Paying the FMLS Piper

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Hoooooooooo boy, here it comes. The day of reckoning for agents who don’t follow the FMLS rules of membership is at hand. As every real estate agent in the metro Atlanta area knows, FMLS is one of two major MLS systems providing information about listed properties. Member real estate companies pay a great deal of money to join FMLS and be able to provide access to its valuable information for the company’s affiliated agents.

FMLS has always had a unique method of charging for its services:

  • Brokerages pay a percentage of the sales price after a successful closing. It’s .0012% of the sales price, or $120 on a $100,000 sale.
  • One brokerage with both sides of the sale? One fee.
  • Two cooperating brokerages on the deal? Two fees.
  • No closing? No charge.

FMLS Enforcing Rules

FMLS has furthermore established a “mandatory areas” list requiring that each member company input ALL of its appropriate listings in FMLS if the listing is located within the mandatory area. A small number of affiliated licensees, though, have grumbled about the charges and looked for ways to cheat FMLS.  Agents have claimed that their OFFICE wasn’t located in the mandatory area, that their HOME OFFICE wasn’t in the mandatory area or that the listed property was somehow exempt. No dice. It’s the property location, period.

Word has come today directly from FMLS that FMLS staff will be checking ALL closing records in the mandatory areas and that if they determine that an agent affiliated with an FMLS member company failed to list a “mandatory area” property which then closed, the charge will be levied retroactively PLUS a $50 fine. I suppose they can easily do this because they can look on the other major MLS, GaMLS. This may take a couple of months to uncover but agents who have been cheating FMLS will need to look over their shoulders for this.

The FMLS mandatory areas are all of Bartow, Cherokee, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton (North AND South), Gwinnett, Hall, Jackson, Lumpkin, Paulding, Pickens and Walton counties. Any property located outside of the mandatory areas may also be listed in FMLS. 

Sellers Deserve the Best Service

Now, as a rule-abiding FMLS member, this does give me a little bit of satisfaction. I’ve never understood the logic of offering less than full service when charging a seller client a full commission. Any agent who does NOT list properties, especially those located in FMLS’s mandatory area, in every available MLS is not providing good service to the seller client. Sellers deserve the BEST service we can offer, and that includes FULL marketing of their property in all the available and appropriate MLS systems. Hey, if the listing doesn’t sell, no FMLS fee is due. If it sells, this fee is a great problem to have!

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13 Responses to “Paying the FMLS Piper”

  1. ann bone Says:

    Wow! I overlooked several of the FMLS mandatory counties. Huge apologies to all readers. I want to make sure you have COMPLETE information.
    Here are the Mandatory FMLS listing counties:
    Barrow, Bartow, Cherokee, Chatooga, Cobb, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Floyd, Forsyth, Fulton, Gordon, Gwinnett, Hall, Haralson, Jackson, Lumpkin, Paulding, Pickens, Polk and Walton.

    • Steve Boyce Says:

      I have a little different view on FMLS as a whole. I feel that the outrageous fees we pay are nothing short of criminal. Who actually owns FMLS?

      The amount of money I pay each year for a system I feel is antiquated for 2010 standards is a huge disservice to all customers, agents and sellers alike.

      What about everyone paying $19.95 a mo. for a system that will easily dwarf anything FMLS has ever offered?

      I also feel like forced membership as an agent if your broker is a member is Anti-trust, or a forced monopoly?

      Noone ever talks about the “broker kickback” that brokers receive as a percentage of what their agents pay FMLS each each year. THAT is criminal, any way you slice that cake. I am a Broker, and I don’t need any other agents money snuck back to me.

      This reason alone is why there hasn’t been a state of the art listing service in Georgia. There is old money and old practices as a barrier to entry. These comments may not be directlty related to this lawsuit, but I think if agents had to cut a check to FMLS AFTER closing out of their personal account as opposed to having it deducted before their commission check is written, they might just realize how much thay DON’T get for their money in 2010.

      • ann bone Says:

        Steve,

        You raise exactly the points in the recent lawsuit filed against FMLS that I mentioned below.

  2. Brad Carlton Says:

    As a Full Service, Full Time, Professional Realtor for 16 years in the Atlanta market, I am more than happy to pay the FMLS fee, as well as the GAMLS fee, since 99% of Buyer’s are represented by agents, and agents use the Multiple Listing Services to locate homes for their Buyer’s, it’s easily the most effective way to get a listing sold! Unfortunately, the discount Brokes many times do not inform their clients that they are not being advertised in FMLS, which means their listing is not getting the “eyes” on it that it deserves!
    Just one more reason for serious Sellers to use a Full Service Realtor!

  3. Anne Langley Says:

    It just never ceases to amaze me why some agents try to “beat the system”. I think this is one of the most effective ways to get your listing out to the public. Sellers have come to expect their properties will go on a listing service; trying to save the fee could end up costing you more than the fee. It could potentially cost you clients.

  4. Vanessa Calhoun Says:

    Although my market isn’t a compulsory FMLS area, I ALWAYS place my listings in both databases!!! It means MORE EXPOSURE FOR MY LISTINGS!!! Who doesn’t want that???? The FMLS fee is nothing compared to not selling the property because of a lack of appropriate exposure.

