The Atlanta Georgia real estate market is extremely unique. So unique, in fact, most agents working here aren’t aware of their universally envied position. Sales agents across the nation have long drooled for what Atlanta agents have always known. And, the sole reason we, meaning the Atlanta real estate community, are the envy of the entire nation: FMLS.
FMLS is NOT owned or controlled by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). To give that statement a sense of magnitude, there are over 8,000 MLS’s throughout the United States and nearly 90% of them are owned and controlled by NAR. Whoever owns ninety percent of anything always means they set the rules. For NAR, that includes rules like forced participation, meaning yearly payment, to their various NAR-controlled realty Boards.
What benefit agents realize from their yearly payments to NAR is debatable. NAR will tell you their service is essential. Most every agent I have ever spoken with will tell you NAR is a joke. What is not debatable is, with over 1 million sales agents nationally paying around $500 every year, year in and year out, NAR is extremely well funded to fight any form of change and poised to keep their way of life as long as they can.
Thanks to FMLS, Atlanta-area agents do not have to pay NAR dues. Yet sadly, many of Atlanta’s franchise agents don’t have a choice as their Brokers force NAR participation as part of their franchise agreements It was Atlanta’s independent Brokerages who, long ago, led the charge away from unnecessary Board dues. They could do that because FMLS does NOT require NAR participation to access their data. FMLS data is open and available to all licensed sales agents and Brokers. Atlanta’s independent Brokerages were not forced to push NAR Board dues down the necks of their agents.
While it is impossible to calculate with certainty, FMLS has been responsible for tens of millions of dollars (10,000,000’s) staying in the Atlanta economy and not ending up on the dinner plate of some Washington K Street lobbyist. Considering FMLS was founded in 1957, thousands upon thousands of independent sales agents have not paid $500 a year for a very, very long time.
FMLS does not charge agents a fee to access their data. FMLS data is freely open. Independent Brokers are allowed to customize programs to better serve the agents in their communities. In Atlanta, and ONLY in Atlanta, we have agents who pay ZERO for monthly brokerage affiliation and MLS access. Tell agents outside of Georgia, we have Atlanta agents that pay nothing for MLS and Brokerage affiliation and they will not only, not believe it, they will probably call you a liar.
The free MLS and Brokerage business models in Atlanta may not be an agent’s best option. But the point is, here in Atlanta, because of FMLS, we have Brokerages that charge $100, $49, $29 and even $9.95 a month for MLS and Broker affiliation. That gives agents freedom and the best possible price for the services they need. And, it keeps millions of dollars in our local economy.
Thanks to FMLS, Atlanta is now poised to be one of the nation’s incubators for the future of real estate. Everyone is well aware of the impending Zillow/Trulia merger. This merger represents a huge infusion of money, marketing and experience the real industry has never seen. Because NAR, arguably, has run a dictatorship for decades, they have no experience dealing with companies they can’t control. Which leads back to Atlanta.
With Atlanta being in the 10% group of MLS’s not owned by NAR, look for marketing campaigns promoting change to come from players outside the traditional industry. Investment bankers and those venturing in realty technology will look to the success of Zillow and others in markets not controlled by NAR. What in-roads, if any, where made in open and competitive markets versus those owned and run by NAR?
The Atlanta real estate market has to be the nation’s most cost effective market for an agent. The Atlanta market is also the most flexible for an agent. Everything that makes Atlanta unique is because one company, FMLS, is independently run and operated.
Think of an Atlanta without FMLS. Independent brokerage would go away, every agent would be forced to pay NAR $500 year– just because, monthly agent fees would return to $100—because it could, agents would probably have to pay franchise fees—because somebody has to, and agents would lose flat fee Brokers and return to a Broker friendly “split” arrangement.
In short, life without FMLS would be awful.