Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Brief History of the World... of MLS - Part 1

Where to start? At the beginning, of course.

The real estate industry – and conversely the laws and systems that govern it – was born out of a necessity: how to claim and trade land. Like many of our government and civic systems, the predecessor of today’s real estate industry was born in medieval England.

After the Norman conquest of the British Isles in 1099, the newly crowned King William decreed that all the vast lands of England were his, and solely his, to do with what he willed. The feudal system was born. In this system, the King would divvy out parcels of land to the aristocracy over which they would rule for a time. These tenures of ownership were called ‘estates’ and the most common type was the ‘Fee Simple’ estate, whereby land rights were passed down through the same family over generations. This is the most important form of common law that came out of the feudal system and we still use its basic premise today.

Fast-forward a few years. The smoke is settling over a newly formed republic, a former colony of the British Empire with vast resources of land and oddly democratic tendencies. The first Americans built real estate laws right into the constitution, for in the 18th and 19th centuries, land was the primary source of wealth. By the 1880s the first loosely organized real estate agent organizations were developed and by 1900 well over a dozen real estate boards stood firmly in place. These boards helped organize, list, and catalogue land and building sales, but were still largely bureaucratic entities serving large businesses and the government.

In 1951 the ‘Photo Co-Op System’ revolutionized the real estate industry and made buying and selling homes much more convenient to the American public. Real estate and mortgage firms flourished and the agency system became a multi-billion (now trillion-) dollar industry. This was the predecessor to today’s MLS and was the jumping off point for technology like real estate website and idx tools.
Cue the dawning of a technological revolution and the merging of a thousand-year old real estate system with the emerging technology of computers and the Internet.

Drum roll; fade to black.



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