Fair Housing For All: The Role of the MLS in a Transparent Market

By Gene Millman, president and CEO of REcolorado MLS

The Fair Housing Act was established in the late 60s and is commemorated every spring, which is fitting considering that home buying is a bit of a thing this time of year. But the principles of fair and equitable access to housing are crucial every day all year long; it’s a cornerstone of a healthy and functioning housing market.

The housing industry is multifaceted, and many players—Realtors, appraisers, mortgage brokers, to name a few—who are all responsible for upholding a commitment to Fair Housing. Providers of residential property listings—otherwise known as multiple listing services or MLSs—are no different, and the MLS ecosystem comprises all those players.   

At their core, MLSs exist to make properties widely accessible. And this is the foundation of Fair Housing – ensuring everyone can find a home that meets their needs, regardless of their background, who they are, or who they know. 

As the largest MLS in the state, REcolorado calls 26,000 real estate brokers, agents, and appraisers our customers. Everyone in our ecosystem contributes property data to the MLS and can access it to serve home buyers and sellers. It is our duty to collect property data and ensure it is presented in a meaningful way and free of bias. Equitable access to available housing is our focus every day, because we know that the MLS plays a vital role in fostering a fair and transparent housing market for everyone. 

Beyond Listings: The Power of the MLS Ecosystem 
The MLS goes beyond simply serving as a database where properties are listed. It acts as a central hub for real estate data, powering the major websites we all use to explore homes, as well as the tools real estate professionals use to assist home buyers and sellers with pricing, marketing, and facilitating smooth transactions. This data is also used by appraisers, ensuring fair and consistent valuations. 

By bringing all home listings together, REcolorado eliminates the need for buyers and sellers to rely on specific agents or networks. Anyone can view a home, make an offer, and move forward in the buying process. 

Standardization and Accessibility 
Information provided by an MLS needs to be complete, standardized, and reliable to prevent it from being used to uphold bias. Consistency is a crucial element here. Another role of an MLS, like REcolorado, is to enforce policies that ensure all listings are described using the same standards. This means you can be confident that terms like “half bath,” “bedroom” or “Ranch style” have the same meaning across all listings. 

The listings that are available on your agent’s website and the major real estate portals like Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com come from MLS organizations like REcolorado. To ensure buyers have central, comprehensive locations to search all available properties, we maintain a progressive approach to the licensing of listing data and the data feeds these sites use. Our system allows for a wide variety of property types, including single-family homes, rentals, mobile homes, and new builds. This comprehensive approach helps buyers find the perfect fit, regardless of their needs. Additionally, our policies allow for listings from our MLS to be displayed alongside listings from other sources. 

We also actively monitor listings for any discriminatory language or marketing practices. Anything that suggests limitations based on protected classes is removed. Our goal is to make every listing accessible to the broadest possible audience. 

Additionally, we allow all real estate professionals with licenses to access REcolorado MLS, and we provide the listing data we normalize and aggregate to brokerages and portals like Homes.com so that consumers can equitably access our extensive inventory.  

Promoting Fairness Through Technology 
There are numerous innovators in the real estate space who are using technology to enhance the way people buy and sell properties. At REcolorado, we actively seek partners who can help us expand accessibility to property listings. By pairing our data with their cutting-edge tools, we work together to support equitable and unbiased access.  

For example, REcolorado’s partnership with voice technology pioneer Lundy Inc. makes listing data available by voice command through Amazon’s Alexa app, effectively making real estate listings accessible to the visually impaired.  

And the offer platform, developed in partnership with SkySlope, helps combat bias in the offer process. By removing personally identifiable information from offers, sellers can focus solely on the merits of each proposal. This protects both buyers and sellers while ensuring transparency in the transaction.  

Fair Housing in Action 
MLSs play a critical role in our housing economy by making complete and reliable property listings available to prospective homebuyers as well as real estate agents, appraisers and others working in the housing industry. By recognizing the importance of Fair Housing, putting policies in place to uphold these tenets, and exploring technological advancements that aid in this directive, REcolorado and other MLSs across the country are doing important work to uphold equal and equitable access to housing for all.