Today, with the aid of the Internet, consumers can find timely and accurate information about homes available for sale, at the push of a button, at the speed of light…without the inconvenience of a conversation with a real estate agent. Millions of available properties are displayed on many different real estate sites, the largest being Zillow, Trulia, and REALTOR.com
In the United States, we have a real estate marketplace that is the envy of the Free World. It is not perfect, but billions of dollars of residential real estate business is transacted year after year). A KEY ingredient to the success of our real estate marketplace in North America is MLS, or Multiple Listing Service. What exactly is “MLS”?
MLS is the coming together of Brokers (competitors) to share their listing inventory. A listing is the contract with a seller, allowing the broker to offer the property for sale, and it includes an offer of commission. MLS provides access to its inventory to brokers who represent buyers as well as sellers. An MLS in not a publicly accessible data base, unless it elects to be such.
National Association of REALTORS MLS Model Rules states:
“A Multiple Listing Service is a means by which authorized Participants make blanket unilateral offers of compensation to other Participants (acting as subagents, buyer agents, or in other agency or nonagency capacities defined by law); by which information is accumulated and disseminated to enable authorized Participants (Real Estate Broker Licensees) to prepare appraisals and other valuations of real property; by which Participants engaging in real estate appraisal contribute to common databases; and is a facility for the orderly correlation and dissemination of listing information among the Participants so that they may better serve their clients and the public. Entitlement to compensation is determined by the cooperating broker’s performance as procuring cause of the sale (or lease).” (Amended 11/96) NAR MLS Model Rules.”
The National Association of REALTORS MLS Handbook states:
“Through the facility of multiple listing, information concerning individual listings can be made known to all Realtors® who participate in the activity. In associations of Realtors® with few members, the actual operation can be very simple. Each Realtor® can duplicate enough copies of the information concerning his listing to distribute to all other participants. However, when many Realtors® are involved, the distribution of information becomes more burdensome and may require reasonable rules of procedure and efficient central office management to expedite the service. Regardless of the method, however, the basis of the multiple listing activity is the creation of a facility whereby Realtors® may most effectively invite other brokers to enter into cooperative agreements with them for the sale of their listings and provide information necessary to permit such cooperation; by which information is accumulated and disseminated to enable authorized participants to prepare appraisals and other valuations of real property; and by which participants engaging in real estate appraisal contribute to common databases. (Amended 4/92) “
MLS was created decades, maybe a century before the Internet. It was not created for the purpose of distributing MLS data for advertising, or for the creation of revenue streams with third party vendors.
Since the introduction of the Internet as a means of providing MLS information to consumers in the early 1990s, some MLSs across the country have gone beyond the original stated purpose of MLS, to the benefit and pleasure of some, as well as to the dismay and disapproval of others. In addition, the movement toward larger MLSs and regionalization has been fueled by promises of economies of scale and other potential benefits to MLS users, which may or may not materialize and there really is a question as to the power of the data, who should control it, and how, for the benefit of whom.
New Consumer portals featuring inventory received by the MLS are being met with great consumer success, making many MLSs ponder the idea of making some of their database of inventory, directly accessible to the public?