A Short History of the Multiple Listing System

In the Beginning...
Shortly after the end of the nineteenth century, the term "Multiple Listing" was mentioned and has been mentioned as an activity of Boards of REALTORS® since 1907. The Multiple List facilitates the exchange of information on individual listings. In the 1920ís, Multiple Listings became widely accepted and in the succeeding years continued to spread through the country as brokers learned the advantages to the buyers and sellers of sharing all the area listings among the different brokers. Through various means, Multiple Listing information is made available to other REALTORS®.

Listing Book (circa 1958)
Listing information was sent to the local association. The local association would create and distribute listing pages to each member on a bi-weekly basis. Each member would update his or her information manually. Binders were used to store pieces of paper.

Listing Card (circa 1965)
Listing information was still sent to the local association. The local association continued to be responsible for creation and distribution of listing cards to each member on a regular basis. Shoe boxes were used to store each listing card. Each member would maintain his or her shoe box manually.

Dumb Terminals and Listing Printout (circa 1970's - 1980's)
With the advent of digital communication, Real Estate professionals began using dumb terminals to input and retrieve listing information. Often communications were very slow, and the listing printouts highly cryptic due to the limitations of computers and transmission techniques at the time.
The Dumb Terminal was the first computerized method Real Estate Professionals used to obtain listing information. Often without a screen, the dumb terminal used thermal paper, much like early fax machines, to display all output and commands. On most dumb terminals, there was a cradle to place the handset of a telephone. This often limited character transmission speeds to a mere 300 characters per second. Photos, if available at all, were of rather poor quality.

Today... 2002
Today Agents can retrieve listing information in the blink of an eye, and the slide of a mouse. Full Color images, on-line maps and instant public records are an essential part of the excellent customer service today's homebuyers expect from their REALTOR®. Today's modems can achieve speeds that allow high quality photos, plats, maps, and forms to be transmitted routinely by cutting edge REALTORS®. Residential REALTOR® listings are now seen not only by those REALTORS®, but are found on the Internet in numerous public locations, such as www.realtor.com, www.homesdatabase.com/mtnhomewww.homeseekers.com,  and others. Today, when you list your home with a REALTOR®, you can be assured that your home can have the greatest possible exposure for your buyer to learn about it on the Internet. Only REALTORS® who work with an online MLS can offer all these advantages.

Note: a variation of the "Listings Book" was still used in our area of West Virginia up until 1997 when many of us took the digital leap to the MRIS system, which is the MLS used in the Washington, DC area. Several WV localities in 2002,  still have NO centralized association to collect, store and redistribute listing information to the local brokers and agents and to post on the Internet on Realtor.com. Typically, these are non-REALTOR® brokers and agents, as all REALTORS® in our area do have access to the use of the MRIS multiple listing system, if they want it.

Most of this short history of the MLS was created by MRIS (Metropolitan Regional Information System).


Charlie Winfree, Realtor®
Coldwell Banker / Terry Stephens & Associates
HC 84 Box 10, Burlington, WV 26710
E-mail: charlie@mtnhome4u.com
Phone: (304) 289-5424  Home & Office
Click here for my Business Card, then print it.

web page by Charlie Winfree. Feb. 2002