What is MLS and how does it work?
Whether you’re buying or selling a home, you’ll probably hear the term MLS, which stands for Multiple Listing Service. MLS is a platform used by real estate agents and brokers to share information about properties for sale and find available listings for potential buyers. If you’re embarking on a home search or considering putting your home up for sale, your local MLS will likely be an important part of the process.
What is MLS or Multiple Listing Service?
In real estate, the MLS is a database of homes for sale in a particular geographic region. When realtors list a property for sale, they add it to the MLS database, allowing all agents and brokers in the area who have access to the system to review the listing. Buyers’ agents use MLS to find homes to show clients. Information listed on the MLS includes photos and detailed descriptions of homes for sale. Realtors and brokers pay a membership fee to access their local MLS database.
Although it may seem like a modern development, the concept of a multiple listings service dates back to the late 1800s. sell, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Over time, this sharing of information was done via books or files, then possibly via a computer, as is still done today.
Sharing property listings on the MLS allows small real estate agencies to compete with large franchise businesses. Rather than only being able to show clients the listings their own office represents, this cooperation allows brokers and agents to access the listings of other agents in their area, and vice versa.
How is MLS created?
Realtors share their listings on MLS, uploading detailed information and photos to each listing. The information available on the MLS databases is updated regularly by participating agents and brokers.
Homeowners selling their property can work with agents or brokers to have their home added to MLS, but cannot add homes to MLS themselves.
How many MLS are there?
There is currently about 600 MLSs across the United States, according to the Real Estate Standards Organization — though that number goes up and down year by year amid regional consolidation. They also exist in Canada, although to a lesser extent. In other countries however, the use of an MLS is less widespread.
“The United States is unusual that way,” says Katie Severance, an agent at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Palm Beach, Florida, and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Selling Your Home. “Internationally, most countries don’t have an MLS, or if they do, they don’t cover a large chunk of the market.”
There are also rare US markets that do not have MLS. New York City is an example. Although there is no MLS in New York, other local services are used to syndicate available real estate listings.
Does the MLS contain all homes for sale?
The vast majority of homes available for sale are included in the MLS. But there are exceptions — homes that are sold without ever appearing on MLS.
“Houses that are strictly For Sale by Owner is typically not found in the MLS database,” says Jen Horner, agent at RE/MAX Masters in Salt Lake City, Utah. The same could be true for homes listed by some brokerages, she says: “Big brokerages can only post listings to their own proprietary databases and choose not to place their housing inventory on the MLS system.
The NAR addresses this problem with its Clear cooperation policy for member realtors, which requires that “within one business day of marketing a property to the public, the listing broker must submit the listing to MLS for cooperation with other MLS participants”.
Classifieds and off-market sales
Pocket listings are homes that are not marketed in the usual way. These ads are sometimes referred to as exclusive or non-marketplace ads. Rather than being included in the MLS, the seller instead keeps the property quietly “in his pocket” – hence the name.
“This situation typically arises when a seller is uninterested in publicly marketing the home for privacy reasons, or is willing to hold the sale until the right buyer makes an offer that cannot be refused,” says Horner.
Can I access my local MLS without an agent?
Only licensed real estate agents and brokers can list properties on MLS. However, in some areas anyone can view MLS listings without professional assistance.
“Some regional MLS databases have a ‘public side’ so consumers can access the same listings, obscuring the agent side,” Severance says. “The only difference is that the agent side has a little more information about viewings, access to property, how to submit offers, cooperating with agencies and commissions, and the ability to perform analysis. Steps.”
Additionally, many brokers offer their clients access to view listings. Again, however, members of the public will not have access to all of the same data as agents and brokers.
At the end of the line
MLS allows agents and brokers in a particular market to share information about real estate listings. It is useful for home sellers in that it helps expose their properties to a much wider audience. And it’s also very useful for buyers, making it much more convenient to find all properties for sale in a geographic area when working with an agent or broker.