Why Trulia and Zillow Cannot Be the MLS

Real Estate Agent with Platinum Realty SP00229578 2007027091

How Does the MLS Work? MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service. There are hundreds of them across the country (and in many other countries as well). Every seller knows that they need to get their house listed on this to sell it; every home-buyer knows that if they can see what's on MLS, they will find their dream home.

Heartland MLS, the MLS of the Greater Metropolitan Kansas City Area, started in 1993 after a couple of local brokers saw an MLS back east at a conference. Prior to the formation and implementation of this system, buyers had to go to multiple brokers to find out which homes were for sale and any details about the homes had to be obtained from the listing agent. Does anyone remember life before cell phones and computers?

In order to create our current MLS, every broker in and around Kansas City had to agree to cooperate and participate in the enterprise. Getting everyone to agree to work on this together was huge! But they did and it made life better for home sellers and home buyers in Kansas City. It was not easy and it was not cheap. Keeping the MLS running now takes a team of computer experts and support personnel along with every active real estate agent, broker and realtor in KC. 


The physical location of Heartland MLS is out State Line Rd, by the Blue Hills Country Club. The Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors also has their offices here. One of Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Kansas City's offices is in the building. 

When an agent accepts a listing, they enter it into the MLS. We can either fill out a form and have the designated assistant at our office input the information or, what many of us do, enter the information ourselves from any computer with internet access.

Modern computers have made the process so much easier than the old "books" which were published and distributed monthly. We can enter listings 24/7. We can change the status from "Active" to "Pending" or "Back Up" or "Sold" at any time of day or night.

Here's the catch: everyone has to do it. That's why it works. It is my privilege and my responsibility to enter any and all new listings into the system within 3 business days from the time the Listing Agreement is signed. If I fail to comply with any of the Rules & Regulations, I can be fined or my privileges may be suspended or revoked.

Why does it work? To successfully conduct real estate transactions, every agent must pay their dues and follow the rules. That is the only way to keep the information up to date. We have to keep up with the inventory in order to work. The information has to be accurate in order to be useful. So everybody participates because we all need the information.

Last week, Trulia sent me an email telling me that if I want to post my listings on their site in the future, I will need to pay them. Today, Zillow left me a voice mail informing me of "an exciting opportunity." "Exciting opportunity" means they want money for something; I don't yet know what that something is but I can guess. I've read the articles, blogs and rants from people who want to make the MLS publicly available to all and join all of the MLS's together into one giant MLS covering the nation. While that sounds good in theory, who do they think is going to pay for, and maintain, this giant public MLS?

Agents, brokers and realtors have a vested interest in maintaining our local MLS's. If you don't pay, you don't work, you don't get paid, you don't eat. If you don't enter the required information within the timelines, you lose your access, you don't work. John Q. Public has no reason to support the service except when they are buying or selling a house.

Trulia and Zillow are interesting sites; I visit them both regularly and even participate in some discussions. There are several other "national MLS" sites (aka aggregator site) on our world wide web; guess where they get their information? From all of the local MLS's maintained by real estate agents, brokers, and realtors. Without the local agents entering and updating the information, these other sites would not have current information to offer - and their info is not exactly current. Drawing from that many feeds takes time so there are lags and inexplicable inaccuracies.

Keep in mind that each state has their own real estate laws. Each MLS has their own rules and regulations. So, while the idea of a giant, public MLS may be romantically appealing, it is thoroughly impractical at the present time. It is cool to look online at homes for sale in Maui and Oregon but if I wanted to actually buy a house there, I would pick up the phone and call a realtor in that location.

The MLS is a tool; one of the tools that real estate agents use to conduct their business. The agents are responsible for keeping their tools in proper working order. Agents and brokers allow limited access to their MLS, through their licenses, to clients so that they can search for homes. This is a shopping convenience for clients. If all of the states had the same real estate laws and all of the MLS's could come to an agreement regarding rules and regulations, then maybe the computer whizzes could write a program that would cover the entire Untied States but someone would still have to pay for it and maintain it. Since real estate is local, I just don't see the giant MLS happening anytime soon, do you?

Posted by

Maria Morton,Realtor© Call 816.560.375Eight Mobile.     Google Maria 

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*Information obtained from Heartland MLS is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. *This is an eclectic blog combining business with a little humor; please consult a licensed  professional before making life altering decisions. ♪♫  

Maria Morton of Chartwell Kansas City Realty is a licensed Real Estate Agent in KS & MO.  816-877-8200 Office 

4141 Pennsylvania Ave Ste 105 Kansas City, MO 64111   Maria Morton Copyright © 2008-2018 

Comments (98)

Scott Pierce
Listings-to-Leads - San Francisco, CA
Founder & Chief Evangelist at Listings-to-Leads

Hi Maria, saw your thoughts on Zillow and Trulia and totally agree.  We help agents and offices market and when they tell me they are syndicating listings i sometime ask them why, so that competitors can scoop the MLS and present them?  

We have developed a way to divert traffic from Zillow and Trulia, with our Virtual Tours.  The key is we have links that drive from the VT to your site, with titles like "Kansas City Homes for Sale".  You can embed the VT for free on both sites, you don't need an upgraded subscription with them.  The stats are blowing up.


Good luck with your marketing efforts!

We can help


Sep 02, 2011 10:41 AM
Edward & Celia Maddox
The Celtic Connection Realty - Queen Creek, AZ

You are right on.  Zillow ends up giving us and clients very misleading information.

