NWMLS Form Changes

I attended a Forms Update Training Class put on by the NWMLS recently and learned about a bunch of changes that are coming down the pike on October 15, 2007. And while I posted some class notes and sample Purchase and Sale Agreement documents over on my site, I thought I’d summarize things below.


  • Coldwell Banker Bain (and I assume others) will drop the usage of their “own” optional clauses forms which will make co-op transactions smoother and easier for all agents.
  • Lots of discussion was given to the Washington State Supreme Court decision Alejandre v. Bull, which was the impetus for many of these changes. I won’t bore you with the details here. But they ruled “economic loss rule” prohibits the Buyer from suing the Seller for negligent misrepresentation regarding the condition of real property when the parties relationship is governed by a contract. The courts want to see the allocation of risk of economic loss in the Purchase and Sale Agreements – Hence the changes.

Purchase and Sale Agreement

  • Legal description must be attached as Exhibit A
  • No more counter-offer expiration date (use the counter-offer form)
  • Paragraph 9 – Buyer to waive or not waive the right to remedy in Form 17
  • Homeowners Policy is new default in P&S
  • Closing date and Possession date same – or use NWMLS forms 65A or 65B
  • New provisions address charges and assessments against the property
  • Page 5, item x: 10 day contingency for buyer to verify all information provided by Seller or Listing Agent.

Form 17

These have been in effect since July, but for clarification sake were covered in the updates class. There are several changes here, but the “Environmental Section” is the main one. Buyer can still waive the right to receive unless one of the items in the Environmental Section is checked yes. In that case, the form can not be waived.

As a side note, foreclosure properties are no longer exempt. No one has a clue why the legislature took that one out.

Financing Contingency

  • Buyer must seek Sellers consent to change lender or loan type after loan application period lapses (usually 5 days)

Inspection Contingency

  • Adds changes for “Environmental” Changes of Form 17
  • Advises Buyers to do septic inspection (NWMLS Form 22S)
  • Neighborhood Review Contingency is back

Optional Clauses Contingency

  • Utilities broadened to include others
  • Selling Office Commission moved to NWMLS Form 41C
  • Seller to produced HOA documents if available

Where should the MLS end and the IDX begin?

The whole ruckus over the NWMLS no longer sending its member’s listings to realtor.com inspired many unlit pixels of commentary and many more wasted bytes of hard drive space. As I pondered a while ago, the industry appears to have a healthy appetite for technology. However, one of the comments was really insightful….

I still feel that this decision made by the board was wrong. As was the decision last year to disable the client email updates from Locator. We have the technology but are unwilling to use it. I have no love of REALTOR.com but I see no problem with sharing a limited set of data with them and offering our sellers maximum exposure of their listing. In fact, perhaps one of the reasons they discontinued the feed was because as Galen said, “Realtor.com was given the exclusive non-broker feed…” and they were getting pressure from Google and others to get a similar feed. I say give it to them. NWMLS has the ability to provide its members, all of them, with the technology usually reserved only for those with very deep pockets.

The whole thing got me wondering if this just a tactic for the big brokers to keep their upstarts at bay? Because of the MLS system, the big brokers share their listings inventory, with the smaller and independent brokers. However, perhaps the big brokers want the technology out of the MLS, because it harms the smaller upstarts without withholding listings from them?

Maybe there’s a less nefarious motivation. Since the NWMLS board appears to be dominated by members that belong to big brokers, perhaps they don’t want the NWMLS spending its’ limited computing resources (at the end of the day, even the Google’s & Microsoft’s have limited budgets, they just have a few more zeros at the end than most of us do) in areas where a big broker’s IT department or a motivated IDX vendor could do a better job. Regardless of the motivations, it does bring an interesting issue to light.

What should the MLS responsibilities be in terms of listing change notification, statistics/reporting, automated listing distribution, listing access via mobile devices or any number of things that either an MLS or an IDX vendor could provide?

