Modernizing the MLS for the 21st century

Real Estate Agent with Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc. BK627826

The multiple listing service a/k/a MLS used by the local Realtor (r) associations has been a fabulous marketing tool for decades now.  My local MLS is the Mid-Florida Regional MLS which covers some 9 counties in Central and West Florida and parts of 2 other counties. These counties are home to some 16 different boards of Realtors (r) each of which is an owner or a member of the MFRMLS.  Are you confused yet???


When I first became a Realtor (r) in the early 1990's, each of these 16 Realtor (r) associations had their own separate MLS which they did not share with their neighbors.  That was more workable in the pre-internet era.  Over the last 15 years or so, these MLS's have been slowly consolidating.  After all with the internet, the consumer does not realize that a property in south Orlando is under a different board of Realtors (r) than a property 2 miles away in northern Kissimmee.  Why would they? Those boundary lines are pretty much blended together anymore.

But on the same note, counties like Volusia County have 3 boards of Realtors (r) and 3 distinct non-sharing MLS's.  If a Realtor (r) wants to do a true MLS search or list a property, anywhere in the county that Realtor (r) has to pay to join 3 different MLS's.  That's crazy!  The New Smyrna Beach Board of Realtors (r) covers just 3 little cities in the southeastern portion of the county and yet they charge $430 per year to be a member of their MLS. (I paid $302 in 2008 for Mid-Florida MLS access which is light years ahead of the New Smyrna Innovia system and covers 9+ counties.)  And nearly every Realtor (r) in New Smyrna is also a member of the Daytona Beach Association and is thus paying dues there because there is such a huge overlap between the territories.  In fact to properly service that area, you really need to be a member of Flagler and Mid-Florida MLS too (which means paying 4 sets of dues).  That's just plain insane and antiquated. 

On top of being that, each MLS has its own rules, its own data forms, and its own search fields which don't necessarily match those in a neighboring county's MLS.  Can you say D-U-M-B ?!?!  That is kind of like being forced to go through the checkout line at the grocery store a different time for every different aisle that you shopped on in the store.

The solution is consolidation onto a similar platform for a statewide MLS.  That is good for both the consumer as well as the Realtor (r).  Especially in this modern era of the internet.  Our Mid-Florida MLS has been doing a great job at a tremendous cost savings to Realtors (r).

In Connecticut they have combined their entire state (not that Connecticut is big or anything) into one statewide MLS and have declared a so called "MLS Bill of Rights" for their members.  I thought these rights were pretty interesting.  Below are a few of these:

  • The right to do business throughout the state where they are licensed to practice real estate;
  • The right for brokers to own their own listing data;
  • The right to timely, accurate MLS data;
  • The right to expect that the MLS will act in their best interests;
  • The right to representation on the governing body of the MLS, and for broker representatives from large, medium and small-sized firms to "share equally in governance";
  • The right to advertise and distribute online listings content within the rules and regulations;
  • The right to an Internet Data Exchange (IDX), Virtual Office Web site (VOW) and/or broker download feed and/or access.

In my opinion some of these little MLS's that cover just a small area are not looking out for the best interest of the consumer (or for their members) and could possibly be considered in violation of Article 1 of the Realtor (r) Code of Ethics by not promoting the best interests of the consumer.  I've actually sat in on an MLS training at one of the smaller Realtor (r) associations and heard the trainer flat out admit that they don't want Realtors (r) from outside their area "to come in and sell off all their listings."  (Of course that was a few years ago, and they might have changed their tune by now.)  Amazing!  Sounds almost like a federal anti-trust violation to me.

Well enough of me ranting.  Hopefully some day in the near future I won't need to be members of 6 different MLS's to list all of our properties. But until then, I guess I will just have to bite the bullet. 


(Copyright © 2009. Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc. All rights reserved.)   Subscribe to my blog via RSS feed.

Rob Arnold - Your full service and investor friendly Realtor ® in Orlando and Central Florida.

