Portland Real Estate and the RMLS

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You hear us mention the RMLS on this blog when we cover the Portland Real Estate Market monthly and reference the RMLS Market Action report. But what is RMLS, and what can they do for you, the Portland area real estate buyer or seller?

RMLS stands for Regional Multiple Listing Service. Every region in the US has one, and RMLS is specific to Oregon and Southern Washington. RMLS used to be the largest Realtor owned multiple listing service in the Pacific Northwest, but it is no longer Realtor owned.

Did you know? Oregon has three major MLS systems (RMLS, WVMLS, MLSCO) and Washington has at least two (RMLS and NWMLS).

Multiple listing services were created so real estate agents could quickly look up properties for sale in their area. Before Zillow, Craigslist, and even the internet, the MLS was the original source for accurate information on listed homes. Before RMLS in Portland, this information was only available through individual brokerages, and there was nowhere to go for a complete directory of all the homes on the Portland market.

Now it is essential when selling your home to have it listed on more than one MLS at the same time. I’ve been selling in Portland since 2003, and explain why it makes such a big difference to be listed on more than one MLS here. Whenever we sell a home in Oregon we list on 3 MLS systems and in SW Washington, we list on 2 MLS systems.

How the RMLS Has Evolved Over the Years, RMLS History

RMLS has been around for over 30 years as of 2023 and has come a long way since the days of paper books. Now, RMLS has over 16,000 users and services 21 of Oregon’s 36 counties. Let’s look at how this Portland real estate cornerstone has grown over the years, especially with developing technology. 

Launching in 1990, RMLS began as “The Book,” a physical listing that stayed in demand well into 1998. This book listed properties starting in just five Oregon counties, a far cry from the impressive 21 counties RMLS now services. Those five counties were around the Portland metropolitan area, meaning RMLS has serviced Portland since the beginning. 

“The Book,” which replaced word-of-mouth and newspaper ads as the primary way that real estate buyers and sellers heard about homes for sale. It listed every home being sold in the state of Oregon and Southern Washington. In the 1990s, these books came out twice a week – that’s a lot of paper!

The first RMLS listing launched in May of 1991, with nearly 3,500 realtors subscribed to “The Book” service. While this amount of subscribers pales in comparison with the 16,000 users today, it was 75% of available subscribers, marking a turning point for RMLS and real estate agents in the Portland area. The idea of 75% of any target customer base subscribing to a single service is hard to imagine, let alone within the first year of the company’s life, marking a notable success for RMLS. 

RMLS took to the internet in 1996, and “The Book” was soon a piece of ancient history. Not only did these listings allow for fast access to any Portland-area homes for sale, they also acted as an archive of past listings going back to the start of RMLS. 

Today, RMLS provides service to not only 21 counties but also supplemental MLS services to five additional counties. Their online services include mobile support, allowing for on-the-go access to their database. These databases include listings, tax records, statistics, and more, giving real estate agents everything they need to provide exceptional service to the Portland area.

While RMLS focuses on serving realtors, their services are well suited toward assisting the average homebuyer and seller. Through these exceptional records, homeowners can learn more about their home’s history and compare past selling records and surrounding neighborhoods. That’s why it’s important to work with an accredited real estate agent who can access resources like RMLS.

RMLS has come a long way since its inception and acts as a cornerstone of northern Oregon real estate, offerings agents comprehensive information about listings, past sales, and tax records both in the office and on the go through their mobile platform. Through integrations with MLS platforms like Paragon, RMLS continues to innovate and expand its services while looking toward the future of Portland-area real estate. 

The RMLS Today

Public and Private Access

Today, the RMLS™ database is all digital. It archives 2 million listings – around 16,000 of which are active listings. Around 16,000 users have access to the RMLS, though a private (paid-for) login. There used to be a public way to browse the RMLS (a few different ways over the years) but as of right now I don’t know of one. See our article on where did RMLS.com go? for more information.

Local Direct Connections to RMLS Data

Local agent-developed tools such as PortlandHomesforSale.com have direct and complete access to our local RMLS data. Huge national websites like Zillow and Realtor.com have to take in hundreds of different MLS feeds and organize them off one system. This means a lot of the unique local data available in RMLS is cut off and not available when searching national home for sale websites like Zillow. This is (one of the reasons) why using a local direct connect to RMLS site like PortlandHomesforSale.com can be more valuable then spending your time on national (dumbed-down) home search sites.

For those who want to dig a little deeper, the RMLS publishes weekly data on lockbox activity, which is an interesting way to keep tabs on the market. Lockboxes are the little devices Portland real estate agents use to access homes without a key. Every time one is unlocked, it means the home is shown to a potential buyer. You can watch lockbox activity fluctuate with the seasons on our monthly Portland real estate market reports.

Work with an RMLS Expert

Don’t forget to talk to someone with real-world expertise and insight that gets beyond the data—contact our top 1% Portland real estate team today (and consider yourself lucky that “The MLS Book” will not be making an appearance). We can help you navigate the Portland real estate market. Also, before I forget to mention, RMLS publishes coming soon homes for sale. But only those with a private login (Realtors) can see them. Interested in knowing what is coming before it hits the market? Get connected with a top agent today. Give us a call at 503-714-1111 or chat with the bot on this site. We’d love to chat with you!

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