Sandicor ‘upgrade’ draws ire of Realtors

Glitches in a new Sandicor, Inc. Multiple Listing Service (MLS) program has La Jolla realtors fuming - and wondering what to do next.

“Not only are real estate agents battling a difficult economy and real estate environment,” said Peggy Chodorow of Prudential California Realty’s 7780 Girard Ave. office in La Jolla, “but they’ve been shocked with this change to the MLS, which makes their work even harder.”

Chodorow said Sandicor “upgraded” its MLS information within the past couple months, and things started going haywire right away. “For the past 45 days, we’ve (Realtors) been fumbling through this system,” said Chodorow. “We’ve found there’s inaccurate information in our very own listings.”

Sandicor, a California corporation, was founded in 1991 by 11 Associations of REALTORS® in San Diego County who combined their efforts and merged the data from three different Multiple Listing Services operating in San Diego County into one consolidated database. When Sandicor launched in January 1992 with its combined database and membership size, it was the largest regional MLS in the United States.

Melissa Hernholm, with Prudential California Realty at 1299 Prospect St., ticked off a laundry list of problems that have plagued Sandicor’s new MLS system in the short time it’s been operating. “Whenever you input any listing,” Hernholm said, “it automatically comes up right of first refusal, which means that, even if it’s a new listing, it’s (property’s) already spoken for. You would call Sandicor support, and they would tell you it was an engineering issue and that they couldn’t fix it for days.”

Hernholm talked about her favorite “glitch” in the new Sandicor MLS system. “Under stories for a (high-rise) building,” she said, “you can only put in single digits. If you’ve got a unit on the 21st floor, you’re unable to put in multiple digits.”

One of the most glaring deficiencies that has developed with Sandicor’s revamped MLS system, added Hernholm, is that, at present, users cannot accurately list the property parcel’s size, vital information in the real estate trade. “One of the most important things to know if you’re comparing properties,” said Hernholm, “is how big the lot is. You used to be able to put in the lot size, say, 6,000 square feet. Now its a range, one to two acres.”

Hernholm added there have also been problems with the complexity of Sandicor’s new MLS system. “There used to be more than 100 required input fields,” she said. “It’s gotten better. Out of 220 input fields, there are now 72 that are required.”

Ray Ewing, CEO of Sandicor, said part of the problem with the MLS glitches and the response time in repairing them is that the system’s software provider is long distance. “We don’t write the software,” Ewing said. “We use vendors out of Knoxville, (Tenn.). We host the hardware system locally, but we don’t have programs. We don’t touch the code.”

Ewing said bugs are being worked out of the new MLS system as quickly as possible. Another factor, he added, is that the new MLS system is more complex, and therefore more difficult to pick up by the end user. “There are many more advanced features and multiple ways to do them,” he said. “There’s a lot more capability in the new system. We need to get the agents out there trained, so they can take advantage of the stuff that’s in the system.”

Ewing likened the new and old Sandicor MLS systems to the difference between a 2003 and a 2007 Microsoft Word program. “Microsoft 2007 doesn’t look the same as the 2003 version,” he said. “With our new MLS system, there is a bit of a learning curve involved. It’s not as intuitive to our members how to do those things (differently).”

Chodorow said the significance to Realtors of MLS systems such as Sandicor’s cannot be overstated.

“It is the Bible we work off of in order to get competitive market analysis,” she said, “to set up showings, to research properties and tax records.”

La Jolla Realtor Ed Mracek with Willis Allen Real Estate, agreed the glitches in Sandicor’s new MLS system have been troublesome. But he’s confident that they’re “fixable,” and that, ultimately, the system will prove its worth.

“The (Sandicor) system has its plusses and minuses,” said Mracek, who speculated that part of the problem stems from data which didn’t transfer over properly when Sandicor altered its MLS system. “Their other system didn’t have as many bells and whistles. It has some other features that are more progressive, that I think in the future will be of benefit to Realtors.”

Mracek said client comments he’s gotten about the Sandicor MLS system include complaints that they don’t like the company’s new e-mail format. “They prefer the old format,” he said, but added the new MLS system has the advantage of coming out immediately, not every 24 hours like the old system.

“It’s a mixed bag,” Mracek added.

Mracek believes in the potential of Sandicor’s new MLS system. “It’s a more high-tech system,” he pointed out. “It has mapping abilities and other categories of search and sorting. In terms of our company office management, it will be beneficial to our in-house inventory. Over time, people will assimilate and adapt to the new system. But there definitely have been some complaints.”

Chodorow said Sandicor’s new MLS system needs to get fixed, post haste.

“Why in the world didn’t they get all these kinks out before they brought it online?” she asked. “It’s entirely disrupted our market. And the public didn’t even have a clue what was going on.”