April 2, 2020

To 7 dirty words that Carlin spoke, add 3 letters

In 1972, George Carlin listed what he called seven “dirty” words that couldn’t be mouthed on television.  Unless you’re easily offended, you can entertain yourself with a YouTube version of his monologue. Carlin’s “offense” led to U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped establish the extent to which the federal government could regulate speech.

The three letters that brokers dare not speak in New York City are these: M-L-S. Of course, they stand for Multiple Listing Service, and the biggest brokerages in New York are adamantly opposed to having such a service here, even though virtually every municipality and region in the country has one.

I first wrote about my MLS concerns last year in a post that I have adapted for this site after our Lucky Strikers meeting at which the subject generated animated conversation this month.

The history is simply that such brokerages cling to the anachronistic belief that buyers absolutely must use brokers to locate properties they might want to purchase. So-called pocket listings, which persist, have been one reason out of several. They consist of properties for which their availability is not promulgated widely or, sometimes, at all, except to customers that an individual broker identifies as potential buyers.

If the broker or brokerage seals the deal for both sides of a transaction, that’s a nice piece of change. Naturally, no brokerage wants to give up an opportunity like that.

Put simply, brokerages are jealous of their exclusive listings and don’t want to share them.

They spend untold millions of dollars promoting their Web sites, claiming eye-popping numbers of hits a month as if buyers go there first to search properties. Is it any wonder, then, that a listings database created in 2008 by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) lacks at least half of the properties on the market right now? The biggest brokerages opted out.

What is hard to understand is their blindness to reality.

Research by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that eight or nine out of 10 buyers search the Internet for available properties. Although the figures are not known for New York City, rare is the buyer who doesn’t do his or her own search on the New York Times, Streeteasy and PropertyShark Web sites. Rare, too, is the broker who hasn’t picked up the phone to hear a customer ask questions about a listing that he or she has found on the Internet before the broker thought to send it.

A comprehensive MLS doesn’t formally exist here only because some brokerages are selfishly and erroneously denying that times have changed. They are wrong and they are short-sighted. To them, MLS is nothing more than three dirty letters. Never mind about serving the public’s best interests.

–by Malcolm Carter