What is the best MLS for the Sequim, WA area? This has been a hot topic among real estate brokers for at least a decade, and the big battle has been between two MLSs, the Northwest MLS, known as the NWMLS, and the Olympic Listing Service, known as the OLS. Which system is the best MLS for the Sequim area on the North Olympic Peninsula?
The answer is not easy, but after many years of intense use of both systems, it is my humble opinion that the NWMLS is the best MLS in the state, and both buyers and sellers are served best by the powerful features, technology, support, and IDX data feeds of the NWMLS. I’ll explain why in this article.
The History of the Olympic Listing Service (OLS)
The original MLS in the Sequim area is the OLS, and it’s been around for decades, going back at least the 26 years I’ve lived in Sequim. OLS uses a system called Paragon originally owned by a Florida financial conglomerate. There is no local office or local technicians, but there is a local Realtor admin of course. In order for real estate brokers to use the OLS to post their listings or to have access to listings, they must join either the Sequim Association of Realtors (SAR) or the Port Angeles Association of Realtors. Then you must pay annual dues to the Association. Some of the dues go to the local association, some of the dues go to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and some of the dues go to the Washington Association of Realtors (WAR).
As the owner of a brokerage, it cost me $1,500 up front to become a member of SAR, and then annual dues year after year. One of the concerns among some Realtors is how NAR uses our dues, which includes inappropriate political causes. Unfortunately, SAR requires us to be a member of NAR. It’s not optional. [Read about the latest NAR’s radical rules.]
The OLS has always been a bit clunky as a piece of software. Nevertheless, I’ve used it for the past dozen years because I had no choice if I wanted to have access to all the local listings. Of course, I always wanted my buyers around the country to be able to see all the local listings in the OLS on my public MLS site, which was fed with the IDX data feed from the OLS.
I won’t kill you with a point by point comparison of the two MLSs, but I will mention a few differences. The OLS or Paragon system did not offer members real estate forms for many years, although I’m am assured they do now. Many have been paying the NWMLS for the forms with a special subscription just for those forms, and there are about 100 forms. At least a dozen of these forms are absolutely essential for all brokers if they intend to draft any offers or counteroffers.
Digital signature systems are absolutely essential today, and the NWMLS has led for years with Authentisign, allowing us to send contracts and addendums to clients no matter where they are, as long as they have Internet access. Again, this has been conspicuously missing in the OLS in past years, but I’m assured by an OLS agent they now have a digital signature system.
While the OLS Paragon system has added other services, like comparative market analyses (CMA), their CMA software and the reports have always been behind technologically and unnecessarily difficult to master. The NWMLS CMA system has been light years ahead. In addition, the NWMLS has market reports that are many times better than the OLS market reports. The NWMLS even has interactive market charts that can be used for marketing with embedded interactive charts.
The NWMLS offers a complete real estate forms program that was created by Washington attorneys and constantly updated. It’s an integrated system that allows us to enter data and watch it get propagated throughout all the needed forms. The OLS never offered such a forms option, and still does not. The NWMLS has a direct link to all the local country tax assessor’s data, which also can be auto propagated into forms. These are powerful features for a real estate listing agent who must spend a lot of time on the admin side of listings.
Enter The NWMLS to the Sequim and Port Angeles Real Estate Market
The NWMLS is a broker owned MLS system, which means all the subscribing real estate brokers own and operate this MLS. It is based in Kirkland, Washington in a large office, staffed by many full time and dedicated employees in all departments, including membership, listing support, technology support, and other customer support areas. I have always appreciated that fact that whenever I call the NWMLS, someone answers the phone immediately, and the level of professionalism, courtesy, and expertise is unmatched.
The NWMLS is the largest MLS in the State of Washington, and it is about 150 times larger than the OLS in terms of the number of offices and the number of individual brokers. For home sellers who want to reach the largest possible audience of highly qualified buyers, this is a big deal, and listing brokers should use this information in their listing presentations.
About 10 years ago, the NWMLS expanded its services to brokers in the Sequim and Port Angeles areas, and I joined specifically because I felt I owed it to my clients, which included listing clients at the time, to give their homes the best marketing to as many buyers as possible. I continued to use the OLS, because at that time all local brokers were members of the OLS and only a few like me were members of both the OLS and the NWMLS.