May 14, 2013 12:55 AM
Brad MacKenzie
Brad MacKenzie - Duxbury, MA
Turning Houses into Homes on the South Shore

I don't know what Zillow, Trulia, or some other company may be able to do with the technology as this decade evolves, but I don't really see them "being" "The" MLS in each market. Perhaps they will buy MLS's, but to re-invent the wheel on listings and make it worthwhile for every brokerage to enlist? 

May 14, 2013 01:07 AM
Harry F. D'Elia III
RentVest - Phoenix, AZ
Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR

There are great quick fixes for the public when they need to look up proerties. However, always hire Realtor to be accurate.

May 30, 2013 07:22 AM
Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

"'Exciting opportunity' means they want money for something..."  

           Isn't that the Truth!

May 30, 2013 01:17 PM
BethAnn Long
RE/MAX Inland Empire - Spokane, WA
Realtor, CRS, e-PRO, Spokane Wa Real Estate

I have seen a considerable amount of mis-information (old listings, wrong information) on these sites. The public really needs to rely on REALTOR'S for REAL TIME UP TO DATE INFORMATION!!! Thanks for the great post!

May 30, 2013 01:27 PM
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services Inc - Gulf Breeze, FL
Buyers Agent 800-309-3414 Pace and Gulf Breeze,Fl.

That is partly why Realtor.com has not become the MLS as well. Maybe one day it will work out

May 30, 2013 02:54 PM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Good post and discussion worthy here...Everyone wants in on the "money" aspect of it all....I am for back to basics and consistent service.

May 31, 2013 12:01 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

A wonderfully thought out post, Maria. And we as agents need to keep educating our clients as to why they are better off depending on us and our MLS to provide them with information instead of the big search engines.

Jun 01, 2013 01:02 AM
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

I wondered why all the comments on such an old post?  Was the post updated or just reposted?

Jun 01, 2013 02:09 AM
Tammie White, Broker
Franklin Homes Realty LLC - Franklin, TN
Franklin TN Homes for Sale

I sure hope not because it will be one huge mess. Maybe if Zillow and Trulia starting charging agents to post listings, it will be their demise. Isn't that how Realtor.com started? If I remember correctly, not every agent put their listings there.

Jun 01, 2013 05:10 AM
Renée Donohue~Home Photography
Savvy Home Pix - Allegan, MI
Western Michigan Real Estate Photographer

Oh they need the goodies for free!  Maybe agents are not buying the leads anymore from our listings :-/

Jun 01, 2013 05:32 AM
Cheryl Ritchie
RE/MAX Leading Edge www.GoldenResults.com - Huntingtown, MD
Southern Maryland 301-980-7566
I have given this a lot of thought lately. It still gets back to we pay to get leads from our own listings on the sites.
Jun 02, 2013 10:23 AM
Chris Lengquist
Ad Astra Realty - Olathe, KS
Kansas City Real Estate Investing

I agree with just about everything you said but the public wants information...even if it's not completely accurate.  That is where we can step in.  Our NAR is no better than Zillow or Trulia in that WE PAY THEM to set up Realtor.com and then they charge us to "move up the ladder" there, too. 

Not sure where technology will take us in the future.  But I'm more convinced that the Trulias and Zillows will lead the way.  Not our NAR.  They/we tend to want status quo.

Jul 18, 2013 09:16 AM
Maria Morton
Platinum Realty - Kansas City, MO
Kansas City Real Estate 816-560-3758

Jason, since each MLS is governed by different laws, procedures & regulations, it would be most difficutl to create a massive MLS for the entire United States. I believe we probably have the technology for the amount of information but I don't see each state, county, and city across the nation agreeing on the same laws, procedures, and regulations. 

Jul 18, 2013 11:16 AM
Maria Morton
Platinum Realty - Kansas City, MO
Kansas City Real Estate 816-560-3758

Maureen, not sure about that. I've had some trouble with updating posts over the last couple of months. Sometimes when I go back and update, Active Rain goes goofy and the post disappears for a few hours or days. Then it reappears unexpectedly sometime in the future. 

Jul 18, 2013 11:20 AM
Maria Morton
Platinum Realty - Kansas City, MO
Kansas City Real Estate 816-560-3758

Chris, yes, the public does want information and Zillow's format is pretty cool. The way you can look at houses on the map is great! I've asked if our MLS could do something like that but they think the way the MLS map search is now is okay. Our MLS just updated our website and it is quite robust. Of course, it's for professionals so the public probably doesn't appreciate it until they're in my office or I'm in their home showing them something on my iPad. 

Jul 18, 2013 11:25 AM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

The state,local MLS needs to pull the reins from the Gate Keepers who want you to feed them for free, and then repackage and charge you for the bells and whisles to be positioned ahead of the pack. The state, local MLS should be making any money from the exploitation. But just enough so the members keep some of the profit to make it all worthwhile. The Internet when you google, bing, yahoo or whatever an area, state shines brightly for local information to feed on. You can not beat the local agent that in additon to the properties in his/her area adds the blog posts, videos, imagery and community flavor of what surrounds the property listings. Saves buyers time and gas.

Feb 06, 2014 06:58 AM
Cheryl Flynn
Keller Williams Realty Boston Northwest - Concord, MA
Experience, Exposure, Results

Well, guess what.  I knew this was coming.  The Massachusetts MLS,  MLSPIN, now has a platform offering the public to log in and search.   Wow, I wondered how long it would take for the MLS's to figure this out.  Another disruptor. Now what Zillow?    Never a dull moment. 

Oct 21, 2014 07:46 AM
Roland Estrada
Laguna Niguel, CA

Let’s take our listings and leads back!! Join the Broker Public Portal movement.

Help spread the word. Make it Viral.  




May 01, 2015 09:47 AM