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New tech, more collaboration are the future of MLSs 

Greater cooperation between MLSs — regionally and across the country — will benefit both the organizations and their members, according to industry experts.

October 17, 2022
3 minutes

Key points:

  • Consolidation was key in recent years, but a focus on working together will pay lasting dividends.
  • Reducing friction between MLSs can improve technological innovations.
  • MLS organizations should have multi-year plans in place.

When it comes to the future of Multiple Listing Services, new technology is important, but increased cooperation between MLSs across the country is key.

That's one assessment that came from the 2023 MLS Trend Preview, hosted by T3 Sixty SVP of Organized Real Estate Clint Skutchan and featuring a panel of three industry experts: Sam DeBord, CEO of RESO; Jon Coile, 2022 committee chair of NAR's MLS Technology and Emerging Issues Advisory Board and VP of MLS & Industry Relations at HomeServices of America; and Matthew Consalvo, 2022 chair of CMLS and CEO of Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS).

The three panelists discussed a variety of topics, but getting MLSs to work together more effectively — particularly when it comes to technology to better serve agents — was an overarching theme.

Sharing accurate information about listings is the goal of MLS organizations, but having so many different organizations across the country presents a variety of challenges. Those challenges include the absence of a standardized data structure across MLSs, no centralized contract or purchase agreements, and a mix of different technologies, some old and some new.

"We need to find ways to reduce the friction," said DeBord, adding that more work needs to be done to help industry technology leaders avoid getting caught up in MLS rivalries that can slow down initiatives.

The need for change comes at an important time for the MLS industry. In recent years it went through a consolidation period, reducing the number of organizations from more than 800 in 2016 to 529 at the start of September 2022, according to Skutchan and the T3 Sixty 2022 Real Estate Almanac.

Skutchan said consolidation is ongoing at a pretty consistent pace, with 10-25 fewer MLSs each year. This consolidation has led to more collaboration between the ones that remain.

"A lot of like-minded people are coming together, and it's not about geography," said Coile, who also serves on the executive committee for BrightMLS, the country's second-largest MLS.

Sharing information has become increasingly crucial for agents as more buyers relocate to other areas, often in different MLS regions. 

"Real estate is very local, but data wants to co-mingle at a higher level," said Matthew Consalvo, CEO of Arizona Regional MLS.

To improve cooperation, which leads to more information sharing and technology improvements, Consalvo said MLS organizations should consider having a multi-year plan in place. Keeping great leaders in key organizational positions for more than one year at a time would help make this happen, he said.

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