The challenge in using two systems is that if you listed a home, you were obligated to post it in both MLSs, and unless you’ve had to do that, you have no idea how long it takes to enter a hundred or more pieces of data and photos into two completely different software systems with different data fields and different names for the data fields. In addition, each MLS has completely different rules for what data is required and what data is not required, and each system has a different set of rules for the membership. Accidentally making a mistake and violating one of the technical rules of data entry in either system can result in automatic fines in the NWMLS and manual fines in the OLS, and if repeated, can result in revocation or permanent suspension of your membership.
The Best MLS: The Superiority and Reach of the NWMLS Over the OLS
Since I am a technology geek, I understand something about how an MLS system should work, and I can compare systems to find the best MLS features for buyers and for sellers, as well as for listing brokers. I was a consultant for a Silicon Valley company that built a lead generation system for the real estate industry (see my profile in that system: Chuck Marunde), and I am now a consultant to a San Diego real estate technology company which will launch very soon. Our extensive multi-year research involved examining various MLS systems across the U.S., how those systems serve the needs of buyers, the needs of sellers, and how listing and selling brokers use those systems. We looked at features, software functionality, and integrations. We also compared user interfaces, navigation, ease of use, and even technical support. All of this experience has helped me to look at the NWMLS and the OLS objectively.
Further to my qualifications to write this article, using both the NWMLS and the OLS, I built the largest and most powerful Internet presence of any individual broker on the Internet in my market, and possibly in the entire Northwest. Since 1995 I have built about 100 websites and blogs myself for the real estate industry, designed and programmed them, optimized them for the search engines, created and edited all the graphics and videos, and handled all the online security. On the real estate transactions side, I’ve been engaged in real estate for over 4 decades, including 2 decades as a real estate attorney, so I understand real estate inside and out, and I understand the technology necessary to effectively market listings to potential buyers around the country on the Internet. One last note on my qualifications on this subject includes authoring books: The New World of Marketing for Real Estate Agents, Real Estate from Bricks and Mortar to High Tech Virtuality, and many other real estate books.
On the subject of size and reach, the NWMLS is a powerful listing service unmatched in Washington. The OLS includes the listings of about 200 local brokers, and while they have reciprocity to share each other’s listings on their public MLS sites, the number of sites (and listing exposure) is limited by their small numbers. On the other hand, a NWMLS listing has an IDX data feed that is broadcast in a system with over 2,530 member offices and over 33,659 Washington brokers (members and subscribers). This means the NWMLS can reach far more potential buyers by an order of magnitude.
Of course, all listings in both the NWMLS and the OLS can still show up on syndicated sites like Zillow, Trulia, Homesnap, and others, but not all OLS listings show up properly on all syndicated sites. For example, OLS listings do not all show up complete on Homesnap, while NWMLS listings do. Homesnap is a huge national MLS syndicator with a very large user base of buyers around the country, so the fact that OLS does not play nice with Homesnap is a big deal, or at least it is for buyers and sellers. I’ve spent many hours on the phone with Homesnap techs as well as techs with the IDX data feed providers in order to understand the cause of the problem. I also communicated the technical glitches to the local OLS as a favor to my colleagues, but it remains broken.
Most listing agents are probably unaware of these OLS shortcomings. These OLS glitches or issues have to do with the problems inherent in the OLS software and in particular with the “IDX data feed,” which has had trouble getting synchronizing with online systems for as long as I can remember. And according to Homesnap techs, the OLS admin staff control “restricted” and “unrestricted” data in the feed, and according to Homesnap techs, the OLS has apparently restricted some listing data from being broadcast to Homesnap. In fairness to the OLS admins, I’m not sure they know this or understand it. I’m sure it’s unintentional. The NWMLS has no such problems, and their IDX data feed works seamlessly with all syndicated sites and public MLS sites. This is a big deal to homeowners who want their homes to get the best and widest circulation to potential buyers.
The NWMLS rolls out new features throughout the year non-stop, including this recent one that helps buyers to see homes in virtual open houses: “With the new “Live Stream Open House” offering, listing brokers set specific times to showcase their listings and provide a link for viewing the live broadcast. The option is used for real-time open houses for both the public and for fellow brokers. Viewers can interact with the broker as they tour. The NWMLS has a mobile app called “HomeSpotter,” another powerful tool for buyers. And buyers can take advantage of the NWMLS Market Report, and you can see an example of how easy it is to use at Sequim Market Report.
Another example of how the NWMLS puts consumers front and center is the 2019 rule change that allows brokers to publicly disclose their commissions. “The rules revisions allow real estate firms to publish the amount of commission the seller is offering to pay a broker representing the buyer (known as the “selling office commission” or “SOC”) on the firms’ public websites along with the other listing information (e.g. list price, square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, and other detailed property information). Making this information readily available to consumers will allow for complete transparency with regard to buyers’ broker’s compensation and provide consumers with additional information at the outset of the transaction.”
