The Arizona Regional MLS Doesn’t Want Your Home to Sell

avatarthumbnail.jpgYesterday brought word that the Arizona Regional MLS, the MLS for Maricopa County and the Phoenix real estate market, is going to crack down on the data entered into the “subdivision” field of the MLS.

ARMLS rules dictate that only the legal name of the subdivision can be entered into the subdivision field which is well and good … unless you’re a seller trying to sell his home or a buyer looking for a new home in a certain area.

Let’s take a closer look …

Welcome to Arrowhead Ranch … Maybe

Back in 2006 I sold the home at 7432 W. Trails Drive in Arrowhead Ranch’s Sierra Verde section. When I first put the home on the market I entered the legal name – Sierra Verde Parcel C – in the subdivision field. No one showed the house. When I changed the name to something logical – Sierra Verde at Arrowhead Ranch – we had agent showings and the home sold shortly thereafter.

Currently, I have a home for sale in a subdivision with the legal name of Fulton Homes at Sierra Verde. If you’re a consumer searching online for homes, are you going to know that this home is not in Sierra Verde but in Fulton Homes at Sierra Verde?

Since the entry to the subdivision off 71st Avenue doesn’t have the name of the subdivision, are you even going to know that you just drove into Sierra Verde or are you going to believe rightly that you’re still in Arrowhead Ranch?

If you know only that you’re in Arrowhead Ranch, or if you’re searching for homes inside of Arrowhead Ranch, are you ever going to see this house? How many other homes are you not going to see because only the legal subdivision name is used?

Goodbye Sienna. Goodbye Palomino. Goodbye Arrowhead Legends. Adios Aguila del Sol and Camelot Views and Tuscany Point.

All a buyer will see is the homes in Arrowhead Ranch and, if they’re wise enough to use a wildcard at the start of the search, Hamilton Arrowhead Ranch.

Whom does that benefit?

Speaking of Wildcards …

You’ll need them if you want to ever find a home again in Westbrook Village because just about every sub-association in Westbrook has the legal name of “This Subdivision at Westbrook Village.” Simply looking for Westbrook Village won’t be enough.

(Which is why I selfishly recommend utilizing the All Village Listings page at, but I digress …)

I can go East Valley on you, too … I’m versatile that way.

Let’s say you want to find a home in the Dobson Ranch, on the border of Mesa, Tempe and Chandler. But let’s say you want to try a find a home on the water. Laguna Shores would be a decent place to start – if you know that the subdivision on the west side of Dobson Road is so named. More likely than not, you’re going to think you’re still in the plain old Dobson Ranch, which you are. Enter Dobson Ranch and you’ll never see Laguna Shores.

You’ll find Dobson Shores if you only enter Dobson without the Ranch, otherwise you’re equally hooped (threw that one in just for my Canadian readers.)

As a kid, my dad would take me fishing on the lakes in Dobson Ranch’s Los Altos area. It was the closest rec center until Dobson Ranch opened La Casita around the corner from our house.

Good thing I’m not trying to find a home near the Los Altos center these days by looking for Dobson Ranch … since the legal name is Los Altos, I’ll never find those homes either.

Cure’s Worse than the Ailment

The folks at ARMLS have the unenviable job of trying to maintain the integrity of the data in the face of an agent corps which by and large lacks common sense. But there are more important battles to be fought.

In my former office, one of the agents had a listing in Youngtown that he intentionally placed in Peoria because he knew no one would look in Youngtown.

That’s what ARMLS should be policing.

Talking to Steve Belt last night, there are agents who will list their homes for sale in McDowell Mountain Ranch even though they’re not in McDowell Mountain Ranch and have no connection to the HOA and its amenities.

That’s what ARMLS should be policing.

Every day, my clients receive listings of short sales that we’ve mutually agreed not to include in the listing search because many agents still don’t know how to document a short sale properly.

That’s what ARMLS should be policing.

What ARMLS shouldn’t be doing is making it even more difficult for a homeowner to sell their home because the developer lacked foresight when naming the subdivision and failed to include Arrowhead Ranch in the name. And what ARMLS shouldn’t be doing is making it more difficult for buyers looking for properties to find the homes they want to see.

The above aren’t isolated incidences of unexpected legal subdivision names. They’re but three of several that I know off the top of my head. There are many, many more just like this.

If as a consumer you would prefer ARMLS not to make it more difficult for you to buy or sell your home, feel free to let the powers that be know. The conversation’s continuing on

[tags]Phoenix real estate, MLS, real estate transparency[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at


  • Charleston real estate blog 10 years ago

    Jonathan, we have subdivision and then an additional selection for subsection which would be the smaller neighborhoods within the larger community. Maybe you can offer that suggestion to the ARMLS.