I’m sure the big brokers are less enthusiastic about this type of thing because some have probably already invented these kind of technologies in house years ago (and paid for it out of their own pocket). They probably also see the MLS as competition for viewer eyeballs and would rather the MLS make it easier to combine listings data across their empires instead of being a shared technology provider. MLS regionalization is probably much higher on their MLS IT wish list. After all, the point of an MLS is to share listings data, not share listings technology.

The independent agents and the smaller brokers, probably want the MLS to provide these services, so they don’t have invest any more money in their IDX vendor / IT infrastructure that they don’t have to. I also suspect a lot people in that market segment see technology as an expense and not as an investment. They only want it, if they don’t have to pay for it.

As for me, I’m just an IDX vendor (I don’t have a dog in the fight). From my biased perspective, the less the MLS does, the more valuable my technology becomes, the more useful my services become, and the more opportunities for paying customers I get. I want you to spend money on your IT infrastructure and your IDX vendor! Apparently, the big brokers want you to do the same via their MLS policy direction!

What's in the best interests of agents?

Jan at the logical dog has set up a petition that requests the NWMLS board to reverse it’s decision and continue sending listings to Realtor.com.

This got me thinking about the often-interesting dynamic between the “best interests” of brokers vs the “best interest” of agents, which is something I’ve heard Russ Cofano talk to quite eloquently. However, I really don’t have a feel for how agents feel about this issue. Is the decision to stop sending listings scene as something that was “thrust” upon agents, or is it something they advocated for? Because of the NWMLS unusual status of a “broker-owned” MLS, I’m assuming the former, but I’ve been wrong before so I’d be interested in hearing from agents in the audience…

Is the mobile web the next big thing?

I was recently inspired by Joel Burslem’s, House Hunting On the Go blog posting. A lot of folks have voiced their desire for having MLS search tools designed for their mobile devices. Since I had some spare time last weekend, I went ahead and designed a mobile version of Real Property Associates’ web site. If you’re curious to see the final results, I encourage you to visit http://mobile.rpare.com and let me know what you think.

Ironically, as I was reading the post’s comments, I personally agreed most with Greg Tracy’s assertion (of Blue Roof fame), that his clients didn’t really care. The experience on a 3 GHz computer, with fast & reliable network connections and a 21″ LCD monitor is far more compelling, than the experience on a 200 Mhz Phone, with slow & intermittent network connections and 2″ LCD screen. I suspect a typical real estate consumer probably doesn’t care about mobile home search capabilities because they typically only look for homes for a few weeks every 5 or so years.

[photopress:mobile_zearch.jpg,full,alignright]Despite my reservations, I realize that real estate professionals are often very mobile and generally look for houses every week of the year. Since my customers are real estate professionals first and real estate consumers second, I suspect that my semi-pessimistic outlook is due to the fact that I’m not a mobile professional myself. That and the mobile web’s predecessor, WML, leaves a bad taste in my mouth like the New Coke did.

Mobile devices are a challenge to design for because the CPUs are slow, the browsers aren’t usually as powerful as their desktop equivalents (although Opera for Windows PocketPC currently smokes Internet Explorer Mobile), the screens are small, the network speeds can be glacial, and the user input mechanisms are slow and cumbersome. That said, having the whole MLS (w/ photos, static maps & Zillow Zestimates) and the office employee directory (w/ email addresses & photos) in your coat pocket is pretty dang slick, despite all the limitations.

Disclaimer: I designed this site for devices that support HTML and have screens that are 240 pixels wide. Since newer smart phones (Samsung Blackjack, Motorola Q, etc) and PocketPC’s have “big” screens and high speed networking, I decided that was the smallest device I wanted to support and still have the features I wanted. If you use a device with a smaller screen, you may be scrolling around more than you’d like.

