Anytime prospective homebuyers log on to the Internet and conveniently scroll through all available properties, they can thank three men for their work more than 50 years ago.
The Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, came about in Lubbock through the efforts of longtime real estate agents Ray Chapman, J. Harold Chapman and Don Osborne, and the system forever changed the business for Realtors and their customers, providing both groups a comprehensive and constantly updated snapshot of available homes in the market.
“The MLS was started by a recommendation from Harold Chapman,” recalled Brownie Brownlee, a Lubbock Realtor who said he began his career in 1959. “It had worked really well in other cities at that time. The MLS changed the listing agreement where if someone listed a property for sale, others had a chance to show it and sell it.”
Harold Chapman, who died in 1998, had become a member of the Lubbock Association of Realtors in 1946 and served the organization in various capacities, according to an A-J article. Ray Chapman, who died in 1993, joined the Lubbock Board of Realtors in 1946 and served as president. He was credited with establishing Lubbock’s MLS in 1950, according to an A-J article.
Osborne, who joined the organization in 1949, attended a statewide convention and described Lubbock’s intention to move to the MLS system.
“Lubbock was the first MLS in Texas,” said Carolyn Weaver, who has served more than 30 years as MLS administrator for the Lubbock Association of Realtors. “Don talked about what Lubbock was going to during that state convention in Houston, and they couldn’t believe it.”
“Don was active in the National Association of Realtors and was aware of the MLS concept,” said Bobby McQueen of McQueen Company, Realtors. “He helped bring that idea back to Lubbock.”
Weaver said the MLS provided potential customers greater access to more possibilities and created a greater level of cooperation among Realtors.
“After the war, people who were out trying to find homes didn’t know where to go or whom to talk to,” she said. “They might contact a real estate agent who would have a few listings at his office. Then a few Realtors eventually got together and shared their listings. Finally, they got together and hired a secretary, gave her all the sheets of listings and let her distribute them to Realtors. That let all the other agents know what listings were available.”
McQueen said the system had an immediate positive impact on the real estate business.
“It was a new means of marketing that allowed agents to expose their property to a larger number of Realtors in a different way,” he said.
Weaver said the MLS has evolved as technology has changed during the past half century.
“In 1955, the association started publishing a five-by-seven-inch sheet of paper that included the owner’s name, phone number, address, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, garage size and other information,” she said, “and they would take that listing and copy it several times to distribute it to each Realtor. The Realtor would then put it in a notebook binder, which is how the agent kept up with the market.”
McQueen, who began his real estate career in 1973, also has seen the system continue to evolve.
“We would print individual sheets of properties to put in the MLS on a daily basis,” he said. “Each individual Realtor kept (his or her) own book, and then we put out a daily bulletin each day for price adjustments or if properties were in contract or closed.
“That was the only way we had then to update inventory, personally keeping up with your book on a day-to-day basis. It’s all in our computer system now, but it evolved from the beginnings of the MLS system.”
Weaver said the system worked as a paper entity until 1980, when a computerized version of the MLS made its debut.
“We stopped doing the sheets at that time,” she said. “But we started publishing a book that had all the listings and pictures of the property in black and white.”
That practice continued until 1995, she said, when the MLS moved to the Internet.
Today, those interested in purchasing a home in a specific market can scan the listings and receive a virtually complete picture of what each home has to offer.
“They can search the same properties as the Realtors,” Weaver said. “The public has access to all of the basic information about each property.”
Once the MLS concept took hold, other cooperative breakthroughs were not far behind, said McQueen, who served as president of the board of Realtors in 1984.
“We went to Arlington to see a key system being used at that time,” he said. “And we came up with a way to disperse keys through the board of Realtors office at that time. That way, a Realtor could pick up the keys and show a property, which kept them from having to go to all of the individual offices like we did prior to that time.
“Of course, that’s changed now. We use an electronic keybox system, which has some security associated with it.”
McQueen also remembered weekly bus tours of the MLS inventory.
“When I started in the business back in the early 1970s, we would load up a bus at the association office and tour the different properties that were new in the MLS and take a walking, single-line tour through each property,” he said. “Then we reloaded and went to the next property.
“The key distribution and having access to property, when we went to that system, it was really helpful to Realtors. Prior to that, if you were going to show six properties, you went to six different offices and picked up the keys and were responsible for returning them.
“There was a lot of time and expense involved in that. We came up with a central key system and thought we were unique at that time.
“There have been lot of people through the years who’ve helped the system evolve.”
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