Part of the everyday vocabulary for everyone who deals with our Lewiston-Auburn real estate market are the words “MLS” and “MLS Listings”. First-time buyers and sellers can find the term confusing because it is used in so many different ways. You may hear people ask if a house you are considering is “on the MLS”; you might hear that “it was withdrawn or expired,” or has been “relisted”. Especially to anyone trying to do a “FSBO” (For Sale By Owner), the MLS Listing status can assume strategic importance.
“MLS” is an acronym for Multiple Listing Service. In many parts of the country, there are county or regional MLS’s. In Maine, we have a single, statewide MLS, which is owned by the Maine Association of Realtors, and only it’s members have direct access to the database. Each property is tied to key descriptive information (how many bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, water frontage), and all of it (including photographs and virtual tours) is organized into a uniform database.
Most simply put, an MLS Listing is any property for sale that has been entered into the Statewide MLS database. Because so many people rely upon the information attached to each property, only members of the MLS are allowed to make an entry. Anyone entering a listing must an “authorized user” (most likely, a licensed Realtor) working under the auspices of a licensed broker. They must pay yearly dues to belong to the MLS, and as an agent, must abide by the rules created by the Statewide MLS or face fines and penalties. And, as you have certainly already noticed -- it's a big deal whether a property is an MLS listing or not. If a property isn’t listed in the MLS, it’s not going to www.realtor.com or many of those other “feeder” sites across the Internet where buyers are looking!
Real Estate agents work on commission, and like everyone else, they need to know that they will be compensated for their work. When a listing is entered into the MLS, it automatically becomes a legally binding offering of sharing the commission. It says to all the other agents in the area (in fact, nation-wide), “I have an active listing agreement with this seller and we are offering to pay you X% if you introduce someone who winds up buying this property.”
MLS Listings also provide a set of uniform facts about listed properties – facts that are designed to make possible comparisons between listed properties. Square footage, lot size, age (displayed as 'year the home was built'), and many other facts make it easy for agents to determine if the MLS listing is one they their buyers might be interested in investigating further. The MLS is the backbone of every real estate agent's business. It's how agents know what is for sale this minute and how buyers know what is for sale this winter in the Lewiston-Auburn area, what has been for sale in the past, and what has actually sold.
Most MLS Listings are published on a number of on-line venues automatically (like ) so an MLS Listing will have great exposure not only to Lewiston-Auburn agents, but also to buyers as well as agents all over the country looking to refer a buyer to Lewiston-Auburn.
A FSBO seller misses all these opportunities. To everyone who is serious about selling their home, the kind of exposure that automatically comes along with a MLS listing is pretty much a strategic starting point.