Founded in 1984, NWMLS is a not-for-profit, member-owned organization created to facilitate cooperation among its member real estate firms. NWMLS provides an array of products and services to assist brokers in providing real estate brokerage services to consumers in the Pacific Northwest. With more than 2,530 member offices and 33,659 real estate brokers across Washington state (members and subscribers), the organization’s broad offerings include a property listing system, mobile applications, an online scheduling service, statewide public real property database, an electronic forms and signature service, cloud storage, data analytics, key box services, 20 service centers, and related customer support & training. [Source: NWMLS Factsheet]
No Adult Supervision?
The OLS has few rules regarding listings, and for some brokers that’s a good thing, but for others it’s not so good. There are a lot more rules in the NWMLS. If you are a Realtor who doesn’t like rules and supervision, or what I jokingly call “adult supervision,” then you wouldn’t want to be a member of the NWMLS, because they do have strict rules. I’ve talked to the NWMLS attorney and staff about the rules, and I was assured that the rules the NWMLS has are broker made rules, and the punitive rules are to stop unethical brokers from playing games or misrepresenting a listing. Nevertheless, the NWMLS rules are much stricter than the OLS rules, and they will enforce penalties. Frankly, I appreciate the “adult supervision” in my industry.
But The NAR Has The Code of Ethics
You know by now that one of my objections to being a dues paying member of SAR and Paragon is that I’m forced to be a dues paying member of the NAR. The number one (1) argument Realtors make as to why it is a good idea to pay the NAR annual dues and be a member of the NAR is that “the NAR has a Code of Ethics.” This is the first answer I have repeatedly heard for over 30 years. These are talking points directly from the NAR which has even has advertised their Code of Ethics on T.V. commercials.
The innuendo is that Realtors who are members of the NAR always comply with the Code of Ethics and would never violate those ethics. In other words, to take a few clips from the Code itself, they always “protect and promote the interests of their clients,” “will treat all parties honestly,” “shall avoid exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts,” “will not be involved in self-dealing against their client’s interest,” will not take money on the side or by secret referrals in any conflicts with their clients, will make sure that all contracts are “in clear and understandable language expressing the specific terms, conditions, obligations and commitments of the parties,” will not discriminate “to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” “shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications,” “shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements,” and I’ll stop there.
I don’t need a set of rules like that to get me to be a good boy and not stab my own clients in the back. Any broker who violates these kinds of fundamental rules of human decency doesn’t deserve to be a licensed broker.
I assume you’re getting my point. You cannot legislate honesty–not in a thousand years. You wouldn’t tell an unethical Realtor that he is no longer unethical because he belongs to the NAR and the NAR has a Code of Ethics. Of course, some Realtors would appropriately argue, “No, no, no. The Code doesn’t prevent unethical behavior, but as a member of NAR anyone who violates the code can be sanctioned or reprimanded.”
I practiced real estate law for 20 years, and I can’t count how many clients came to see me over the years to tell stories of how “Realtors” who were members of the NAR had violated the Code of Ethics! So please let’s not say that a Realtor is honest and ethical because he pays the NAR annual dues. A real estate broker, or any individual, is honest and loyal and lives with integrity because of their good character and who they are, not because they pay dues to an association. This means the NAR Code of Ethics is totally irrelevant. The Code is irrelevant to good brokers who have a higher set of standards than the NAR’s Code, and they’re irrelevant to unethical brokers who violate the Code and are careful not to get caught.
But the NAR Lobbies for Us
A secondary argument made by Realtors that the NAR brings value to the table is that they lobby in Washington D.C. and in state capitals for Realtors. That’s a fair argument, but as a broker who had an entire career in real estate law, I never saw any personal benefit to me, nor any benefits to my clients by lobbying the NAR did, nor did any NAR litigation help me. I understand the argument, but I’m extremely practical, and I like to ask questions like, “When was the last time I got a referral and earned a commission as a result of being in the NAR?” Never. “When did the NAR or their subsidiary Realtor.com do something to market my services in such a way that I got a single client?” Never. “Will the NAR defend me in a frivolous lawsuit brought by a disgruntled insane person?” Absolutely not. The idea that the NAR lobbies for the industry is a good argument, but it is without merit to the individual real estate broker and his clients.
