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By Stefan Swanepoel

RISMEDIA, June 1, 2007-Many think that the notion of a national MLS is a good one. According to Jim Sherry, technically there is no reason a national MLS would not work. He says it’s more about getting the egos out of the way first.

The consolidation of MLSs into super-regional ones or even one national MLS has already taken its first steps with the consolidation of MLS service providers over the past six years. Today three major players, MarketLinx, a division of First American, Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions and Rapattoni Corporation collectively manage 1,200,000 MLS desktops; approximately 90% of the market. So that is the quickest and easiest way to go, right?

Many say probably not.

Some think the solution will come from one of the industry’s aggregators. The logical player is of course, but media favorite Zillow is often mentioned. Point2 says they already are one. Others such as Oodle, Edgeio, Propsmart, BackPage or Live Deal say they could easily be one.

Many say probably not.

Some think one should go directly to the brokers instead, like vertical search engine Trulia. Having already signed contracts with powerhouses Realogy, RE/MAX, HomeServices and numerous other large brokers they could already be well on their way.

Many say probably not.

If vertical searching is the winning strategy then no one will beat the deep base searching power of Google. Who could beat the powerful Google search ability to sort through millions of listings and find the right answer in a split second? Walt Baczkowski, MCAR CEO, says Google may very well replace the MLS as we now know it today.

Many say probably not.

Google is an online marketing avenue, it’s not an MLS. There is a huge difference between a search engine, a consumer site and a broker MLS. Realtors don’t understand the value of the MLS says Mike Long, CEO of, the managers of Giving the listing information away to others will result in a de facto MLS … with no MLS rules.

Many say probably not.

Some like Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin feel that MLS rules are like a thousand tiny shackles on Internet business, which limit the free flow of information to the consumer.

And so the debate continues. It is not clear exactly where we are heading. What does appear certain at this stage is that that consolidation into larger MLSs is inevitable. As a matter of fact it is already happening on a regular basis. Larger MLSs will inevitably lead to increased standardization, which in turn will fuel further consolidation and open the door for the creation of one national MLS.

The drive toward one national MLS seems to be born out of frustration by regional brokers but it is being fueled by consumer demand for more real estate information with listing data. MRIS CEO, David Charron says a national MLS is a great idea, but the creation thereof is complex as it will have to take into consideration local licensing laws, nomenclature, customs, governance and compliance management. Whoever decides to carry the torch will quickly discover that this is by no means an easy or straightforward initiative. There are also many other sticky issues that will need to be addressed before a national, quasi-public utility becomes a reality – items such as data ownership, data security, data standardization, data integration, third party participation, and so on.

So while the industry grapples with its parochial issues – both practical and legal – existing MLS systems will have to re-engineer themselves into standardized mega regional systems or a national system. Whichever direction is taken they will have to be relevant and meaningful for brokers, agents and consumers alike, or face the consequences of competition and possible obsolescence.

MLS, Web 2.0 and new business models are discussed in detail by Stefan Swanepoel in his new 159-page 2007 Swanepoel Trends Report.

To gain a deeper understanding of MLS and the many facets of the real estate brokerage industry get your copy at For free shipping, use the promo code RISMedia.