The September edition of Real Estate In Depth, the official publication of the Westchester Putnam Association of Realtors, has an announcement that WPAR is in discussions with neighboring organizations on the possibility of a merger. The other associations are the Rockland County Board of Realtors and the Orange County Association of Realtors, and the idea also includes the WPAR-owned Empire Access MLS and the OCAR-owned Greater Hudson Valley MLS. A work group of the five entities has met a number of times to discuss how the possible merger might be achieved, what the advantages would be, and what potential issues might have to be addressed. As Vice President of the EAMLS, I am in that work group.
Given the economy and the recent trend of mergers of other associations around the country, there are some considerable advantages to a merger. For me, the eventual consolidation of the MLS systems is a big one, and one that I made a call for in the past. I have always worked both sides of the Hudson and belong to both MLS systems, and I have long wished that there would be just one MLS serving the region instead of the current fragmented (and expensive) arrangement. The MLS consolidation would not be instantaneous and would likely take effect a year or two after the merger of the Realtor associations, but the light at the end of the tunnel is encouraging.
There are other advantages. smaller associations have fixed overhead and fewer resources to support their members. The idea of a strong 9000+ member association with a streamlined infrastructure and single set of overhead considerations is an attactive one.
Of course, like any "marriage," there are also questions that need answers. Three sets of governance, a new name, lockbox systems, the eventual MLS mergers and other necessary changes mean growing pains and possibly tough decisions. No binding decision has been made yet.
Is it a good idea? I think so- a great idea as a matter of fact. Membership will have to decide, but I can say with some confidence that with what I have seen thus far, this is a very good idea whose time has come.
Realtor associations often say that they are the "voice of real estate" for their areas. This consolidation and pooling of strengths and resources will give our trade organization a voice that is stronger and more unified. That is good for members, and ultimately good for the public we serve.