How Many MLS Are In The United States?
There are between 600 and 700 multiple listing services (MLS) in the United States, according to the Real Estate Standards Organization, but the exact number changes occasionally because MLS merge and new MLS form.
For example in 2017, nine MLS across six Mid-Atlantic states merged to form a new mega system known as Bright MLS. The same year, two Florida MLS also announced they would combine to form the new Realtors of the Palm Beaches and Greater Fort Lauderdale.
The most recent official MLS count is 645, which comes from a RESO official in 2018. But RESO does not publish widely a final list of MLS. And the organization only says that the number has been declining slowly. We maintain a comprehensive list of MLS in the U.S. on our website that we update as we become aware of changes.
What is clear is that the real estate industry is decentralized. Each of the more than 600 MLS maintains its own database of property listings. Unlike Canada, which maintains a national pool of listings through the Data Distribution Facility, the United States has no national MLS. Instead, brokers looking to expand their reach are forced to grow MLS by MLS, going through the membership process and paying any necessary fees each time.
This can be a burdensome process, though many MLS have developed content sharing agreements so an agent in one MLS can access listings in another with little to no paperwork. RESO standards such as RETS, the RESO Data Dictionary, and RESO Web API have also helped foster conformity in the industry.
Why Are There So Many MLS in the United States?
There are so many MLS in the United States because consolidation is difficult. It involves conforming rules and processes, making sure the new structure complies with all relevant laws and regulations, and streamlining potential bureaucracies.
Further there is the argument that real estate remains a local business best conducted by agents and brokers that live and work in a community and learn to know it really well.
The structure of the real estate industry in the United States is born out of its history. According to NAR, MLS began in the 1800’s as informal meetings where local brokers shared listings with one another. In the early days, MLS territory was limited to what could be conceivable traveled by horse or train. This led to MLS with relatively small coverage areas. As technologies changed and demand for listings increased, consolidation grew. But a final merger into a national MLS remains unlikely in the short-term.
This explains how many MLS are in the United States and why there are so many.
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