If you’re a real estate agent in the U.S., the size and capacity of the multiple listing service that will be the lifeblood of your business is the luck of the draw. Nationwide, there’s an “extreme contrast” in size between MLSs, ranging from more than 100,000 subscribers at one end to 11 subscribers at the other end, according to a study by real estate consulting and research firm T3 Sixty.
The firm has ranked the nation’s 565 MLSs, 51 state Realtor associations and 1,086 local Realtor associations by membership as part of a larger effort to provide a big picture of the industry in a project called the Real Estate Almanac. The almanac is an industrywide study of the most powerful people, largest companies and organizations and most important technologies in residential real estate, according to T3 Sixty.
The country’s 20 largest MLSs serve more than half of the nation’s 1,644,524 total MLS subscribers, the company said. T3 Sixty expects these MLSs to serve even more agents and brokers as “consolidation increases across the country and MLSs become larger.”
Still, nearly half of MLSs are what T3 Sixty calls “minute,” serving less than 400 agents and brokers. More than two-thirds serve less than 1,000.
“While MLSs have declined roughly 30 percent from just over 800 in early 2014 to 565 today, local pride and politics keep some smaller organizations alive. Eighty-two MLSs serve less than 100 brokers and agents, struggling to effectively serve the growing, more advanced technology needs of their users,” the firm said in a press release.
California Regional MLS (CRMLS) has been the nation’s largest MLS for years and broke into the six figures at the end of last year with 101,502 subscribers. Bright MLS in the Mid-Atlantic region is not far behind at 90,932 subscribers. Stellar MLS in Florida, the third largest MLS, has remained fairly steady from last year’s rankings with 58,447 subscribers.
The Clarksdale Board of Realtors in Mississippi, which has 11 members, is the smallest association in the nation and operates the smallest MLS, according to T3 Sixty.
“Dissecting and ranking the largest players in organized real estate helps everyone better understand the MLS and Realtor association landscape, the shifts and where opportunities lie,” said Clint Skutchan, T3 Sixty’s vice president of association and MLSs, in a statement. “Boards of directors can now have much more intelligent conversations about strategy and planning.”
Asked to elaborate, T3 Sixty CEO Stefan Swanepoel told Inman some associations struggle to meet members’ needs because of limited resources.
“[T]herefore, being able to see the growth and changes of others provides more clearer insight as to who could be a potential partner. This knowledge therefore provides opportunities for associations and MLSs to expand or collaborate and to better measure themselves against the market,” he said via email.
“Having comprehensive and accurate information when planning and strategizing results in better decisions, otherwise boards of directors may be relying on one or two people’s opinion or hearsay that may, or may not, be accurate.
“It is always better to have a baseline and a fixed reference point for comparison and best practices purposes. This information now becomes the baseline for further studies of services offered, software used, cost of membership/software, etc.”
Realtor associations also vary widely in size. Among state associations, California, Florida and Texas each have more than 100,000 members and, at 513,127 members combined, account for 36.4 percent of U.S. Realtors, according to T3 Sixty.
“As these three states only account for 26 percent of the nation’s population, this stat reflects the outsized role real estate plays in those states,” the firm said.
The smallest state Realtor association is that of Vermont with 1,673 members, Swanepoel told Inman.
Regarding local Realtor associations, as with MLSs, the few are serving the many. Eighty percent of the nation’s 1.4 million Realtors belong to about a fifth of local associations, according to T3 Sixty. The Miami Association of Realtors is the largest, followed by the Houston Association of Realtors and the Broward, Palm Beaches and St. Lucie Realtors.
More than a third of local associations (384) have less than 200 members, according to the study. More than 70 percent have less than 800 members.
“There are many to which the question of value, relevance and economic justification should be raised,” Swanepoel said.
Year over year, local associations saw average growth of 5 percent last year compared to 1 percent growth in 2018, according to the study. Realtor membership increased 3.2 percent overall between 2018 and 2019.
The membership counts for the study came from three sources: self reporting, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the T3 Sixty library of historical data, according to Swanepoel.
T3 Sixty is releasing the Real Estate Almanac in five parts, with a full report to be printed in June. The rankings released Wednesday are the second of the five parts; the first was company’s list of the most influential people in real estate, the Swanepoel Power 200 (SP200), rolled out last month.