So, what features would you like to see in your mobile real estate apps? Do you prefer text messaging apps (like Zillow Mobile) over real mobile web apps? What kinds of mobile devices do you plan on using to access mobile web apps? Is the future bigger, PDA like phones (like Windows Mobile devices, Blackberry, and the upcoming Apple iPhone) or smaller, more limited devices like the ubiquitous Motorola RAZR V3? Do think this trend will take consumers by storm or be restricted to professional use only? Would you pay extra for this technology if your MLS or IDX vendor offered it? Have you bought your .mobi domain names yet?

2006 Statistical Review and Highlights

Straight out of the horses mouth. I noticed these stats posted by the NWMLS today. I found a smilar post on their public site, nwrealestate.com. You can see the detailed story here

During 2006, members of NWMLS. . .

  • Reported more than 96,000 closed sales with a combined value of more than $35 billion
  • Experienced a 6.7% drop in number of units sold compared to 2005, but an increase of about 5% in the dollar volume of the closed transaction
  • Reported 1,951 sales of single family homes priced at $1 million or more (up from 1521 during 2005) and 859 sales of condominiums priced at $500,000 or more (up from 623 during 2005).
  • The MLS area covering Bellevue/West of 405 had the highest number of million dollar-plus sales with 219, followed by Central Seattle/Madison Park with 165. For high-end condos ($500,000-plus), west Bellevue had the largest number (183), followed by Belltown/downtown Seattle (130) and Kirkland (117); 145 condos sold for more than $1 million
  • Among the 19 counties in the MLS service area, San Juan claimed the highest median price ($539,500) for single family homes that sold last year; King County followed at $425,000
  • Maintained a high ratio of cross-sales: more than three of every four transactions were listed by one office and sold by a different office
  • Added 139,814 new listings of SFH and condos to inventory, with the highest volume (14,541 added during June
  • Represented more than 30,000 home sellers, on average, each month
  • Reported double-digit price gains for SFH compared to 2005 in all but one county
  • In the four-county Puget Sound region (King, Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap), only about 6% of single family homes sold for under $200,000
  • Sold more than 15,000 condominiums, about the same as during 2005; approximately 63% of all condos that sold system-wide were in King County.
  • Found wide variation in prices of 3-bedroom homes. For pre-owned homes (built 2004 or earlier), the median sales price ranged from $124,900 in Grant Co. to $508,000 in San Juan Co.
  • In King County, the average price of a single family home that sold in 2006 was about 2.9 times higher than the price in 1990 (up from $178,187 to $518,108).

NWMLS at a Glance

December 2006
Member Brokerages
Sales Associates
Counties included in Summary Report

Danger, Will Robinson… theft types for all to be aware of

Prescription Drug Thefts
NWMLS has once again received reports of prescription drug thefts at Broker Open Houses in the Seattle area. NWMLS advises you to request a business card or require registration at all open houses from everyone in order to keep track of those in attendance. In addition, please report similar thefts to NWMLS, as well as a list of attendees so that we may look for patterns in behavior and conduct. Please also remind your clients to remove or secure their possessions, particularly their prescriptions, before their home is shown or held open.