  • Steve Belt 10 years ago

    I think this problem has stemmed from the fact that master planned communities are more common than they were just 10 years ago. And consumers and agents alike want to search by master planned community name (sometimes) and subdivision other times, but do so in the same field.

    Our association hasn’t revised it’s rules in keeping up with this more recent trend, and while I won’t call the rule archaic, I do think it bears some level of revision. It’s something we should look at, consider the fields we have to communicate and search on this information, and then put appropriate rules in place to ensure we are marketing our listings effectively, and not erroneously, or even fraudulently.

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    Howard – there’s something that could be used, marketing name or planned community name, but it’s my feeling there are not a lot of agents using those fields for searches.

    Those fields also have become the home of things such as “model sharp” and “must see” and “great home.”

    Steve – I’m all for effective vs. fraudlent

  • BawldGuy Talking 10 years ago

    With all due respect to MLS operations everywhere, ‘we’ll take a look at it’ is almost always the kiss of death. First they have to agree, by vote, that today is Thursday, then they begin the slow boat to China debate into oblivion.

    The next time an MLS addresses an issue like this quickly and correctly, with be the first time.

    I feel your pain Jonathan.

  • Heather Elias 10 years ago

    For our mls, we have two subdivision fields, one is the ‘legal’ subdivision by the tax records, and the other is the ‘advertised’ subdivision, allowing the agent to put whatever is the best fit. When I’m pulling listings for a buyer, I usually do two searches, one by each criteria, to make sure I don’t miss anything.

    It’s a compromise, I guess… I understand your frustration, though!

  • Bob Bemis 10 years ago

    Please let me answer the challenge from BawldGuy Talking and submit ARMLS to the Guinness Book for a record response that is both quick and correct.

    The number of replies to our posting yesterday on about this issue was impressive and the quality of the suggestions tells me that agents not only understand the situation but have great ideas about how to make the system better. We are taking those suggestions to heart.

    The problem is multi-faceted and the solution will be equally complex but can be found. The “Subdivision” field was originally intended to serve two purposes, and therein lays the crux of the issue. That single field cannot serve both the legal requirement for a name to be used in contracts and at the same time the marketing requirement of the agents to tell the buying public where the property is. To address those two objectives, we created additional fields called “Planned Community Name” and “Marketing Name.” Unfortunately neither of these fields is recognized by most websites that receive advertising (IDX) data to display listings for sale. They use “Subdivision.” So the popular practice among agents has become to put the most commonly recognized name in the “Subdivision” field, a practice that is contrary to the intent of the MLS rules.

    But much like the practice of turning nouns into verbs (which for those of use with a strict grammatical upbringing grates on us like fingernails on a blackboard – “She was tasked with finding a solution,” just isn’t right.) eventually the practice becomes so accepted that resistance is futile. As nouns become verbed (sic), so must “Subdivision” become more usable. The database should serve the needs of the subscribers and we recognize that we must change with the changing use of the system by our subscribers.

    To that end, we met today and made some decisions about how to fix this problem. Paul Kriewall, Compliance Officer for ARMLS, posted a new item this morning entitled “Subdivisions: We have heard, and have changed our Policy for the benefit of our Subscribers!” (

    Thanks to all for your comments and input. Contrary to popular opinion, we at ARMLS do listen. And occasionally we act, both quickly and (I hope you will agree in this case) correctly.

    Thanks for the guidance.
    Bob Bemis, CEO

  • BawldGuy Talking 10 years ago

    Bob — Fox News just broke into their regular programming. Seems it’s snowing in hell. 🙂

    I’m assuming you guys successfully tabled the debate over what day it was. All kidding aside, my hat’s off to you and your cohorts. It strikes me as appropriate that my dad passed away just weeks before an MLS actually did what they were created to do. If he’d still been with us, the news might have done him in.

    How the heck did they manage to put you in charge, Bob? Watch yer back, ‘cuz gettin’ things done ain’t the way it’s supposed to be.

    Though a relatively small issue, this is a stellar example of real leadership in action.

  • Jim Little 10 years ago

    Good job Jonathan, now let me think about a few more things I would like changed. You are the man!

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    I wish I had that kind of power, Jim, but I’ll be happy to take the undeserved credit. 🙂

    Bob and Jeff – I figured the news was worth a new post, both that ARMLS made the change so fast and that Jeff for once was wrong!

  • BawldGuy Talking 10 years ago

    I was dead wrong. Leadership like that in RE Boards and MLS’s are rare as hen’s teeth.

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    We’re damn fortunate to have Bob here, Jeff. It’s amazing how much one organization can change in such a short period of time.