Punishing Chris Fountain?

Greenwich brokers have all been switched to a new listing access system, "flexMLS", but did we really need to do this?

Greenwich brokers have all been switched to a new listing access system, “flexMLS”, but did we really need to do this?

If you’re presently working with a Greenwich broker, you’ll have noticed a change in the e-mailed listings the broker sends you. If you can even view them, the e-mailed listings are now harder to decipher, harder to open, and generally less informative. The reason is, the Greenwich Association of Realtors decided to switch all of us to something new called “flexMLS“.

That link back there brings you to the sign-in page we brokers must use to enter this new site, and it is hideous. That’s not just me talking, that’s the verdict of 90+ Sotheby’s Greenwich brokers, who sounded off recently in a long string of frustration-filled e-mails sent back and forth to each other. Everyone hates the new system, particularly our clients!

And that’s the worst part. If our clients liked it, we’d put up with the needless complexity and non-intuitiveness of this new program, but if the client ain’t happy, we ain’t happy. So why did we switch? We were told that the old system was being “phased out”, and would  “no longer be supported by the provider”.

I went along with this excuse until rumors surfaced that Darien brokers were continuing to use the old system. How can this be, I asked myself? So yesterday, I drove up to Darien and visited a few real estate offices and spoke to a few managers, and guess what? The old system, called “CoreLogic MLS” is not being phased out, and it is continuing to be supported!

So what’s this all about? Well, one possibility is that it was a plot to thwart Chris Fountain’s blog. You see, the new system doesn’t allow you to send or attach listing links. Instead, our clients must sign in to something called a “portal”, where they can (theoretically) access listings, but guess what? They aren’t doing it! Not one of my clients has been willing to go through the laborious process of signing in to one these stupid things.

So yes, we’ve succeeded in preventing Chris Fountain from using his blog to link to Greenwich real estate listings, hooray! But we’ve destroyed our capability to communicate with our clients, not-so hooray!

20 thoughts on “Punishing Chris Fountain?

  1. If your out of town shopper is getting ez links to MLS houses in Darien, New Canaan and Westport while their Gwich broker has to send crappy non functional links, guess what…the Gwich brokers are increasing their odds of going w/o a commission.

    Btw – this idea that the NY Times story is a tipping point seems odd to me. For the past 5+ years, anyone looking for homes who punches in Real Estate and a neighborhood or street name into google was pretty likely to get a link to CF’s blog. In other words, I don’t think that story really increased his notoriety much with those actively buying/selling in town because any internet investigation into Gwich Real Estate always brought up a string of CF blog links.

  2. Not very democratic, is it? For the past year, I’ve been looking at RE listings, mostly Sothebys, in France. There is no requirement to sign-in and the listing link can easily be cut and pasted elsewhere–as God intended.

    Why would Greenwich MLS with a client demographic of HIGHEST expectations for ease of service do this without discussing it with the folks that make the cash registers go “Ding”. FBS is based in ND. I thought ND was washed away in a flood or sold to Koch Brothers or something. Might be mistaken. 😉

    • Onc:
      Nope, it’s actually understandable! If you sell real estate in Greenwich, you’ve probably had a deal or two crash and burn because a buyer announces that real estate expert Chris Fountain has deemed the property “over-priced”. Does this annoy brokers and sellers? Yes! And they complain A LOT to the Greenwich Association of Realtors.

      But somehow, we’re all still getting the job done, aren’t we? And if Chris, acting as the Wall Street equivalent of a short-selling hedge fund, puts out a contrarian opinion, well, we can deal with it. What we DON’T need is to shoot ourselves in the foot in an attempt to muzzle him.

  3. Perhaps the GAR Evil Princess is receiving a juicy kickback from FBS, creators of “flexMLS,” to foist that useless piece of %*&# on brokers and sellers. Shades of CGI Federal.

  4. Other realtors need to step up and do a better job justifying the sale. It is that simple. If a snide comment from CF can blow it apart, then it obviously was a fragile situation from the get-go.

    Holding back the flow of market info, particularly the actual listings, will hurt more sellers than help. People from NYC may find shopping in NewCanaan, Westport, and Darien easier.