Staging Thefts Reported
Area 500: Keyboxes were missing on two new construction properties. One house was missing all staging items, including high-end appliances. The second property was missing the keybox (no staging was taken). Police have been notified.
Area 770: All staging material was taken — including a ceiling fan removed from the ceiling. The keybox was not broken into. Marysville police have been notified.
These notices were just put out by the NWMLS to highlight recent thefts – this after the notice about copper being stolen out of new construction and vacant homes. Thieves targeting houses seem to be getting more common or we’re just hearing about it more.
What can you do to help thwart these kinds of problems? Make sure also to leave outside lights on if you aren’t living on the premises so people in the neighborhood can see what’s going on in your yard. Perhaps have a friendly neighbor keep an eye on your place and to be willing to call if there is any suspicious activity. I’ve often knocked on neighbor’s doors to tell them if the house will be vacant and to ask for help in watching out for predatory types. Especially if we’ve already moved some things out for staging I’ll be sure to tell the neighbor, “if you see another moving truck here and there is no SOLD sign on the yardarm or we haven’t told you the place is sold, call the police.”
The NWMLS tells agents to secure keyboxes to properties yet I still find them on front porches of homes without any kind of attachment such as a bicycle lock or otherwise. Why are these sellers and their agents not securing the keys to the home? There really is no good reason not to given the number of resources available to do so. I’ve also spoken with other staging companies that have had their products stolen out of vacant homes including the home’s appliances. This is pretty serious stuff and if it doesn’t get better soon it could make people very nervous about selling their homes.
For goodness sake, if you’re going to sell your home be sure your agent is going to secure the keybox at the property – in fact, help them secure it. Good ways to do this include not having the keybox out in the open where it’s obvious, using a strong bicycle lock, or putting the keybox in an area that requires someone know where it is (notes can be put in agent remarks of NWMLS listings).

Talking Up Shackprices

[photopress:galen_ward.jpg,full,alignright]Nathan of nPost just did a great interview with Galen on Shackprices… Lots of gold including some indication of Galen’s vision for the future for Shackprices!

What is your long-term plan for ShackPrices?

I would really like ShackPrices to be a national real-estate search website. Our goal is to make it for anyone in America to search for a home. The plan is national coverage, more features, and a better site for people to search for a home with.

Don’t stop with this quote… Go read the whole thing! 🙂

Commission double-take

Ok, for those of you thinking from the title that I’ll be going back to the subject of dual agency and taking a seller and selling side of a commission this is about something else. What I’ve got a question about as well as a big concern right now is that I just got mutual acceptance on a deal for a client and I’ve just noticed that the listing agent has changed the commission on the listing data. It was at 3% on the day my clients saw the house and now, tonight when we got MA, it is at 2.5%. Anyone have an idea how the local MLS views this kind of thing? I have a feeling that she changed it just because an offer finally came in (it was full price on a big price tag) and as of 01/06/2007 it was at 3%.

[photopress:washer_dryer_photo.jpg,full,alignright]Considering the listing agent screwed up and had posted a washer/dryer as part of the listing also and then she couldn’t work that problem out with her client (happens to be her father-in-law) I was planning on using part of the commission to buy a set for my clients. That may be shot now with the reduction although (the set they want is $2600) [photopress:pennies.jpg,full,alignleft] but I’m planning on pointing out the change and requesting that she pay the amount she originally noted and submitting the printed copy of the listing as my documentation with the disbursement form. The MLS rules as I see them state that the “commission shall be paid as designated in the listing (or any change thereto).” Which this could mean that I’m hosed the money, BUT, I can’t tell if she changed it before or after we got mutual acceptance – which I find to be a possible ethical violation if it was the agent’s choosing. Furthermore, which rate would apply if it was changed after the fact? The same section of the rules states “consent required to change other member’s commission”. I’m pretty sure the seller or the listing agent decided to drop it when faced with an offer and for no other reason than to save the money even though this has been the SOC for months – this place had been on market for over 100 days. Anyone got a clue on this one?

NWMLS sets its sights on violators

(Editor’s Note: I always get excited when I get the chance to introduce a new contributor to Rain city Guide! Today, I get to introduce Reba Haas who I’ve been following for quite a while over on Judy’s Book. She leads a local real estate team in Seattle and through her comments on RCG, she has proven that she can provide some always welcome insight into the local market! You can learn more about her at Team Reba, contact her directly at reba@teamreba.com , or simply leave a comment below!)

For those that are thinking I’m bringing back up the topic of NWMLS forms, I’m not. What I am interested in bringing up is the topic that the local MLS seems to be cracking down on violators of various rules. Not only are they cracking down and following up more on violations but they’re not providing as many “get out of jail free” cards – meaning they are doing less suspensions on fines even for first time offenders.

