Real Estate Almanac

Organized Real Estate

Released February 15, 2022
Organized Real Estate Legend

The MLSs and local Realtor associations also include regional views for the lists. See the legend to the right.

Organized Real Estate

Realtor associations, along with MLSs, are collectively referred to as organized real estate (ORE), which represents the infrastructure upon which the residential real estate brokerage industry functions. These organizations play a major role in setting industry professionalism; they advocate at the national, state and local level for homeownership and major issues that support their members’ business and manage local MLSs, which enable the buying and selling of houses, apartments and other real estate.

This section first presents the largest 200 MLS organizations, then the nation’s largest 200 local Realtor associations, and finally all the nation’s 51 state Realtor associations.

Realtor associations are the glue that hold the US residential real estate brokerage industry together. As trade associations, Realtor associations are nonprofits owned by their members. They represent their members and aim to help them improve the quality of service they provide, their education and professional standards. The classic Realtor association mission is simple: to make members more profitable and more successful.

Realtor associations come in three varieties, determined by geographic scope: national, state and local. The National Association of Realtors operates at the national level, 51 state Realtor associations (including Washington, DC) operate at the state level, and over a thousand Realtor associations operate at the local level. NAR is the nation’s largest trade association (with over 1.5 million members) and is regularly one of the nation’s 20 most influential lobbyists (based on spending).

Realtor associations have federated makeup: members cannot join just one. When agents join a local association, to gain access to the MLS for example, they automatically join the state and national associations; the memberships are tied together in what is known as the three-way agreement.

Multiple Listing Services

Multiple listing services (MLSs) create connections that serve as a listing database for all a market’s homes for sale while enabling collaboration between competing brokers and agents to make transactions happen as quickly as possible and for the highest price. MLSs essentially serve as cooperatives, the result of brokerages coming together to collaborate on marketing and selling each other’s listings. MLSs are anchored by a technology platform, often provided by a third-party software provider.

Of the 556 MLSs in the country at the end of 2020, 108 are regional MLSs, either owned by two or more Realtor associations or serve regional markets (19 are broker-owned); 448 are local MLSs, which have a single Realtor association owner. Just 3 percent of MLSs are not owned by a Realtor association or group of associations, based on T3 Sixty’s research.

The nation’s large regional MLSs have huge footprints, sophisticated technology, innovative business practices and well-run management structures. The largest MLSs serve members across a broad geographic area, sometimes statewide or even across multiple states. These include California Regional MLS (104,414 subscribers), Bright MLS (94,429 subscribers) and Florida-based Stellar MLS (64,552 subscribers).

Over half of the nation’s MLS subscribers belong to one of the largest 20 MLSs and 14 percent of the nation’s MLSs account for approximately 80 percent of the nation’s 1.7 million MLS subscribers (includes some subscribers that belong to more than one MLS). On the other side of the spectrum are small local MLSs. These organizations, which do not have as many resources, have memberships measuring in just the hundreds. Approximately 45 percent of the nation’s 556 MLSs have under 400 subscribers.

In some cases, two or more local MLSs serve the same city, such as First Multiple Listing Service and Georgia MLS in Atlanta. In other cases, such as UtahRealEstate.com, MLSs basically cover the state.

Since the early 1990s, the MLS industry has seen a wave of consolidation. Just six years ago there were over 800 MLSs as compared to the 556 MLSs at the end of 2020. With that, MLSs are getting bigger while their overall count drops. From 2020 to 2021 the median subscriber count per MLS grew 18.8 percent while the average subscriber count per MLS grew 9.8 percent.

View the Top MLS list, alongside each of the regional lists on the right.

Local Associations

As trade associations, Realtor associations are nonprofits owned by their members. They represent their members and aim to help them improve the quality of service they provide, their education and professional standards. The classic Realtor association mission is simple: to make members more profitable and more successful.

Realtor associations come in three varieties, determined by geographic scope: national, state and local. Realtor associations have a federated makeup: members cannot join just one. When agents join a local association, to gain access to the MLS for example, they automatically join the state and national associations; the memberships are tied together in what is known as the three-way agreement.

There were 1,069 local Realtor associations at the end of 2020, 19 less than existed at the end of 2019 as recorded in the 2020 ORE 200. 

The largest local Realtor associations have tens of thousands of members, and subsequently, healthy revenues that allow them to offer quality products and services to members and to play a large and meaningful role in their communities. Examples include the Miami Association of Realtors (over 48,000 members), the Houston Association of Realtors (over 40,000 members) and Broward, Palm Beaches and St. Lucie Realtors (over 33,000 members).

On the other end of the size spectrum lie small local Realtor associations, which, because of relatively small revenues and resources, can sometimes struggle to offer a core set of services to members and struggle for relevancy. The industry has a large number of these smaller associations. Just over a third of the nation’s local Realtor associations (35 percent or 373 local associations) have less than 200 members.

Smaller local Realtor associations include the Sierra County Board of Realtors in Elephant Butte, New Mexico (21 members), Mid-Valley Association of Realtors in Kewanee, Illinois (18 members), Nolan County Board of Realtors in Austin, Texas (16 members), Deming Luna County Board of Realtors in Deming, New Mexico (11 members) and Clarksdale Board of Realtors in Clarksdale, Mississippi (10 members). T3 Sixty does not imply any of these do not offer members core standards; they are listed just to provide examples of some of the nation’s smallest Realtor associations.

Some local associations are consolidating but not many. From 2020 to 2021 the number of local Realtor associations dropped 1.7 percent. But they are getting larger. Over that same time period, the average member count and median member count of local associations grew 5.6% and 6.4%, respectively.

View the Top Local Association list,  alongside each of. the regional lists on the right.

State Associations

As trade associations, Realtor associations are nonprofits owned by their members. They represent their members and aim to help them improve the quality of service they provide, their education and professional standards. The classic Realtor association mission is simple: to make members more profitable and more successful.

Realtor associations come in three varieties, determined by geographic scope: national, state and local. Realtor associations have a federated makeup: members cannot join just one. When agents join a local association, to gain access to the MLS for example, they automatically join the state and national associations; the memberships are tied together in what is known as the three-way agreement.

State Realtor associations serve as the legislative and regulatory voices for real estate at the state level where many licensure laws and tax structures are established. Many provide essential services like education or benefits such as forms for members and local associations.

State Associations are also responsible for the annual core standards certification passed down from the National Association of Realtors with minimum service and organizational requirements that local associations must maintain to be chartered by NAR.

View the State Association list on the right.

Real Estate Almanac – The residential real estate brokerage industry’s 360-degree compendium and analysis of leaders, organized real estate, technology, franchise brands, enterprises, and brokerages. Researched, analyzed and produced by T3 Sixty. 

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