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New service competes with Realtors' listing

For real estate brokers wanting to exchange information about local property listings, the Hernando County Board of Realtors' Multiple Listing Service (MLS) has been the only game in town for decades.

Entrepreneur Chuck Mango is changing that.

Mango, whose Datacorp of Florida Inc. tracks property transfers throughout the North Suncoast, is starting Hernando's first large-scale computerized property listing service not affiliated with the Board of Realtors.

Mango touts 3-year-old Datacorp's newest product, known as Adnet, as being cheaper, better and more efficient than the Realtors' MLS. "What we do is put out a comparable service that is very cost-competitive," Mango said.

Local real estate brokers are welcoming Adnet like a customer interested in buying a house that nobody else wants.

"Everybody who sees it is just delighted," said Pat Fleck, whose Fleck Real Estate is the largest independent real estate company in the county. "It's better, it's easier to read and it's way, way, way cheaper" than the Realtors' MLS.

Fleck said her office of 22 sales representatives pays as much as $900 per month for the Realtors' MLS. For Adnet, she said, the cost is less than $200 per month.

The cost savings varies depending the size of the real estate office, but Mango estimated that a company's savings could range from $30 to $1,500 per month. The lower cost also makes a multiple listing service available to smaller companies that couldn't afford the Realtors' MLS.

"I just don't have the organizational burden the existing system has," Mango said. "But it's also the technology. The (personal computer) has just become very, very powerful."

The cost savings is such that like Fleck Real Estate, other local real estate agencies are considering dropping the longtime mainstay MLS for Adnet.

"I'm certainly thinking about it," said David Sturgill, president of Century 21 David Sturgill Inc., the county's largest real estate company. Sturgill said the cost of Adnet, which he uses as an adjunct to MLS, is about one-tenth the cost of MLS.

"I'll be evaluating (switching completely) every month as I get my bill," Sturgill said. "And I'm not the only one. I think there are several big brokers in the county who are contemplating leaving MLS as soon as this alternative gets up and running completely."

Mango expects to have Adnet fully operational on March 1. But already, nearly a dozen local real estate companies, including Fleck's and Sturgill's, have committed to the system.

With that many members already, Adnet threatens what is the biggest asset of the Realtors' MLS service _ an exclusive network of property listings countywide.

The potential exodus from MLS has Board of Realtors officials a bit worried _ but not too much.

"We've lost a number of (MLS) members, but I don't think it has been because of inferior quality; it has been because of problems in the (real estate) business in general," said Kevin McGeehan, president of the Hernando County Board of Realtors.

McGeehan said the local MLS has 46 members, compared with about 70 members two years ago. "I'm not overly concerned with the situation right now," he said, referring to Adnet. "I think we're just dealing with economies here versus a situation in the way we provide service at a reasonable cost."

Like similar Realtor-operated MLS systems nationwide, the MLS in Hernando links the county's hundreds of real estate agents via a computer network.

Agents with one company, using the MLS system, can see details of properties other companies have listed for sale. If an agent is able to match a buyer up with another company's listing, the agent gets a share of the sales commission.

McGeehan, the local Realtors president, said MLS offers real estate agents a lot more than Datacorp's Adnet.

"You're not really comparing apples to apples," he said. "There's a variation in quality."

Mango begs to differ, though.

"I think if they think they have a superior product, they haven't looked at what we're doing yet," Mango said.

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