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How Many multiple listing Services are in the U.S.

The Multiple Layers of MLS: How Many Multiple Listing Services Operate in the U.S.?

The real estate industry in the United States has a unique, decentralized system known as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). But just how many MLS systems are there, and why does this number matter to both real estate professionals and consumers? Let’s delve into the intriguing realm of MLSs.

Understanding the MLS

At its core, the MLS is a database system used by real estate brokers. It allows them to share comprehensive information about properties with other brokers. These platforms ensure that brokers receive compensation if they bring a buyer to the table, and they offer a one-stop-shop for property listings for both agents and, indirectly, consumers.

The Decentralized Landscape

Unlike many countries that might have a single, national listing system, the U.S. is home to multiple MLSs. These are often regional, serving specific cities or even counties.

As of my last update in 2021, there were over 600 MLSs in the U.S. This number can fluctuate due to mergers, closures, and the occasional creation of a new MLS.

Why So Many?

Several reasons explain this multiplicity:

  1. Historical Evolution: Many MLSs started as local realtor associations. As the real estate industry grew, these systems remained localized.
  2. Unique Market Needs: Different regions have specific market conditions, regulations, and requirements. Local MLSs cater to these unique needs.
  3. Control and Autonomy: Local associations often prefer maintaining control over their databases, dictating their rules, and ensuring that local nuances are addressed.

Challenges and Opportunities


  • Interoperability: With multiple MLSs, ensuring systems communicate or integrate seamlessly can be a hurdle. This sometimes complicates matters for brokers and agents operating in overlapping regions covered by different MLSs.
  • Varied Standards: Different MLSs can have their own listing standards and rules, posing a learning curve for agents working across multiple systems.


  • Specialization: Local MLSs can provide specialized tools, analytics, and insights tailored for their specific market.
  • Innovation: The existence of multiple MLSs creates competition, pushing each system to innovate and offer advanced features to stay relevant.

The Move Towards Consolidation

Over the years, there’s been a push for consolidation. The idea is that fewer, larger MLSs could offer more comprehensive data, better technology, and reduced costs. There have been several mergers in recent years, with larger MLSs absorbing smaller ones, aiming for more streamlined services and broader regional coverage.


The multitude of MLSs in the U.S. is both a testament to the country’s diverse and complex real estate market and a reminder of its evolutionary history. While there are challenges posed by this fragmentation, there are also unique advantages that come with specialized, localized service. As the industry continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how the MLS landscape will shift, but its foundational role in U.S. real estate is undeniable.

Celester Thomas

Company Blog – Soldier to Soldier Hawaii Realty

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