Consolidation means fewer MLSs and associations in 2023
T3 Sixty's annual report on Organized Real Estate found a 7.6% drop in the number of MLSs and a 3.8% drop among Realtor associations since 2020.
- The largest MLSs have absorbed small organizations, a continuing trend over the past several years.
- Just 20 MLSs now account for more than half of all subscribers nationwide.
- Florida, California and Texas have the largest state Realtor associations.
Consolidation continues to be a trend among MLSs and associations, although it's happening at a slower pace than some might expect.
In its annual report on Organized Real Estate, which includes MLSs and local and state Realtor associations, leading management consultancy T3 Sixty found that over the past four years, there's been a steady decline in the number of organizations, and a corresponding rise in the average number of members per MLS or association.
Since 2020, the numbers of MLSs and local Realtor associations have dropped 7.6% and 3.8%, respectively. Among MLS organizations, some of the biggest organizations have absorbed the smallest, while midsize organizations have remained fairly stable, according to Clint Skutchan, T3 Sixty's senior vice president of organized real estate.
"The smaller entities are recognizing that there truly is a significant difference in scale by joining up with the really large entity versus partnering with some of a similar size," Skutchan said in an interview.
T3 Sixty counted 522 MLS organizations in 2023, which is 14 fewer than in 2022 and down 43 since 2020. Seven years ago, there were more than 800 MLSs across the U.S., according to T3 Sixty's Real Estate Almanac. Today, the 20 largest MLSs in the U.S. serve more than half of all MLS subscribers nationwide.
Skutchan said a variety of factors are leading to the slowdown in the pace of consolidation, including the decision-making structure of existing organizations.
"The real compounding factors… [are] in areas where common-size entities are starting to bump into each other. We don't see as much consolidation occur with like-size entities. That was more what we saw occurring in the late 1990s and early 2000s," Skutchan said, adding that because the midsize organizations are more established, they have less reason to partner up.
Number of local associations declines
The report also found the number of local Realtor associations dropped by about 1% for the second consecutive year. This year there are 1,047 local associations, according to the report, with the Miami Association of Realtors having the largest membership. However, the average number of members in the remaining associations has grown 18.3% since 2020.
Among state Realtor associations, Florida has the largest number of members, with more than 223,000, followed by California (more than 215,00 members) and Texas (more than 153,000).
While five states — Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Maine and Wyoming — saw their membership increase by nearly 6% in 2022, seven states saw a decline in total membership, according to the report. The states recording a decline in membership were Virginia, Nevada, Vermont, New York, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington state.
The declines in membership are not unexpected, given the slowdown in the real estate market. Skutchan noted there was a rise in membership in the first half of 2022, when the market was still quite hot before declining in the fall and winter. The downward trend should become more apparent in 2023.
"There is a normalization that is occurring… there are just too many folks for the number of transactions happening," Skutchan said, adding that bigger drops in membership are likely to occur in the markets most impacted by continuing economic shifts.
Note: Stefan Swanepoel is the founder of both Real Estate News and T3 Sixty, but Real Estate News has no involvement in or influence over T3 Sixty reports.