This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist. Enjoy!

Question: In your last article you mentioned Bright MLS a few times, can you explain what that is?

Answer: If you’re buying or selling a home, you may hear the term “MLS” or “Bright” used a lot. The simplest way I describe it to people is that the MLS, short for Multiple Listing Service, is the real estate industry’s database(s) of record for property sales. There are hundreds of regional and local MLS’s across the country.

Bright (MLS) is the name of our regional MLS and is also the largest in the country. Prior to 2017 it was called MRIS (Metropolitan Regional Information Systems), but in 2017 it was rebranded to Bright after a merger with eight other regional MLS’s mostly from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

From a 2017 press release, the recently formed Bright MLS managed the records for about 250,000 annual transactions and $85 Billion in annual real estate sales. These numbers are likely higher now.

What is the MLS (Multiple Listing Service)?

The MLS is a real estate information exchange platform and database created by cooperating residential real estate brokerages to improve the efficiency of their real estate market. As a privately created and managed organization, each MLS is primarily funded through the dues of the brokerages and agents within the market it serves. There are hundreds of MLS’s across the country and each operates under its own direction and rules and regulations.

The information you find on consumer-facing websites like Zillow, Realtor.com and Homesnap comes from various MLS’s and each MLS has the right to negotiate its own relationship (syndication agreements) with these sites and determine what information is made available.

Without the MLS concept, we would have an extremely fragmented industry that would make it difficult for buyers to ensure they are seeing most/all of what is for sale within their sub-market, and it would be much more difficult for sellers to get top dollar because they would not have access to the entire buyer market.

What is Bright MLS?

Bright is the MLS that serves our region including most major markets or 100% of markets in Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia and Delaware. It’s the largest MLS in the country by size and geographic area.

The Executive Committee and Board of Directors are made up of representatives from the region’s major brokerages and directs the business of Bright, which has developed into a full-blown software, services and technology company. Bright has adopted a strict set of rules and regulations to provide data uniformity and ensure fair play such as restrictions on marketing properties for sale that are not entered into the MLS, as discussed in last week’s article.

Your interaction with Bright MLS is likely to come from listings that your real estate agent sends you directly from the system, but you are also indirectly interacting with Bright whenever you search a third-party real estate site like Zillow because Zillow pulls its listing information from Bright (and other MLS systems across the country).

While at times frustrating for brokerages, agents and consumers, there is a tremendous net benefit to the MLS structure by combining home sale data into one database with a common set of requirements and rules of engagement. This allows the entire industry to function much more efficiently than it did prior to the MLS concept and since Zillow and other consumer-facing sites began aggregating listing information for public use, it has taken away the “gatekeeper” role real estate agents, to the benefit of consumers and, I would argue, real estate agents.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at 703-539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH Real Estate, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. 703)-390-9460.

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