The Canadian Real Estate Association has an MLS Web site that exemplifies how an aggregated national MLS should work.

The easy-to-navigate, advertising-less Web site is an example of cooperation, user interface grace and business model simplicity, all bundled together in one easy-to-use national listing service.

All of the 10 provincial Canadian associations cooperate under the umbrella of the association to create the service, which is free to users and does not require registration.  There are no ads, no up-sells, no featured listings, no referral fees and no promotional gimmicks.

Driven by a map, the Canadian Web site is broken down by provinces, each with a home finder that shares the same look and feel across the site. The user can search by area or MLS and the service includes an advanced search, Realtor search and commercial properties tab.

Billed as the MLS of Canada, the Web site includes pictures of almost all of the listings, along with the property address and the listing agent’s e-mail address and telephone number.

The easy-to-navigate Web site makes it clear what the business proposition is: the site is a comprehensive, updated national MLS aimed at prospective home buyers who want to view homes for sale. This proposition, in turn, makes the Web site a powerful marketing vehicle for home listing agents and sellers.

The association, one of Canada’s largest single-industry trade groups, represents more than 70,000 real estate brokers/agents and salespeople working through more than 100 real estate boards, 10 provincial associations and one territorial association. The boards operate the local MLS that in turn provides data for display on MLS.ca.

The public-service-like approach to the MLS is distinguished from the strategy deployed by the National Association of Realtors, which licenses the Realtor name and extends special promotional and contract benefits to Homestore, a private, publicly traded company. This mixing of a commercial enterprise with a trade association non-profit has created conflicts for both the trade group and Homestore.

Once again, the Canadians show us how.

***

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