ABR, CPL, CRB, CSP, GRI, Managing real estate broker, Notary Public

407-389-7318 / 1-877-389-7318   We Buy Houses Florida

We provide flat fee MLS listings, For Sale By Owner, and menu-based services in most parts of Central & South Florida, the Space Coast, and the Treasure Coast including Orlando, Winter Park, Maitland, Ocoee, Winter Garden, Apopka, Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Longwood, Winter Springs, Oviedo, Lake Mary, Sanford, Deltona, Debary, Deland, Mount Dora, Eustis, Clermont, Kissimmee, Winter Haven, Lakeland, Tampa, Sarasota, Bradenton, Miami-Dade, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Port Saint Lucie, Melbourne, Daytona Beach, Ocala, Gainesville, Volusia, Brevard, and more.   

We sell foreclosures, short sales, and bank owned REO properties throughout Central Florida. We sell and list Central Florida real estate and Orlando real estate. Free list of foreclosure and short sale houses available.


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  1. Gayle Balaban 01/22/2009 01:11 PM
Real Estate Technology & Tools
MLS Issues
Running a Brokerage
Florida Realtor® Network
multiple listing service
mls rules
mls bill of rights
modernizing the mls

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Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

My MLS, MRIS, Metropolitan Regional Information System covers a huge area including Maryland, all of Northern Virginia, a hugh chuck of West Virginia and a modest chunk of Pennsylvania. 

I cover all of MD and Nothern Virginia.  I love it. 


Jan 22, 2009 08:36 AM #1

The MLS is big business and big business is positioning to take further control of our information and industry, not so much as a consumer advocate but as a large corporate entity that will dictate how you and I will do business in the future.  How they make their money and how you and I make our money is not the same, and they certainly don't care if our profession can be replaced by another internet model.

So, why are we obligated to expand our MLSs statewide and nationwide? Why would anyone in their right mind think this is good?  Good for owners of real estate companies. Bad for consumers.  Do you want local representation ,or someone new to your area to represent you?

Why do we have to share all our data with Trulia, Homegain,Reply,Movato,, and everyone else who's making money off the backs of the people that create the data? When are they going to compensate the Realtor community? Without us, they don't exist!  If we limit or decide to control some of the data maybe someone will call you about your listing?  We can still be transparent and not have every internet company dictate how we should do our business to support their corporate hunger to exploit our industry.

We're being played for fools and where's the leadership at CAR and NAR? Who are they really working for?



Jan 22, 2009 08:45 AM #2
Regina P. Brown
MBA Broker Consultants - Carlsbad, CA
M.B.A., Broker, Instructor

Rob, big news:  California is implementing a statewide MLS.  It's going to be a HUGE change.  The reason is because of technology, our world has gotten smaller and we have to adapt along with the consumers.  The one problem I have is -- who's going to have lockbox access to my listings?  That could be a problem for my sellers!

It's really going to be a PLUS to my real estate company, it's a virtual-office concept, where agents receive 100% commission by working from home. 

Join my NEW group for professionals who work from their home office at

Regina P. Brown

Jan 22, 2009 08:55 AM #3
Roger Johnson
Hickory Real Estate Group - Hickory, NC
Realtor - Hickory NC Real Estate

A statewide MLS has always seemed like a logical thing to me.  We are not licensed as a Hickory, NC real estate agent.  We hold a STATE real estate license.  Right now that gives us the legal right to sell anywhere in the state, but local MLS structures make it next to impossible to do so.

That said, having a state-wide MLS will not change the way business actually happens all the much.  If someone wants to buy a house out on the coast, I'm certainly not going to be driving out there to show it.  I'll still do a referral.  What will happen though, is more transparency, as with a state-wide MLS, I will be able to see what is happening with the property.

Jan 22, 2009 09:25 AM #4
Marian Goetzinger
Pine Knoll Shores Realty 252-422-9000 - Pine Knoll Shores, NC
Crystal Coast Real Estate NC

Hello Rob,  I am getting ready to pay $750 to join a neighboring MLS in order to recruit agents working right next door.  I agree with you.  It's nuts.  I think we all need to "get it."  We don't own the information and we need to stop trying to hang on to it.  What we have is expertise, service, knowledge and negotiating skills to assist buyers and sellers.  If we don't figure out that the cheese has moved, we'll die waiting for it to return.  I'm with you.  We need to adapt to the new technological world and I think part of that is a more comprehensive sharing of data.  Regionalized MLS must start NOW.

