Some believe that data sharing is just as effective as consolidation. They may even tell you that it’s better because data sharing allows „competition’, and the ability for unique communities to protect their unique ways of conducting their unique business. In reality, unless data sharing is being used as a stepping stone to consolidation, it is a monumental waste of member dollars, and volunteer/staff effort and time. Rather than being a technical „solution’, the ugly truth is that data sharing has many, many technical issues that cause inequalities between data sharing partners, data inaccuracies, unequal access to timely data between partners, enormous hardware requirements, heavy tech staff time requirements, and bloated expenses. While we can rightly marvel at the technological ingenuity of especially the larger MLS data sharing efforts, their efforts will be more marvelous still when they deal with the underlying inefficiencies of fragmented MLS markets through consolidation into one, common statewide - or larger - MLS system.
There are several different kinds of data sharing that vary significantly in terms of difficulty, cost, quality, and time frame.
1. Reciprocal Access/Reciprocal Membership: Each MLS remains independent, but through an agreement provides members with the ability to access another MLS or become a member of another MLS by virtue of their primary membership.
a. The most basic approach; when used by two MLSs using the same vendor there is minimal programming and minimal cost.
b. Using Single Sign On (SSO) technology, reciprocal access can also be arranged between MLSs using different vendors.
c. Access can be limited to simple read-only active listings, or can be expanded all the way up to all statuses, all classes.
d. Honors primary membership in an MLS. For reciprocal membership, only those agents who actually use the reciprocal access have to join.
e. An excellent way to data share across state borders without great expense or upkeep.
a. In the case where a reciprocal agreement is being used instead of consolidation, it does not resolve the duplication of costs, services, etc., inherent in areas of overlapping MLS markets.
This is an excerpt from the whitepaper "How to Build a Statewide MLS (Or, Order from Chaos)" written by Cameron M. Paine. The document can be found in its entirety here: http://ctmls.ctreal.com/PDFs-and-docs/Whitepaper/BuildingAStatewideMLS.aspx