    At the macro level GAR has nothing to complain about. The most important measure – volume – has returned and is on par with our best competing communities! Prices have rebounded too, for all housing types and locations around town, except for those overly customized white elephants in backcountry.

    • Anø:
      Oh ,fiddle-phosh! On a good day, I get around 300 readers. I’m safely “under the radar”. UPDATE: Hmm. I just looked at my WordPress-supplied site stats. As of today, I’ve had 408,551 life-time “views” !

  5. I noticed I could not even link a Greenwich property’s pictures on Zillow recently. I agree that the GAR is shooting itself in the foot by not making the listings and pictures available to anyone who wants to look at them online. It helps traffic to find and fall in love with a property on the internet.

    Also, Chris Fountain is popular, but he is not a soothsayer and is often dead wrong when he pans a house.

    What I find really strange about Chris’ column is calling all of these very beautiful houses “teardowns”. Maybe – if a buyer has $5 million to spend – but not that many buyers are plunking that much down in Greenwich. Honestly, you can buy one of those palatial teardowns for much less than $3 million and have $2 million left over for your dream place elsewhere.

    One thing the GAR should be aware of. The train service from Greenwich to NY STINKS. The Harlem and Hudson lines have much better service. It always takes an hour and sometimes an hour and a quarter to get into the city in the morning rush hour. Going home is not that much better. I was told that the line is simply over capacity – too many commuters and too many trains, so there is congestion and the commute into the City is often 2 hours in the morning.

    If the GAR does not make the pictures publicly, easily, and widely available, people will go to another town, and there are plenty of nice ones in Westchester County that are much closer to the City than Greenwich and have as good or better schools.

    GAR is starting a downward spiral in Greenwich home prices with their stingy picture and link policy, and as a homeowner, I want to raise my vociferous objection the new GAR policies.

    • Mid:
      Leave us not forget for the moment, at least, CT’s taxes are far lower than Westchester’s. Do I put it past CT liberal politicians to “remedy” that situation in the coming years? I do not.

      • The moment they do do that, all incentive to buy a house in Fairfield County withers away.

  6. I also think this system is a restraint of trade (maybe even in the legal sense – antitrust lawyers, please speak up!) if I have to sign up with my own realtor through GAR just to look at the pictures. This is an era when real estate pictures are widely available on the internet.

    If I were a minority, I would think this system is a clever ruse to keep Greenwich as non-minority as possible. Maybe a sign that I should look elsewhere because a broker will prescreen me before I can look at the pictures of a house.

    Just my opinion….., but unlike the GAR, I worry about losing money – a significant amount of money over time – on this because I am a Greenwich homeowner.

      • Suz de Cor:
        Um, wul.. Not quite sure what you mean, but we (brokers) don’t want to “capture e-mails for mailings”, I assure you. All we want to do is provide information to interested clients. The new system makes that exceedingly difficult.

    • Mid:
      No, no, you’re getting a bit carried away with this! “Restraint of trade”? Great Scott, man! Anytime a homeowner wants to sell his house, he can put a sign on the front lawn, place an ad on the Internet, hire a sky-writer, you name it! If said homeowner chooses to use a broker, and sign up with the local Multiple Listing Service, great! I’m all for it! My problem right now is that I disagree with the choice of service-providers that my local Board of Realtors has chosen. But we’ll work it out, and things will get better.

  7. If a buyer cannot access the pictures of local homes that are for sale on the internet without going through a buyer’s broker, in my mind that is a restraint of trade. I cannot even see pictures of what is on the market without going through a broker, and that is a problem for me.

    It is surely a bigger problem for a family that is starting to decide on a town to move to from their living room sofa. Greenwich is just going to be crossed off the list if buyers need to go through a broker just to see what is on the market in their price range.

  8. Take a deep breath. Instead of speculating, why not ask GAR directly why it switched to Flex MLS? The comment about North Dakota by one of your readers was mean and unnecessary. Worry about the important things in life.

    • A-non:
      I do wish you wouldn’t wait three years to respond to things, kinda throws things off track, don’t you know. And regarding the “mean and unnecessary” remark by a reader about North Dakota, I agree! But that reader got mad at me last year and has left the building. Turns out, SHE was “mean and unnnecessary”!

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