A Review of NWMLS and OLS Brokers
In my pursuit to discover the best MLS, I’ve done a little research to see what role the NWMLS and the OLS both play today in the Sequim area. For many years the OLS had more brokers and more listings, but that’s not true anymore. Many locals have been slowly joining the NWMLS. Some have left the OLS for the NWMLS, and some are members of both MLSs. Here’s an interesting summary I compiled from an analysis of both MLS systems.
These are Sequim and Port Angeles brokerage offices that are not NWMLS members, but they are OLS members. The number of agents/brokers in each office are shown in brackets. [All of this information below is public information. Membership information is public and can be found on multiple sites. One site that shows you who is a NWMLS member and who is not is Northwest Real Estate Roster. As to which MLS a listing broker is using for any particular listing, you can open up any of their listings on their public MLS site, and you’ll see in the bottom right corner of the photos the logo for either the OLS or the NWMLS. As to how many brokers are in a brokerage, just open up the public roster on their own websites, and typically all their brokers are nicely listed with nice photographs. There are many other public sites where all this information shows up, too. I don’t want anyone to think I’m revealing something that is not already readily available for anyone with Internet access.]
- Coldwell Banker Uptown Realty [Brokers = 18]
- Diamond Realty Group [Brokers = 1]
- Diversified Real Estate Group [Brokers = 1]
- GMB USA Limited [Brokers = 1]
- James & Associates Inc. [Brokers = 2]
- Mark N McHugh Real Estate [Brokers = 4]
- Mike Piper Real Estate LLC [Brokers = 1]
- Peter Black Real Estate [Brokers = 6]
- Platinum Real Estate [Brokers = 1]
- Port Angeles Realty [Brokers = 5]
- Priority One Realty Inc. [Brokers = 3]
- Professional Real Estate [Brokers = 3]
- Robert Dunk Realty [Brokers = 1]
- Schwab Realty Inc. [Brokers = 5]
- Strait Realty [Brokers = 6]
- Torres Real Estate [Brokers = 5]
- Windermere Port Angeles [Brokers = 16]
Total Broker/Agents in OLS but not NWMLS: 79
These are Sequim and Port Angeles brokerage offices that are NWMLS members. Some are also members of the OLS (in green), and the number of agents/brokers in each office are shown in brackets. I commend those brokers who are members of both MLSs, but I would commend them even more if they focused on one only–the NWMLS.
- Blue Sky Sequim (also OLS) [Brokers = 8]
- BrokersGroup (also OLS) [Brokers = 10]
- Danmark Oliver Real Estate [Brokers = 1]
- iRealty Virtual Brokers (Buyer’s Agent Only) [Brokers = 1]
- JACE Real Estate Company (also OLS) [Brokers = 20]
- John L. Scott Port Angeles [Brokers = 5]
- John L. Scott Sequim (also OLS) [Brokers = 10]
- Keller Williams Olympic (also OLS) [Brokers = 25]
- KW PT Sequim (also OLS) [Brokers = 3]
- Olympic Real Estate Group (also OLS) [Brokers = 2]
- Peninsula Realty Group (also OLS) [Brokers = 2]
- Professional Rlty Svcs Sequim (also OLS) [Brokers = 23]
- RE/MAX Evergreen (also OLS) [Brokers = 8]
- RE/MAX Prime (also OLS) [Brokers = 17]
- Ryker Properties (also OLS) [Brokers = 1]
- Sequim Valley Properties (also OLS) [Brokers = 1]
- Sun Valley Realty (also OLS) [Brokers = 2]
- Town & Country Sequim (also OLS) [Brokers = 11]
- Town & Country Port Angeles (also OLS) [Brokers = 3]
- Windermere Sequim East (also OLS) [Brokers = 17]
- Windermere SunLand [Brokers = 1]
Total Broker/Agents in NWMLS and some in OLS: 171
Who Has The Most Listings–The NWMLS or the OLS?
The answer to this question varies from month to month, but I can share some changes that have taken place over the past few years. It used to be the vast majority of listings were in the OLS but not in the NWMLS. That’s not the case any more. Now on any day you will find that only 1% to 5% of the listings not in the OLS are in the NWMLS, and only 1% to 5% of the listings not in the NWMLS are in the OLS. In other words, the NWMLS now has caught up with the OLS, and we see from the list above that the largest producing Sequim real estate brokers are in the NWMLS (and some are in both).