  5. Charles Friend Says:

    I personally have always put my listings in both listing services, even when I was in a Metro Brokers office that was not with GaMLS. I would turn in FMLS listings at my Metro Brokers office, then would have to take GaMLS listings to the office manager at a Metro Brokers office that was a Gamls member. I took this additional step, which most agents did not, because I felt it was important to make my listings available to MOST Realtors in the Metro Area.

    If I had not seen a value in doing this I would not have done it. No one made me do it, it was not required by company policy at the time. I did it because I saw a value in doing it. I find it hard to believe that our Realtors do not want to submit their listings to FMLS when there is a value received from doing so. As Realtors and independent contractors I wonder it we should not have some ability to purchase goods and services as we need them and not by a mandatory requirement. If the service is valuable Realtors will buy it, and if it is not valuable Realtors should have a choice not to buy it. We as Realtors should be able to control and allocate expenses. But then again who else in the world, except Realtors, buys a product (lockboxes) and then rents a key to get it open.

    I think it is important to have listings in the primary MLS which local agents use in a service area. However, I do wonder: Is FMLS the primary listing service utilized by Realtors in Chatooga County, Lumpkin County, Floyd County, Haralson County, Pickens County, and Jackson County? I know that when I work in Walton County, it is primarily with agents who are members of an MLS in or around Athens, GA.

    If I’m not mistaken, FMLS was formed by Professional Real Estate Companies, primarily on the north side of Atlanta, for the purpose of offering to co-op their listings with other agents from member companies. For many years real estate was sold on the south side of Atlanta without need for FMLS apparently. It was not the primary MLS for that area. If Realtors thought they needed it, wouldn’t they use it?

    • ann bone Says:

      Charles, you raise some excellent points. You and I have been in this business a LONG time and do remember the days when each real estate company could become a member of either GaMLS or FMLS but was NOT ALLOWED to belong to both.

      Some may know this background, but many do not: FMLS is a for-profit company owned by some member brokers and was originally focused on listings in the “northern wedge” between I-75 north and I-85 north. GaMLS is a not-for-profit service of the DeKalb Board of Realtors and originally was used by members of the DeKalb BOR. There was no overlap of service area.

      Metro Brokers was THE company, as a matter of fact, who forced the issue and paved the way for all brokerages to be able to participate in multiple MLS systems. Here’s how it happened – our first office was located in Tucker, which is in DeKalb county. Our agents belonged to the DeKalb BOR and used GaMLS. When Metro Brokers opened its second office in Sandy Springs, which is in North Fulton county, the agents in that new office wanted to use FMLS. Metro Brokers was denied membership because we already belonged to GaMLS and FMLS claimed that MLS memberships were “exclusive”.

      Can you say “lawsuit”? Metro Brokers filed a lawsuit based upon the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, claiming that the “exclusive” policy constituted restraint of trade. It was a long, coslty and bitter battle but Metro Brokers WON and opened up all the MLS’s to whomever could pay the membership fees and agreed to follow the rules.

      FMLS’s business model of charging a fee only upon a succesful closing is different from GaMLS’s business model of a flat monthly fee whether there are closings or not.

      You may or may not have heard that a lawsuit seeking class-action status was recently filed by members of the public against FMLS claiming that it’s policy of charging higher fees for more expensive sold properties violates RESPA (Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act) by charging more for exactly the same service as is rendered to a less expensive sold property. The argument centers on the fact that the plaintiffs believe that the sales commissions might be lower if FMLS members didn’t have to pay that big, bad FMLS fee. I do not believe this for a moment as commissions are always negitiable between the broker and the client AND commissions do not seem to differ one iota between listings posted on FMLS and those posted on GaMLS. This case will be interesting to watch.

      Some are also raising the question Charles raises about having a choice of which MLS’s to advertise in rather than making certain areas “mandatory”. BUT I must agree that providing the HIGHEST LEVEL OF SERVICE is doing the best job for our clients. We want the most possible eyeballs, whether they be potential buyers, friends of potential buyers or agents, on our valuable listings. This is why we agents pay to put listings on every avaliable website and MLS. Think about it; brokers are paying ADDITIONAL fees to put listings on websites which didn’t exist a few years ago. These are the costs of doing our business.

  6. Bridgette L. Freeman Says:

    Keep in mind that we are one of the few companies that offers GaMLS and FMLS. What a selling point (no pun intended) for your sellers. How much more exposure are you giving the listing and service to your seller? C’mon it is the cost of doing business and don’t we all want more business? Pay the fee, sell the property and move on to the next deal -yeah!

  7. Shelley Taylor Says:

    No matter what area of Deception (Cheating) a person is in, weather its in the Real Estate Industry, Finances, IRS, The Job, a Spouse etc… you can rest assured that the Law of “Cause and Affect” will catch up with you.

  8. Shelley J. Taylor Says:

    Yes, I mispelled a Word, can You find it? Hit me with your Comment.

  9. Addie Jackson Says:

    yes, I found it … whether LOL
    I agree with your comments!

  10. Paul Rice Says:

    “When representing a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant, or other client as an
    agent, REALTORS® pledge themselves to protect and promote the
    interests of their client.” This is the very first sentence in Article 1 of the Realtor Code of Ethics. How can a real estate licensee, who fails to place their listing into every listing service (MLS) that their Broker belongs to, not be a violation ot the Code of Ethics to say nothing of also violating their Broker’s commitment to each MLS that they have joined ?

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