Several sets of hands place gears together.

MLS collaboration can create a more 'seamless marketplace' 

Joint ventures and continuing consolidation may help MLSs better serve both subscribers and consumers.

June 13, 2023
3 minutes

Key points:

  • As more territories overlap, it can make sense for MLSs to work together.
  • Collaborative ventures among some of the largest MLSs offer a proof of concept.
  • Thinking beyond geographic boundaries can help agents attract a broader buyer pool.

Some multiple listing services are forming new collaborative ventures to improve their data collection and customer experience as the real estate industry continues to suffer from several economic headwinds.

If successful, these collaborative ventures could help agents and brokers better serve consumers as they navigate the turbulent waters created by high interest rates and elevated home prices. Some say it could also help smooth out any rough patches caused by overlapping MLS territories as customer pools expand, and result in more real-time data for real estate professionals — but it's not always easy.

"What we're seeing across the country is more MLS marketplaces getting bigger and starting to bump into other MLSs on their edges," T3 Sixty's SVP of Organized Real Estate Clint Skutchan told Real Estate News.

"So what that's done is caused a lot of entities to consider consolidating," Skutchan added, with the caveat that the "process is just too difficult in some instances." (Note: T3 Sixty and Real Estate News share a founder, Stefan Swanepoel.)

Still, the pace of consolidation is noteworthy. As of January 2023, there were 522 MLS organizations across the country, and the 20 largest MLSs serve more than half of all MLS subscribers nationwide. Seven years ago, there were more than 800 MLSs, according to the Real Estate Almanac

Joint ventures can help create a 'seamless marketplace'

The shift toward collaborative ventures has been a long time coming, Skutchan noted. For example, Bright MLS collaborated with the California Regional MLS to launch the customer-facing platform Nestfully in March 2023.

Bright MLS CEO Brian Donnellan said in a news release that a beta version of the platform tested in Bright's coverage area in 2021 generated more than 30,000 customer connections and about $9.4 billion in sales volume. Some of the nation's largest MLS providers, including REcolorado, BeachesMLS in Florida and the Miami Association of Realtors, are participating in the venture.

BeachesMLS CEO Dionna Hall told Real Estate News that her MLS service has managed a data-sharing partnership with the local Miami Association of Realtors for the past 18 years. Beaches has also set up a system where member agents can share lockbox codes with one another to simplify the touring process.

Hall said these ventures are about creating a "seamless marketplace" for homebuyers, agents and brokers alike. Doing so can help MLSs improve their market data and also help agents attract more buyers to their listings, Hall added.

"The industry has come a long way, and I think there's some really powerful services and products that we'll be continuing to offer into the future," Hall continued.

Collaboration reflects a more global audience

The increasing number of collaborative ventures suggests that MLS services are no longer constrained by geographic boundaries, Hall said. Which also means that agents and brokers need to learn how to attract a global audience, not just a local one.

To that end, BeachesMLS recently partnered with global real estate technology firm Immobel to gain early access to Xomio, a web platform for agents and brokers that can translate listings into 19 different languages.

"We are a global marketplace here in southeast Florida, and we have a very active global alliance for our members who are trying to network with other global-facing Realtors," Hall told Real Estate News. She added that the two largest pools of foreign buyers looking for real estate in her area are coming from Brazil and the United Kingdom.

"We want to be accommodating to whatever makes our buyers feel comfortable and understand as much as they can about each listing," Hall added.

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