The OLS no longer has an advantage, and it’s time to move over to the bigger and far better MLS. It won’t be long and brokers who are dues paying members of both systems will finally conclude as I did, that there is no business benefit for my brokerage to continue to pay dues to SAR, NAR, WAR, and to continue to use the OLS.
Huge Savings in Time and Money for Brokers. Sequim and Port Angeles area brokers who are members of both the OLS and the NWMLS are itching to belong to one MLS only. It would save so much time not having to enter every listing twice in two completely different systems, not to mention photographs and attached documents. It would eliminate the need to comply with two sets of MLS rules and regulations. It would save both time and money, including all the subscription fees and IDX data fees one has to pay for each system. A broker could also save, as I do, $600 to over $1,000 per year on additional but unnecessary dues to a local association when all a broker needs and wants is MLS access for his/her clients.
The Real Focus Ought to Be The Best Interests of My Buyers
Why would I do so much research on this subject, and why would I care about MLS systems or which is the best MLS? That’s easy. I am constantly trying to help my buyers use the best systems to find their homes and to filter through real estate information and data on the Internet. I am passionate about helping buyers make a smooth transition to Sequim. That’s why I write thousands of articles, produce hundreds of videos, write many books, and create so many websites and blogs specifically for buyers. A good MLS site and a good MLS mobile app are critically important components for any buyer.
I designed my business model over a dozen years ago around the “best interests of my clients.” But I took that further. I designed my marketing system, my CRM, my technology and software systems all around the best interests of my clients. Talk is cheap, and many in this business use the same words, but believe me, it’s another thing to actually build the “best interests of clients” into the fabric and technology and marketing of everything you do as a broker, and to do so with an unqualified commitment to honesty, integrity, and the highest professional standards.
Which MLS is the best MLS for my clients? Since I am an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent, that decision involved a very deep analysis of what my buyers want. Here’s what they want, and I know this from asking them for over two decades. They want to be able to find their ideal home on the Internet in an MLS that is easy to use and gives them access to 100% of all the local listings. They want good information, as much as possible, and they don’t want to be harassed by broker lead generation systems.
I give my clients all that, and more. I give them the experience of a real estate broker who has lived real estate for over 40 years, including 20 years as a real estate attorney, and I give them over 2,200 articles on my blog written specifically for buyers. I also give them almost a dozen books I wrote for buyers. And lastly I give them free access to hundreds of buyer videos I created on my Youtube channel called “Living in Sequim.”
My motto: “My clients’ best interests are the center of gravity for my entire business model from the beginning to the end.”
I’m creating a video tutorial showing buyers the latest technologies online to find their home. That will be out soon, but until then, if you’re searching the Sequim area for a home, text or call me, and let’s get introduced so I can plug you into the best MLS system in this part of the world. Meanwhile, I’ll give you a few choices so you can pick your favorite. You can use Sequim-Homes.com with all the Sequim NWMLS listings, and you can use Chuck Marunde on Homesnap (which includes listings from both the MLS and OLS), or a similar site at Sequim Real Estate MLS. Ask me about my mobile app, which you’ll love as it includes all listings from both the NWMLS and the OLS. Lastly there are some FSBO and new construction homes that you won’t find anywhere except on Zillow.com. [Read more articles about the Problems with Zillow]
Watch for my upcoming MLS video [you can subscribe to my Youtube Channel “Living in Sequim” to get notifications], because I want you to be able to navigate the best MLS sites with ease and confidence. I’ll show you how to do that.
I want to encourage comments and opinions below by 4 specific groups: 1. Seattle Realtors, 2. Sequim and Port Angeles Realtors, and 3. Buyers and 4. Sellers. Here are the rules. You can make any rebuttal argument you want in response to this article, but no drive by shootings. You have to clearly identify yourself. No anonymous comments, and you cannot hide behind a pen name either. Any argument worth making is worth making publicly, and if you’re sincere, you won’t be ashamed of your own clients seeing your comments. There’s plenty of room for differences of opinion, but if you want to make opposing arguments, be prepared to back it up with facts and solid reasoning. I think everyone understands this is not the place to argue about 1,000 technical features pitting one MLS against the other. That would turn this into a treatise, and no one wants to get lost in technical jargon that goes on an on. You’re welcome to do that on your own blog, but that’s not the purpose of this article. This article is already over 4,400 words. Of course, as always, anyone can call me to discuss this or share constructive thoughts, and I’m certainly receptive to any suggestions for improvements. My cell phone is 360-775-5424.
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- Why I Do Not Recommend Open Houses
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