NorthstarMLS and an aerial view of a suburban neighborhood
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News; Shutterstock

A closer look at NorthstarMLS’s path through a tricky year 

Minnesota’s largest multiple listing service embraces its “broker-centric, tech-forward focus” as it works through rules changes and pursues collaboration.

May 20, 2024
3 minutes

This year will be remembered by the industry as a time of tremendous — and sometimes painful — changes related to lawsuits over commissions. But for NorthstarMLS, 2024 also reflects its commitment to innovation.

A recently released report by T3 Sixty lays out Northstar's "broker-centric, technology-forward focus" and commitment to "empower its users with accurate, reliable information about the market and real estate industry rules." (Note: T3 Sixty and Real Estate News share a founder, Stefan Swanepoel.)

And in doing so it touches on three key areas — MLS policy, benefits of achieving scale and Northstar's path to growth — which are excerpted here:

MLS policy: As a Realtor association-owned MLS, NorthstarMLS follows MLS policy developed and set by the National Association of Realtors as outlined in the NAR Handbook on MLS Policy. A brief description of MLS policy and how it is made provides insight into some of the rules NorthstarMLS has, the way it functions and the policies it must enforce.

The handbook outlines rules for how MLSs operate, rules for how brokers share listings (i.e., the Clear Cooperation Policy), how listings are displayed online, how listings are displayed and distributed to members, and more.

The handbook includes four categories of policy for MLSs, as established by its Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee and voted on by its board of directors:

  • Mandatory

  • Recommended

  • Optional

  • Informational

NorthstarMLS also must follow NAR policy or risk its shareholder associations losing their charter and NAR-provided liability insurance. NorthstarMLS enforces the handbook-specified mandates via its proprietary software ensuring NAR policy and local MLS rule compliance. The software monitors listing changes and identifies issues with accuracy, completeness and timeliness.

MLSs and scale: As the industry evolves, many MLSs are looking for ways to retain and achieve scale so they can provide better services and technology to members while also realizing the benefits of economies of scale and national networks. This includes the traditional method of consolidation and the relatively new practice of collaborations that span geographies across the country.

Some MLSs like NorthstarMLS have strategically grown to essentially serve as a statewide MLS. Through consolidation and collaboration efforts, approximately 95 percent of all Minnesota MLS users are NorthstarMLS subscribers (according to T3 Data).

This is among the highest levels of coverage in states where there is more than one MLS serving the state

Northstar's growth: It has used a variety of strategies to become the largest MLS in Minnesota, including by pioneering an MLS data-sharing initiative. NorthstarMLS built that program in 2018 to help facilitate its growth by providing other MLSs with an option to share data that does not involve consolidation. It has been a successful initiative.

In 2024, the NorthstarMLS board voted to take the idea of scale and growth that that data-sharing program provides to the next level by becoming a shareholder of REcore (, an MLS technology and services initiative spearheaded by the US's largest MLS, California Regional MLS (and its venture arm Venture MLS). …

The MLSs that NorthstarMLS shares data with will now be served by REcore's listing data warehouse, but nothing changes with the system. Not only is this a more cost-effective solution for NorthstarMLS and the other data-share members, it provides NorthstarMLS with the potential to earn REcore shareholder dividends as it grows.

This move provides NorthstarMLS and its subscribers access to the benefits of scale and participation in a key trend within the MLS space: more sophisticated collaborations among MLSs related to technology and services.

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