MLS designation boots some homes out of ‘Como’

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Nearly 2,000 residences formerly identified as being in “Como” have been given a different designation by a homes-for-sale listing, a decision that has many homeowners steamed.

“Illogical,” is one of the assessments of the change by the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). “Remarkably silly,” “outrageous” and “idiotic” also are in the mix.

The Regional Multiple Listing Service of Minnesota Inc. is owned by the realtor associations of St. Paul and Minneapolis and provides real estate professionals across Minnesota and western Wisconsin with information about property for sale. Recently, it announced the elimination of its former district system for home listings in the Twin Cities metropolitan area in favor of a new one based on neighborhoods.

In St. Paul, for example, gone are the  “District 744–Como” and “District 742– Central” designations. Replacing them are “Como,” the boundaries of which generally conform to those of the District 10 Como Community Council, and “North End/South Como,” analogous to the configuration of the District 6 Planning Council.

The controversy arises from the fact that two areas formerly included in District 744 are now grouped within North End/South Como.

This particularly rankles the neighborhood just east of Lexington Parkway and south of Lake Como where residents are mere footsteps from the park and lake.

Many were alerted to the change by fliers distributed by agents with Keller Williams Realty, including Shawn Korby, a resident of the affected area south of the lake. He argues that the new system is as arbitrary as the old one and will render some available homes “invisible” to agents not familiar with the area.

“For instance, the homes on West Como Boulevard, with direct views of Como Lake and the park, currently will not show up for agents searching strictly for ‘Como,’ ” Korby said. “To find them, they would have to search North End/Como, which includes homes as far east as Rice Street and beyond.”

Several dozen homeowners responded to Korby’s alert, some voicing a concern that their property values would be hurt by the new designation. 

“We bought our house because of its proximity to the park, less than half a block away,” said Debbie Prokopf, “and our appraisal noted that the proximity to the park greatly enhanced its value. This change only hurts us and benefits no one else.”

Laurie Hertzel, who lives across the street from the park’s Chatsworth Woods, feels a strong connection with the area. “We have no plans to sell our house anytime soon and maybe this won’t affect our property value,” she said. “But this is a matter of community cohesiveness and neighborliness too. We live on the park; we walk through the park daily. This is our neighborhood and I don’t appreciate a bunch of realtors deciding it’s not.”

Others simply found the change nonsensical.

“This does not appear to have any rational purpose,” said Paul Jardine, “not to mention how idiotic it is that I am three doors from Como Park and not considered in that district, whereas someone living on the corner of Snelling and Hoyt is.”

Of realtor Korby’s concern, John Mosey, president of RMLS Minnesota, said that it was possible that a Como-only search could miss homes in the area. But, he contended, an agent relying solely on that approach would be ignoring the multitude of other options available, including a map-based search.

Mosey said the listing changes here are part of a national effort to improve the usefulness and accuracy of a system in which historically up to 40 percent of properties have been mislabeled, in some cases for perceived marketing advantages.

“In the Twin Cities, the district system went back decades and basically was created by the newspapers as a means for grouping classified real estate ads,” he said. “As a technology- and data-based company, we needed to provide our real estate professional members with an easier and more relevant way to search for available homes.”

The MLS listing is not meant to be a marketing vehicle, nor is any competent appraiser going to let an MLS designation affect the value he or she places on a property, Mosey said.

“In deciding to go with the designations that municipalities and counties are using, we had no idea it would be so problematic in St. Paul,” he added. “If there’s a valid reason for an adjustment in the new system, we can do that, but these are the neighborhoods that the City of St. Paul itself has defined.”

One option for disgruntled South Como residents would be to seek a change in the district council boundaries so that their neighborhood becomes part of District 10, rather than District 6. That will not be a simple matter, because such a transfer would affect funding formulas and have other implications and require deliberations by both district councils and possibly discussions with the other 15 councils across the city.

However it plays out, the controversy about the MLS listings certainly seems to demonstrate that the old real estate adage about the importance of “location, location, location” is still right on the money.

Roger Bergerson is a former newspaper reporter and longtime Como Park resident.