The MLS in Real Estate: What You Need to Know

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What is the MLS?

When you are talking with your real estate agent, they might refer to the MLS. But what is the MLS in real estate, and how does it work?

Maximum Real Estate Exposure has an excellent explanation of the purpose of the multiple listing service. There is also detailed information in their resource covering all the potential listing statuses a consumer can see from the MLS.

Some of the popular statuses include contingent or under contract, pending, expired, withdrawn and kick-out.

It is worth your time to get a better understanding of how the MLS helps consumers and real estate agents alike.

The multiple listing service is a way for real estate agents to share information on homes for sale. Agents and brokers can use this database to check properties listed to help buyers find their next home.

The MLS benefits all agents and brokers that contribute to it, allowing them to share commissions on sales as well. Information is shared in the database, updated regularly, and available online or in print to participating members.

How the Multiple Listing Service Works

Back in the 1800s, real estate agents realized they could sell more homes, and help buyers better, if they cooperated with other brokerages. Up to that point, they only had access to their own limited listings.

The multiple listing service is an arrangement between brokerages where their properties are listed together. Originally, the MLS was a catalog distributed between brokerages, but now it is mostly online.

There isn’t just one MLS, there are many regional databases to better serve buyers and sellers locally. The hundreds of local MLS databases also hold the national listings that are found on real estate websites.

The agents and brokers that are members of the multiple listing service, pay fees to access the relevant databases. This allows them to receive information on homes being marketed in the area quickly. Individual databases might have their own rules and regulations, but often follow the guidelines laid out by the National Association of Realtors.

Is There Still a Need for Multiple Listing Services?

Even though thanks to the internet, there is a wealth of information available to buyers, MLS databases are still needed. Often, the MLS will contain information not found online, making it easier for agents to find details of showing times and contact information, for example.

While there is a lot of information available outside of the MLS, it would be more time consuming to search through different websites for local sales listings.

The MLS conveniently consolidates this information in one place for real estate agents.

The Advantages of Using the MLS

Using a multiple listing service offers many benefits, including letting smaller brokerages enjoy the same exposure for their listings as larger firms.

Without the MLS, clients of smaller brokerages would have less access to the market. The multiple listing service opens up the market to make it easier to buy and sell homes.

It allows selling agents more opportunities to find a buyer for their client, and buyers’ agents more options as well. Real estate websites, like Zillow and Trulia, even take data from region MLS databases to complete their listings.

The Multiple Listing Service Helps Create a Comparative Market Analysis

The MLS is also vital for a real estate agent to use for creating a comparative market analysis for a seller or buyer. As an agent, you are able to pull the needed comparable sales information right off the system. It makes an agents job far easier when the information is right at their finger tips.

You can see all the details on each home including how long it has been on the market, and how long it took to sell.

Can Anyone Access Multiple Listing Services?

If you are a buyer or a seller, you can view local MLS databases through your real estate agent. Without a real estate license, and a membership to the MLS, you can’t post property to the database.

There are some services that, for a flat fee, will help you post your property to the local MLS. Services like this aren’t available everywhere, and won’t provide the full marketing services a real estate brokerage would.

What are MLS Numbers?

The MLS number of a listed property is like a serial number assigned to listings to distinguish them from one another. It makes it easier to find a specific property, avoiding some of the confusion that could otherwise happen.

The MLS number shouldn’t be confused with the NMLS number. The NMLS number indicates that a mortgage loan officer is licensed through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System.

What Fees are Charged by the MLS?

There isn’t any standard fee charged by different MLS organizations. Different regional multiple listing services will have different charges to access their database. These fees are charged to the brokers and agents, and not buyers or sellers.

Final Thoughts

While the increase in popularity of real estate websites might make MLS databases seem outdated, it remains an important method to assist real estate agents in helping their clients.

The MLS will help you sell your home, or give you more choices when you are buying. These databases remain the best place to find current homes for sale locally.

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Bill Gassett is a thirty-two year veteran to the real estate industry. He enjoys providing helpful information to buyers, sellers and fellow real estate agents to make sound decisions. His work has been featured on RIS Media, National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Placester, RESAAS, Credit Sesame and others.

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