Sam DeBord, CEO of Real Estate Standards Organization; Industry Decoded
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

The North American MLS as a model for the world 

In the second of a three-part series, RESO CEO Sam DeBord offers a look at the MLS outside the U.S. and Canada.

April 7, 2024
3 minutes

Being able to succinctly communicate the benefits of the MLS in a modern environment is critical for brokers and MLS leaders to ensure that transparent, liquid marketplaces continue to serve their communities. 

In this three-part series, RESO CEO Sam DeBord outlines the functions and value of the MLS, as well as its global reach and future outlook. In part two, he offers a look at the MLS outside the U.S. and Canada.

Most real estate professionals are familiar with how the MLS operates in the U.S., at least at a basic level. But some may not realize that MLSs exist all over the world — though they look quite a bit different.

In the U.S. and Canada, there are more than 500 MLS organizations. While they have some differing elements in their business models, they generally operate on the same core principles. Outside of North America, though, these core concepts of the MLS are literally foreign to most marketplaces.

The global MLS: Limited, unstandardized data

It's assumed in the U.S. that the word "listing" in "MLS" signifies an exclusive listing agreement. But in many countries, exclusive agency and exclusive listings are rare or nonexistent. In these markets, what is called an MLS usually looks more like a web portal. 

These entities are often just websites full of advertisements — their accuracy and timeliness is largely unregulated — and they include only a fraction of the available properties for sale. Global real estate practitioners who've worked in these environments consistently express their desire for the stability that a true MLS brings.

The 2023 International MLS Forum was evidence of this desire. The event attracted representatives from 33 countries and five continents. The content's primary focus was on technology improvements through data standards and MLS systems. RESO and the Council of Multiple Listing Services led the discussions on creating liquid, trusted markets through rules and transparency. 

The overwhelming consensus of the forum was that these countries' practitioners want the core elements of the MLS to bring consistency and certainty to their markets. Brokers and trade organization leaders stressed the benefits that ring true, no matter the country of origin:

  • Transactions are faster and more efficient.

  • Data is more accurate, timely and reliable.

  • Outputs become more informative and lead to better decision-making.

  • Professionals and consumers experience a market that promotes transparency and fairness and offers a broad array of services.

The value of an MLS to national and cross-border transactions was echoed by not only international real estate industry stakeholders but also banking, legal, investment and government representatives. Despite disputes on specific elements of the MLS in North America, the general model is viewed by the world as a monumental benefit to markets.

Want to learn more? Read part 3 of this series.

Portions of this story were excerpted from Realtor Magazine, where it was originally published on March 12, 2024. 

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