Can you search the Minnesota MLS? Northstar Regional MLS(R) says “no.”

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You can bookmark this link to search tens of thousands of Minnesota real estate listings. But is this really the Minnesota MLS?

Can the consumer really search the Minnesota MLS? A quick Google with the term “search Minnesota MLS” will reveal thousands of pages that say you can.

searching minnesota mls

According to the Northstar Regional MLS,, agent members cannot make this sort of claim. We are not allowed to say “search the MLS:

Use of Term “MLS” Prohibited. Members shall not
use the term “multiple listing service,” the acronym
“MLS,” or derivatives thereof in member names,
except as provided in Section 13.1(c). In addition,
members and subscribers shall not use the terms
“multiple listing service,” the acronym “MLS,” or
derivatives thereof in domain names, web addresses
or URLs and all existing uses of such terms in the
previously stated manner, must cease … No member shall
indicate or imply in any manner that the member is a
multiple listing service or that the public has access to
or may search the multiple listing service (e.g. “Search
the MLS” or “Access RMLS/NorthstarMLS”) on the
member’s website or otherwise. (excerpted from Section 13)

From a technical standpoint, real estate agent websites don’t allow you to search the Minnesota MLS; most of them use an IDX feed which is a separate entity from the Northstar Regional MLS, although the data comes from it. The listings displayed on agent websites are listings that are part of a broker reciprocity agreement that allows agents to display each other’s listings. So there may be some listings that a real estate agent can find on the MLS, but the customer may not see on the MLS. Also, the MLS will provide more detailed data than what is found on consumer oriented real estate websites.

So how many Minneapolis area brokers refuse to share their listings on the mls? I don’t know, but I doubt that there are very many. For example if you were looking for a home between 300 and 400k in Eden Prairie, this website (idx) will display 101 listings (at the time of this post.) If your agent logs into the RMLS, he or she will see 101 listings. If you search this site for Lakeville homes between 300 and 500k, you will find 196 homes for sale. If your agent does the same search on the Northstar Regional MLS, 186 home listings will appear (the idx is not as up-to-date as the actual MLS system. If you do the same comparison between IDX and Northstar Regional MLS, their respective results will either be the same or very close. I will concede that disparities might be greater as you move further out from the metro area; there may be a few brokers out ther who have not signed the reciprocity agreement.

What does this mean to consumers?

The important thing is that you will still be able to find almost any metro Minnesota home listing using this site. There could be a small number on the RMLS that you cannot see with the IDX. Your REALTOR will be able to provide you with more detailed information, including days on market, recent sales, and other market data.

You will still find many sites that say “search the MLS.” Many of these sites belong to national companies that are exempt from this ruling. This means that the Regional MLS board of governors has given out-of-state realty firms a huge competitive advantage. Out-of state companies can still use a highly searched keyword term by making claims that you can still search the MLS. Local members of the Northstar Regional MLS, however are subject to RMLS rules that forbid them to make a similar claim.

There are a few other local associations that are implementing this rule, all in the name of protecting the consumer. (I doubt that most consumers are so dumb that they think they get access to the exact same information that the RMLS member agent is privy to.) It is interesting to note that other local mls organizations across the country are implementing this sort of asinine rule, and the local member agents are complaining about it. To quote the Crossland Team of Keller Williams in Austin Texas:

Note to Realtor Industry leaders: people use the term ‘MLS’ a whole bunch when searching for homes and real estate information in general, and real estate companies pay a lot of money trying to capture those potential customers.

Someone at the Northstar Regional MLS needs to explain to me how giving out-of-state national companies a huge competitive advantage will protect the consumer.


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