[photopress:handcuffs.jpg,full,alignright]Am I the only one who has noticed this? Is anyone familiar with the reasons why they are starting to get tighter on policies now? I’d LOVE to know but that is secondary to my delight in that it is happening. California recently enacted some changes to licensing requirements for new agents in an effort to improve the quality of agents entering the field and Oregon has done so as well – but rather than decreasing new applicants they’ve gone up, most likely because Oregon is still doing well with respect to real estate values increasing. If the local membership groups that we all belong to want to help bring up the standards I am all for it.

"Frank"-speak on "broads" and the mls' lame 24 hour rule

[photopress:bgrable.jpg,thumb,alignright] This broad is lonely. You know, the kind of lonely that just has to be scratched…like an itch. So she says to me, she says, Frank, I just gotta get out there and get a man, and she starts putting on her coat. I say Whoa there…hold up, Babe. You ain’t gonna get the right man that way. Go in the toilet there and fix yourself up a bit first. Pin up your hair like Betty does, and put on that fancy armored under-stuff that makes every woman look like a Betty Grable pinup at first look, till you get up real close and see the spines on ’em. That’s right. Take your time, honey. The better you look, the more successful your gonna be at this venture. Now put on that lipstick and pull down that thing over there and hike up that and stand up real tall, like you don’t need nobody! That’s better. If youse goes out lookin’ like a loser, that’s exactly what you will end up bein’ at the end of the night…a loser!

Now someone please tell me who came up with that stoopid mls rule that says a seller HAS-TA put his house up for sale within 24 hours after he signs a listing contract? Hell man, da ink isn’t even dry yet! Do yus really think an owner can get his sh-t together that fast and spif up da joint in 24 hours?! Heck…he barely has time to pull up his pants and douse his tonsils with his “Jack”. Are you guys kiddin’ me??

And what agent worth his weight in peanuts is gonna have a fancy, glossy, snappy flyer ready in 24 hours? Heck, can ya even get a sign up that fast? Who made up that rule anyways? You guys better stop drinkin’ that NAR Koolaid and get da F outta here pronto! Cause I ain’t puttin’ my house on the internet for everyone to peek at until it’s good and ready! Ya hear dat! GOOD and ready. And youse guys can go pound sand with your lame mls rule dat says udderwise. I don’t give a rat’s behind if you guys stab each other in da back or in da front or any other ways. Dat ain’t MY problem! You can’t tell me what I HAVE to do and you sure as hell can’t tell me that I ain’t got no say in it. So what that I can give you some letter saying “hold up, pal”, what about da poor slobs dat don’t know any better and have their underwear hanging over the shower curtain in the mls photo. Scratch that rule…scratch it now…cause it’s lame. Like my pal Robbie says…Lame, Lame, Lame MLS Rule! Trash it, cause it’s garbage and its stinkin’ up da place!”

I’m signing this here contract to get me the best damn agent there is and I’m sure as hell payin’ him plenty of dough! So’s he better damn well work his butt off for a whole lot more than TWENTY FOUR HOURS before HE pushes that button that sends me LIVE into the cyberworld.

I thought it was jes dose NAR Koolaid drinkin fools spoutin’ this garbage. But when I saw David Barry sayin’ his NEW Consumer Oriented Free Public mls was gonna go and copy that same stoopid lame mls rule, I said dat’s IT. I’ve HAD it. Jilly…go knock some sense into dos guys before the whole planet goes koo-koo on dat koolaid! Knock some heads together if ya has to…but don’t let the poor public be fooled into thinkin that they have to go out in public lookin’ like a LOSER! It ain’t dare right to say so…cause I say so and it just ain’t the right way to treat people and their most valuable asset. Heck, a girl takes longer than that to spruce herself up to find a guy. How da heck is a fella supposed to spruce up his whole house in 24 hours! It ain’t right…it just ain’t right.