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In the U.S. real estate market, Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) play a pivotal role that resembles a form of monopoly, though it may not fit the strictest definition of the term. Initially, MLSs were established as cooperative agreements among licensed brokers to share property listings with each other. Over time, these organizations have grown into substantial entities, generating significant revenue through membership fees. For a considerable period, agents exclusively held the keys to these listings, serving as the sole gateway for clients looking to buy or sell properties. However, the advent of the internet has ushered in a new era. Following numerous legal battles, listing data that was once closely guarded by MLSs is now widely accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
The inability to be the gatekeeper of property listings did not lead to the end of MLSs, as one might think. You might be able to see listings on a number of public websites but if you want to create those listings, you need an MLS subscription. This member benefit, along with others like smart locks for showings and document libraries, is what keeps most agents subscribing to their local MLS. The problem with this arrangement is that agents have no other option to list their properties.
Brokers and agents are learning this the hard way in some parts of the country.
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