Japanese Government Planning to Implement a U.S.-Style Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

By Jeff Wynkoop

According to a recent report by the Real Estate Economic Institute, the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (the “MLIT”) is currently working with the city of Yokohama to put together a new real estate database for the city. The purpose of the project is to create a more comprehensive Multiple Listing Service (“MLS”) for Yokohama than currently exists, with the aim of implementing a new system nationwide sometime in the future. The first trial run is scheduled for June 2015.

In the project, the MLIT is working to combine information on REINS (such as from registered purchase contracts) with the Yokohama City’s Official City Planning Map, Hazards Map, etc. By looking at the address of a property on the new database, users can instantly learn the location of nearby public facilities and use restriction zones (such as floor area ratios, building to land ratios, use restrictions under the Buildings Standards Law, related Fire Prevention Law zones, etc.).

The Yokohama database will be limited to licensed brokers, but the MLIT is also reviewing whether and how to build a new database for access by the general public.

If the MLIT decides to implement a nationwide MLS database open to consumers, it could be a very important development in the housing market here, similar to the impact Zillow and Trulia have had in the last decade in the United States.

What is an MLS?

An MLS is a local or regional service that allows brokers to register for-sale or rental properties and allows other brokers and agents to access the information online. Over half of the MLS in the United States are affiliated with the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Most regional MLS database systems have a web portal that is accessible by the public, giving consumers and potential home buyers a window to search listings that agents have released for web viewing. The majority of homes listed for sale on an MLS are viewable by the consumer online, but in some cases, home sellers or their listing agent may choose not to allow their listings to be available.

Data Transparency

Zillow.com is a real estate listing site in the United States, not an MLS, but it revolutionized consumer access to residential real estate information when it launched in 2006. According to its own website, Zillow has a database of more than 110 million U.S. homes, including homes for sale, homes for rent and homes not currently on the market. On Zillow, anyone, not just brokers and agents, can search for a property’s current estimated value, past sales data, and comparable sales info.

This kind of comprehensive transparency is currently lacking in the Japanese real estate market. A recent MLIT report on the MLS project has stated that one of the goals of implementing a U.S.-style MLS in the future is to increase the transparency of the property market here. The MLIT report mentions Zillow.com and Realtor.com and notes the impact that they have had on the residential for-sale market in the United States. Realtor.com is the closest thing to a national MLS that is openly accessible to American consumers.

REINS

The existing multiple listing service in Japan is called REINS (the “Real Estate Information Network System,” divided into East Japan, West Japan, Central Japan and Kinki-area Japan), and is a computer database used by real estate brokers to (1) disseminate information about client properties for sale and (2) collect information about for-sale properties for potential purchasers. However, access to REINS is limited to licensed real estate brokers, and there is a relatively limited scope of information disclosed for each property (when compared to Multiple Listing Services in other countries such as the US).

Source: Nikkan Fudosan Keizai Tsushin, May 12, 2015 and MLIT’s 不動産流通市場における情報整備のあり方研究会

Photos credit: m-louis