To say residential real estate is an important part of our nation's economy is an understatement. Home ownership is either an asset or an aspiration for millions of Americans, and one needs only rewind the clock a decade for evidence of the financial ruin possible from buying and selling homes. But residential real estate transactions do not materialize out of thin air. Rather, the parties involved in a typical sale-buyers, sellers, agents, brokerages, online portals-all rely on critical infrastructure known as a multiple listing service (MLS) to get deals done. Simply put, an MLS is a platform that serves as a comprehensive database for information about the residential properties for sale within a specific geographic market at any given time. MLSs exist to facilitate connections between folks on opposite sides of the transaction by increasing listing exposure for sellers and by reducing search costs for buyers.
While MLSs have existed for over a hundred years, they are currently undergoing a swift transformation in form, if not function. Where, as recently as fifteen years ago, there were more than one thousand MLSs across the country, there are now fewer than 650. But individual MLSs are not going away. No, they are being consolidated-merging with one another to expand territorial footprints, create operational efficiencies, and achieve the scale necessary to bargain effectively with disruptive new entrants. In our age of mega-mergers, these MLS consolidations may appear insignificant, but where there is consolidation there is the possibility of competitive harm under federal antitrust laws. Given the importance of MLSs to the market for residential real estate, any anticompetitive practices that attend a merger of MLSs could have devastating consequences. This Comment addresses that concern head-on. It contends that MLS mergers, on balance, enhance competition in the residential real estate industry and should survive the searching scrutiny of antitrust regulators.
James S. Bradbury,
Revenge of the Realtors: The Procompetitive Case for Consolidating Multiple Listing Services,
U. Colo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholar.law.colorado.edu/lawreview/vol90/iss1/6