With the internet in existence, it seems odd that the make-up of US Real Estate is still so convoluted.
At recent count:
1. Property owner looking to sell, or a buyer looking for a home, hires
2. a real estate agent, who has to pass an exam to be licensed and then
3. join a brokerage which is a member of
4. a MLS (Multi-List System - like a local club of brokerages who share data).
5. The MLS then can choose to integrate with IDX to
6. share that data with select websites and/or people (IDX allows a csv style list as a print out)
I've skipped a few intermediaries who use/require one or more of the above to exist (like property management software providers, CRM systems, etc).
This stems from a press release by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) voting to allow 'pooled' listings and the use of IDX. What this means is websites can be created with more than one broker's listings.
Imagine that, consumers being able to view all the available real estate in New York. And not a single hard-working Real Estate Agent will lose their job or have to lower their commissions (as has been the fear for so long - tech doesn't replace people, it cuts out the need for gatekeepers to be paid for doing next to nothing).
New York, by the way, is one of the few markets where a good Real Estate Agent can make over $1m in personal commissions. How? Because they understand this is a people business and maintain their reputation with service. Real Estate is local and there will always be an agent involved. People building technology need to understand this fact of human behaviour.
It is promising to see positive change happening. Hopefully as New York, the last bastion for closed Real Estate, opens up, there will be an end to searching for a home being so opaque.
Read more on the REBNY's vote on Inman News: http://www.inman.com/2014/06/20/idx-comes-to-new-york-rebny-votes-to-allow-brokers-agents-to-display-pooled-listings/