What is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?

Randy White Real Estate Services October 13, 2020

What is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?

If you’re buying or selling a home, then you’re going to come across the term MLS, or Multiple Listing Service. But just what is the MLS and why is it so important to both buyers and sellers? Let’s take a closer look at this essential tool.

The MLS explained

In a nutshell, the MLS is a huge database of homes for sale. While it may seem like the MLS is one national database, it is actually comprised of hundreds of regional databases. Real estate agents use the MLS as a tool to help buyers and sellers find each other, even for homes they do no represent. The MLS helps to facilitate cooperation between agents by consolidating information in one place. Real estate agents pay to have access to their regional database. In many cases, agents may pay to have memberships to more than one MLS.

How the MLS works

The MLS is an online service that allows agents to search homes by price, features, and neighborhoods. Sellers cannot post their properties directly on the MLS – it is only accessible to those agents and brokers who have paid memberships. Agents collect all the important details about a home including the size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and other amenities. They then create a listing with this information as well as photos of the home on behalf of their client. Agents can also upload and download important documents on the MLS like HOA regulations and seller disclosures. Listings on the MLS are then exposed to thousands of agents as well as real estate websites like Zillow or Realtor.com.

How the MLS benefits buyers

We are in a seller’s market. That means it’s critical for buyers to have up-to-the-minute access to new home listings. Homes are added to the MLS in real time giving agents information about new homes for sale almost instantly. Agents are notified when new listings fitting their criteria are added to the database. As a buyer, having this information at your fingertips is critical in a competitive market.

How the MLS benefits sellers

As a home seller, the most important marketing tool is exposure. You are more likely to have multiple offers on your home when it reaches the widest possible audience. When your home is listed on the MLS it not only reaches the agents who have access to the database, but also the third party websites that aggregate this data. This means your home will be seen by exponentially more potential buyers than just a sign in your front yard or an ad in the local newspaper.

How to make the most of the MLS

When interviewing real estate agents, be sure to ask them if they have MLS access. Also inquire if they are members of more than one MLS, which will increase your reach to potential buyers or sellers. If you’re house hunting, then ask your agent to create a buyer portal. This will create email alerts that are sent to you when a home matching your criteria hits the market. As a seller, make sure that you agent has correct information about your home so that details in your listing are accurate. And, of course, be sure to use high-quality photos to make your home stand out from the competition.

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