Jan 22, 2009 09:27 AM #5
Bryant Tutas
Tutas Towne Realty, Inc and Garden Views Realty, LLC - Winter Garden, FL
Selling Florida one home at a time

Rob, We are very fortunate to have MFRMLS. I think they do a great job. But I would LOVE to have one big Statewide MLS. It sure wouldn't be hard to implement and it would be an awesome tool.

Jan 22, 2009 10:21 AM #6
Steven Ayres
Rocket 55 - Saint Paul, MN

This is a great piece but i think the technology is just over the hill.

Your blog is super smart summation of why Google and active rain mesh well together.

Here is my tip for the day: My friend gave me a DVD last week of ambient art.  It is around one hour of all of Van Gogh's art work.  Amazing stuff.  So I loaned it to my girl friend, who is a realtor, and it has apparently "radically dressed up her showings.  She pops it into the DVD player before an open house starts and the families big screen becomes a work of art.

Jan 22, 2009 11:26 AM #8
Russ Ravary ~ Metro Detroit Realtor call (248) 310-6239
Real Estate One - Commerce, MI
Michigan homes for sale ~

We have the same problem here in Michigan.  The boards haven't gotten it together here to realize that we could sell more homes if the data was available to licensed realtors and agents.  Sad

Jan 22, 2009 12:06 PM #9
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY

Absolutely on the mark and I have posted something similar myself about things here in New York. I belong to 6 different MLS systems to do business in the NY metro area. Insane.

I am also licensed in Connecticut and they do have it right.

Jan 22, 2009 12:30 PM #10
Morgan Evans
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

Here in New York City we don't have an MLS like the rest of the country.  It's a different way of doing business, but it seems to work.

Jan 22, 2009 12:37 PM #11
Svetlana Stolyarova
Local-n-Global Realty, Cleveland and International Real Estate Solution - Mayfield Heights, OH
Local-n-Global Realty, Broker 216-548-4663

Here in NorthEast Ohio we  finally are just days away from new combined MLS - NEOHREX. That's a very good trend. Huge territory coverage, thousands of Realtors(R) working by the same rules, plus savings on dues- that's all great.

Jan 22, 2009 03:53 PM #12
Jason Neumann
Century 21 Assurance Realty Ltd. - Kelowna, BC
Realtor -

It would seem to have that many memberships required of you is a little bit of overkill.  In Canada we have one nation wide MLS, with some regions under an older local system platform.  Take care and happy blogging!

Jan 22, 2009 07:29 PM #13
Fred Pickard
Fred Pickard Innovations Realty Inc - Hershey, PA
Hershey, PA


Eastern Pennsylvania, once you get away from the Philadelphia area, has what seems like hundreds of little MLS groups. The dividing lines are generally based on county lines. We are located in Hershey but only 2 or 3 miles from the Lebanon County line which is a different MLS. We do business on Harrisburg's west shore, part of which is in York County, which is a different MLS.

So I personally belong to three right now. I have a friend who does REO listings over a larger area, and he now belongs to seven different MLS's right now, including the 2 big ones, TREND and MRIS.

I have pointed out before, no one wants to let go of their little fiefdom, so this will continue for a while.


Jan 22, 2009 09:53 PM #14
Kris Kombrink ~ The Kombrink Team
RE/MAX Excels - Chicago's Western Suburbs - Geneva, IL

Rob, I totally agree.  For a long time now there has been a theory out there that eventually there will be 1 MLS system, that would be very useful!


Jan 23, 2009 03:41 AM #15
Chuck Capan
REMAX River Cities - Moline, IL
REALTOR Licensed In IL. - Moline Homes Quad Citie

My market spans two states.  My broker's website pulls data from 4 MLS.  Consolidation seems to be a good idea IF we can get it better/faster/cheaper.

and Rob if you want to make an ® instead of an (r) type alt then 0174



Jan 23, 2009 08:25 AM #17
Judy Chapman
Referral Network of Illinois LLC - Chicago, IL

Wow, Rob, I didn't know Volusia has 3 boards.

Another inconsistency is that our MFR board includes Tampa but not Brevard. My office is much farther away from Tampa (2 hours) compared to Brevard (45 minutes). One day (soon I hope) MFR will swallow up Volusia, Brevard, Marion, Sumpter, and everything else Central Florida.

May 20, 2009 07:10 AM #19
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