Homes like this historic house with harbor views in Nantucket will be displayed on Web sites when local real estate agents test out the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors’ multiple listing service. This home is offered for sale at $3.4 million.

For years, Realtors on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard have operated unlike their counterparts on the mainland, never sharing home listings with real estate offices beyond their territories.

Even prospective homebuyers searching for a home on either island have not been able to log on to a national Web site like and browse through property listings.

That may be changing in the weeks to come. Realtors on the islands have agreed to participate in the multiple listing service of the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors for a six-month trial period.

Not every real estate firm will participate, but those that do will be introduced to an interactive, Internet-based system that allows them to instantaneously update listings and get the most up-to-date information on properties on the market, according to Douglas Azarian of Century 21 North Falmouth Realty.

“It’s more user-friendly,” said Azarian, who added that valuable reports featuring tax records, town property information and sales data can be generated through the MLS.

Nantucket home listings will still be exclusive to agents and brokers working on the island. The same is true for Martha’s Vineyard. But the system will allow real estate companies on the islands to display the listings of other companies on the islands on their Web sites, giving properties greater marketing exposure. It also will enable real estate agents to instantly send electronic messages featuring new homes for sale to interested customers and/or clients, and check and update listings from any computer with Internet access.

“This is a very daring change for our group because we tend to be very provincial,” said Roy Flanders, a Nantucket buyer’s agent.

Flanders, who is secretary of the Nantucket Association of Real Estate Brokers and principal of Pro Buyer Assoc., said the island organization started searching for a new listing system, with modern standards and rules, about two years ago.

The existing system, the Nantucket Listing Service, was started by H. Flint Ranney, owner of Denby Real Estate. The listing system has evolved over the years, from a paper system to a computer-based service.

In the past, Nantucket real estate agents would pick up printed property listings sheets at open houses. That system was converted to an “aggregated paper-based list” through NLS, said Flanders. Years later, the paper system was made available over an electronic bulletin board, and then through a private Intranet available to NAREB members.

Nantucket Realtors started meeting with Azarian, who last year was president of the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors, and Henry J. DiGiacomo, the association’s chief executive officer, about possibly joining the association’s MLS. The association’s MLS was installed in January 2001.

The goal was to find a system that “balanced the needs of the newer Internet savvy consumers with the unique traditional needs of Nantucket homeowners and buyers,” said Flanders.

‘Intimate’ Knowledge

Flanders explained that Nantucket’s real estate market is unique, with buyers and sellers expecting a high level of service from brokers. Nantucket’s real estate agents have always strived to protect the privacy of buyers and sellers on the island. Open houses are for brokers and agents only – never open to the public – and traditionally for-sale yard signs are not used.

Also, because home prices can vary from block to block on the island, and with relatively few listings on the market at any given time – averaging 250 a year – Nantucket real estate agents are expected to have “intimate” knowledge of each home on the market and each neighborhood, said Flanders.

However, today’s sellers expect Internet exposure for their homes, and buyers are using the Internet more to shop for homes. Participating in the association’s MLS will allow companies to display listings with photos and search capabilities on their Web sites, opening them up to more consumers.

Azarian and other association leaders met with Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard agents, offering demonstrations of the system, and negotiating the details. The meetings were part of a two-step initiative by NAREB aimed at providing better service to Nantucket’s buyers and sellers. The first part was a color magazine with photos of listings that NAREB launched this month. The group will publish 10 issues a year and unveil its online version at in September.

Azarian said participants of the MLS will be given a free six-month test period, with the old listing systems remaining in place on both islands.

“The islands will be getting a much more sophisticated, up-to-date system that allows them to communicate instantaneously. At the same time, it helps us [the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors] with economies of scale.” With more members using the system and paying the fee, the association will have more resources to support the system, he said.

Agents who chose to be permanent MLS members will pay $40 per month. In order to join the MLS, however, they must be a member of the Realtor association.

Azarian said that while MLS access is seen as the main benefit of joining a Realtor association, many members take other benefits – like professional standards and legislative support on issues affecting the real estate industry – for granted.

Furthermore, he said a Realtor association offers “structure” for the industry and guidance.

“That structure and organization helps when disputes arise between agents, or between buyers and agents,” he said.

Many Nantucket agents and brokers have resisted joining a Realtor association-related MLS for years, according to Flanders. Some felt that it was imperative to protect the interests and privacy of Nantucket homeowners and not join an MLS, giving access to listing information to everyone.

Since the key incentive to joining a Realtor group is access to an MLS, many didn’t see “a compelling reason” to join an association because Nantucket has its own system, he said. Out of about 31 real estate offices on Nantucket, half are Realtor members.

On Martha’s Vineyard, which years ago belonged to the association’s MLS, real estate agents are proceeding with caution about participating in the six-month trial. In the past, real estate agents on the island felt they were not getting the services and support they need for the national and state Realtor groups, even though they were paying annual fees.

The island now uses a multiple listing service called LINK, which is not affiliated with a Realtor group.

“There’s a little hesitation because there’s some past negative feelings about it,” said Fred Roven of Martha’s Vineyard Buyer Agents. “The people on the vineyard felt that they haven’t been getting services.”

Still, Roven pointed to the benefits of joining the association’s MLS. For example, in order to display listings on the National Association of Realtor’s site,, thereby giving home listings national exposure, a Realtor member must be part of an association MLS. That’s currently not the case with Martha’s Vineyard.

“We have a system now … where brokers are sharing listings among themselves. But we don’t have a method of sharing listings from one location with potential customers and clients,” he said.

Nantucket, Vineyard Realtors To Participate in Cape’s MLS-

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 5 min