SAN FRANCISCO — If multiple listing services are going to remain relevant, do they need to see consumers — and not just real estate professionals — as their clients?

If the answer is yes — and not everyone agrees that it is — organizational structures that have been in place for decades are standing in the way of innovation, consultants who advise real estate companies told MLS executives and board members attending the Real Estate Connect conference last week.

MLSs possess the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of homes for sale in their market, yet many don’t operate websites that allow consumers to search for listings.

MLSs that do make listings available on public-facing websites may not provide the kind of sophisticated search and market analysis tools offered by third-party publishers like, Zillow and Trulia. They may also lack content that consumers have come to expect, such as advice and Q-and-A forums.

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