What is the function of the MLS?

October 11, 2017

In the beginning…

The role of the MLS (Mulitple Listing Service) – originally was to collect information from participating members about homes they had listed for sale into a common database, share that information with participating members of the MLS, and ensure an enforceable structure of cooperative compensation between its members.  That is it.  Period.  Full disclosure – I am a board member of my local MLS.

 

The Stone Age

Back before the age of the internet, this database of homes was printed monthly and distributed to participating members of the MLS in the form of a paper book.  This book – closely held by any real estate agent, had one picture and a little descriptive text.  Not an agent?  Then no book.  Along came the internet, and the book was quickly replaced by online databases.  These databases are proprietary and owned by the MLS organizations and their participating members.  Over time, these databases have become rich with data.  Listings, sales, length of time on the market, closing details, financing, etc.  With today's technology, the information mined from these databases is limited only by the imagination.

 

The Internet Grows Up

As bandwidth on the internet went from squawking dial up modems to ubiquitous and superfast DSL, imagery and video became common.  Then…  the “Great Recession” happened.  Desperate sellers wanted maximum exposure and their homes displayed on as many websites as the real estate agent could find.  Enter syndication.  As late as 2012, syndication was a foriegn word in real estate.  It is now as common in the lexicon as listing, under contract, or Realtor.  Syndication is the process by which a real estate agent/broker sends their listing information to thousands of real estate related websites.

 

Who Knew? Realtors are NOT Techno-savvy!

 The NAR estimates the average age of Realtors is about 52 years old.  Most practicing Realtors’ formative years occurred before the internet revolution.  Somewhere between college and raising kids the internet went from “do you have a website?” to smartphones and web strategies.  As technology evolved, Realtors had their focus on relationships and sales, while technology passed them by.  In a technological real estate world, the garden variety Realtor was not equipped to make detailed decisions about technology, database management, interfaces, etc.

 

The MLS’s Role

 

demanding their homes on such sites, the MLS found itself in an odd position.  Most of their participants didn’t understand the internet, data interfaces, bandwidth, syndication, and the NAR’s IDX policies – so they stood on the sidelines as the MLS’s attempted to respond to demands from all directions.  Somewhere between 2008 and 2012, the MLS’s morphed into data managers and interface managers – functions that were added to their original charge of cooperation and compensation.At one time, the multiple listing service simply aggregated data into a monthly printed book and created a platform of cooperation for brokers to work with one another and share commissions.  They now manage databases, interfaces, offer other services like contract packages, transaction management, showing software, valuation software, and syndicate listings to a multitude of websites.  A far cry from their original intent and purpose. 

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