Real estate agents, appraisers protest fees for new service

04/06/2013 6:56 AM

04/06/2013 6:57 AM

A new service used by real estate agents who schedule showings of homes for sale and higher fees assessed by the South Central Kansas Multiple Listing Service prompted a meeting Friday by some unhappy agents and appraisers.

J.R. Boria of Great Midwest Realty organized and led the meeting at Office This in southeast Wichita.

About 16 real estate agents, appraisers and brokers from Wichita, Butler County and Winfield attended the meeting Friday afternoon.

Some were there to object to the higher fees they were being assessed because of the addition of Centralized Showing Service. One woman said she couldn’t afford paying the extra $47.70 every three months.

Tessa Hultz, CEO of the listing service, said in a separate interview that the Centralized Showing Service allows agents to schedule showings of homes through a third party without having to wait on return calls from listing agents. It also provides agents with statistical data to give them a better idea of which homes in different price ranges are getting a high number of showings.

The addition of the CSS service raised quarterly MLS fees from $95 to $142.70, Hultz said.

Several people at the meeting said they were opposed to paying for the service because they didn’t get to vote on it as members of the MLS.

“Fifteen dollars (a month in extra fees) is not going to make me or break me,” Boria said. “It’s pushing it down my throat” that bothers him.

Darnelle Sheetz of Sheetz Appraisal Service in Rock said she was worried that she would be blocked from access to the MLS database if she didn’t pay the additional fees.

“Appraisers, we’re stuck,” she said. “I can’t do my job without MLS. It’s another company they’re forcing us to do business with.”

Hultz said the extra cost of CSS is part of the MLS fee and is not optional.

She said the decision to add CSS was made by both the MLS board of directors and the Wichita Area Association of Realtors board. WAAR operates the MLS.

Nearly 300 brokers and managing brokers were invited to attend a meeting last October to learn about CSS and to offer their opinions about adding the service. Hultz said about 55 brokers and managing brokers attended that meeting. The MLS board voted in November to add CSS, and the WAAR board approved it in December. She said the service has been active for about three weeks.

“I think the vast majority of contacts we’ve had (about CSS since going live) were questions,” she said. “A few have said, ‘I’m not happy about this,’ and a few have said, ‘I’m happy about this.’ ”

“Anytime there is change, there will always be a little unhappiness associated with the change,” Hultz added.

Those at Friday’s meeting considered a number of options, including starting a petition opposing the service and higher fee. They also discussed the possibility of recruiting another MLS provider to Wichita or joining a different MLS service.

“The more people (who complain), the more they are going to listen,” Boria said.

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