from realtors.

That decision has created the opportunity for companies like Property Guys – which simply list and promote houses – to use the MLS and reach a national audience. Right now, though, Sawatzky said he's still not sure if using the MLS to list Yellowknife properties is worth it for several reasons. For starters, there's his company's current market share – just 20 properties. There's also the extra paper work: a needless headache for a mere $26 profit per MLS listing and not exactly in tune with Property Guys' cost-saving ethos, said Sawatsky. "It's not something that I think is necessarily worth that amount of money," he said.

The MLS prospects in Yellowknife are also not helped by the fact that neither Coldwell Banker nor Homelife Sunrise Real Estate have opted to use it in the past, said Sawatzky. Instead, the companies have arranged to have a link, on the MLS site, to the Yellowknife Real Estate Association's website. That site, in turn, directs users to each individual company's web portal."Actually, yesterday was the first time that somebody asked me to be on the MLS," said Sawatsky. "But if they want the MLS, we'll give them the MLS." Sawatsky currently suggests MLS as an option to his clients, he added.

Not using it

Ken Pearman, co-owner of Coldwell Banker, said his company decided against using MLS more than a decade ago, citing the amount of work needed to list properties on Coldwell Banker's national website, its specialized Yellowknife site, as well as the national listings site. "We didn't have the skills nor the time nor the ability to post three different ways, at three different sites. It would take forever to do it." Houses on Coldwell Banker's Yellowknife website each have a code beginning with the letters "MLS" attached to them, but, as Pearman explained, that number is for office use only and does not mean that properties are listed on the MLS. "What we'll need to change is not calling that an MLS number," he said.

Asked if he was concerned about users getting frustrated when they don't succeed in finding Yellowknife properties on the MLS, Pearman replied, "It was brought to our attention about a week ago that that's what was happening. We didn't realize it."

The company certainly is not fazed by the recent entry of Property Guys into the Yellowknife market, he added. "We don't even know they exist, really," said Pearman.

Article courtesy of Northern News Services