Why Does Atlanta Have Two MLSs?

This is a question I am forever asked.  It makes no sense and people of today’s modern era have a tough time understanding it.  Why does Atlanta have 2 MLSs?  I have no idea.  I am certain there is a quirky historical story that goes with it.  But, perhaps the more interesting question is, why do we “still” have two MLSs?

Atlanta’s FMLS (1957) and GAMLS (1962) pre-date the modern era by two generations.   Most agents have been told some variation of FMLS is for intown use and GAMLS is for rural communities.  If you know history, or can remember the Eisenhower administration, a territorial approach to sales made sense at the time.  But, for people who have only known a borderless online world, Atlanta’s two-step MLS process, which duplicates work, comes across as yet another money grab sent down from the older generation.   

I can’t say I agree with that.  But I totally agree with the frustrations.  Dragging the past into the future always hurts those on the edges.  Most of the time, the past wants to stay around for as long as it can.  

A few months ago, Wynd Realty launched an agent recruitment campaign outside the State of Georgia.  The theme took advantage of Atlanta’s unique open market by asking agents from around the U.S. to develop remote Georgia sales offices for FREE.  No upfront costs, no NAR, no commission splits.  (I am always stunned at how many people tell us we are lying?)  The campaign was successful, and we wondered if it was something we should continue.

In an effort to be responsible for our actions we needed to consider the ramifications of what hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of remote sales agents would have on our local market.  To help us understand this dynamic, we needed to look at our MLSs.  And this is where the story gets weird. 

Not only do we have two MLSs, but they each have totally opposite business models.  FMLS has no monthly fee but charges on a sale.  GAMLS doesn’t charge on a sale but has a monthly fee.  Yin and Yang!  So, is there a winner if the Atlanta market increases its number of agents?  You bet!

FMLS gets paid on sales.  A million more agents in the Atlanta market wouldn’t really increase the number of sales that much.  GAMLS extends a monthly agent charge.  The more the merrier!  Every agent in the United States should pay GAMLS for access; why not. 

In a dog-eat-dog world these two don’t eat.  They happily live side by side.  That said, GAMLS has a huge financial edge.  Marketing 101 says they should be able to crush FMLS.  But they don’t, why?  Why isn’t GAMLS advertising and promoting Atlanta’s non-NAR open market?  It’s in their best interests to do so.  But, they don’t, why?   What FMLS and GAMLS are doing goes against traditional competitive capitalism.  To quote our friends at CarShield: “who does that?!”

Which MLS is better is another question I get asked a lot.  And much like a parent, we never answer.  Truth is we don’t care and demonstrating a preference wouldn’t help Wynd Realty in any way so we don’t get involved.  But that doesn’t stop us from adding our two cents!

Stop with the small ball!  Read the tea leaves of our industry.  NAR is cracking.  They will beat the DOJ in their lawsuit but at what cost to their community?  How poisoned is their well?  Additionally, there is seemingly an endless amount of venture money still pouring into the real estate industry.  Grab some!

Merge.  Create one open, non-NAR juggernaut of an MLS.  Take on venture money and position yourself as THE FUTURE.  With Compass or SoftBank type of money you should be able to financially pick-off prime MLSs for acquisition.   Building a new world order one MLS at a time.  You could change the real estate industry!  How many people can say they are in a position to do that?

There are nearly 900 MLSs in the United States.  Ninety percent of which are owned by NAR.  That means change will come from the 10% who stand alone.  FMLS/GAMLS, look around the room of your independent contemporaries; you guys are by far the best of the group to lead.  So why not you? 

Hopefully these two cents will someday land Wynd Realty on the “friends and family list” of an FMLS/GAMLS IPO.  You never know.  Always thinking big!


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