What’s an MLS Book? OR Real Estate OLD SCHOOL!

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty BRE 01456626

How did we ever do business, prior to MLS data being online?

I occasionally do expert witness work for some local divorce attorneys on the San Francisco Mid-Peninsula.

They will typically ask me to visit a property, pull comparable sales data and then write up a Comparative Market Analysis showing the value of that property. I usually will have to determine a value for today and then some dates in the past. (eg: date when the couple got married, date of separation, etc.)

I needed comparable sales data for this case from early 1997. Our online MLS on average goes back to 1996, so I didn't think that 1997 was a big deal. Unfortunately the MLS area that I was investigating only had online data back to 1998.

I called our local board office SAMCAR to ask what to do and the lady said, "You'll have to come in to the office and look at our library of MLS books". I didn't even know what an MLS book was. Couldn't she just email me a PDF with the sold listing data from that MLS area and that year? NO. It's only in a bound book, not on any computer.

MLS Book

I went in to the office, had her unlock the library and did my research. The books are easy to use, with good indexes, etc, so it only took me about an hour to find the comparable sales that I normally find online in about 10 minutes. (6X the effort, not bad)

I just wondered how difficult it must have been to sell Real Estate when you only had a 2"x3" square of information to go by. 

MLS Book - HOme Ad - Palm

1997 wasn't that long ago. It's hard to believe that there wasn't an easier way back then. I started Real Estate in 2004, so I never knew anything but logging on to the MLS to do my research.

As I was leaving the board office, I asked the lady, who had worked there for a very long time, "Did agents "REALLY" have to sit down and page through one of these books to find out which properties were available?"

She said YES. She indicated that the listing information and photos were compiled and then 2 weeks later the books were published and delivered to all of the broker offices (2 WEEKS LATER?) Do you mean that I would have had to wait 2 weeks to find out about a new listing?

She said that it was very frustrating for agents, because by the time the books came out, the property might have already been sold by someone within the listing agents office.

I do have to say that I was fascinated by the experience. It was like being transported back in time. It also gave me some good blog fodder.


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Victor Zuniga
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services California Properties - San Diego, CA

Thank God we no longer have to do it this way. I can't imagine having to deal with more paper.

Feb 26, 2011 05:41 AM #1
Marge Draper
Keller Williams Realty Palo Alto - Menlo Park, CA
REALTOR, Keller Williams Realty, Menlo Park CA

When I started in real estate in 1995,  the 'book' was being phased out.  The office had a couple of terminals that were attached to a mainframe somwhere.  The terminals were 'dumb' and were set up so an agent could request information by typing questions in a format the mainframe could understand.  We got the answers typed on paper that fed out of the top of the terminal.  You can imagine the resistance to these machines by the old time agents.

Feb 27, 2011 11:02 AM #2
Charita Cadenhead
eXp Realty - Birmingham, AL
Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama)

Chris I didn't start selling real estate until 2006, but I remember those books.  So glad that I wasn't interested in real estate back in those days.

Mar 02, 2011 10:12 PM #3
kathy pflugrad

Back then, property descriptions were written to be read by other agents. Today they're published online. But agents are still writing for other agents. When I write property descriptions targeting buyers instead of agents, I get amazing results--DOM is cut in half and sale price increases.

Jun 04, 2019 05:36 PM #4
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Chris Eckert Real EstateTeam

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