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A Guide To The Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

Lauren Nowacki4-Minute Read
July 24, 2021

When it comes to selling a home, it seems like everyone works together toward one common goal: putting the keys into the hands of its new owner. Every home buyer wants to find a dream home, and every home seller wants their home to go to the right person. On the same line, real estate brokers want what’s best for their clients, even if it means teaming up with their competitors. And that’s exactly what a multiple listing service (MLS) allows.

What Is The Multiple Listing Service?

In real estate, the multiple listing service is an online database for real estate brokers to share information about their properties for sale with each other. Through the MLS, brokers can more easily connect buyers to sellers for mutual benefit.

The database provides information on properties for sale, including pictures and detailed descriptions, along with confidential documents like seller disclosures. The MLS is updated throughout the day, so brokers are able to find new homes for their buyers almost immediately after they’re listed. The MLS provides buyers with more homes to choose from and helps sellers get their homes in front of the eyes of a bigger pool of buyers. For brokers, this database allows them to provide a better experience for buyers and sellers, and it may help the buying or selling process move quicker.

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How Does The MLS Work?

The concept of an MLS has been around long before the internet. In the late 1800s, brokers would regularly meet to share information about the properties they were selling, agreeing to compensate any broker who helped them with the sale. The same process happens today, but online across multiple regional MLS networks, instead of face-to-face with a select few people involved. Since the process takes place online, information can be uploaded or updated almost instantly.

Each network must follow the regulations set by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and can only be accessed by licensed real estate professionals who pay a membership fee. That means sellers cannot list their homes on the MLS on their own and buyers cannot search through the database. Instead, a seller’s agent will list their clients’ homes for sale on the MLS, and buyer’s agents can search the database to find potential homes their clients may like based on their criteria. Both seller’s and buyer’s agents will also use the MLS to do a comparative market analysis.

Each listing on the MLS will be different, and the information it provides will depend on what the listing agent chooses to include. Here are a few pieces of information most listings will include:

  • The age of the home
  • The size of the home
  • The number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Any unique or standout features of the home
  • Pictures of the interior and exterior of the home

While this information may be available on other real estate listing sites, the MLS also includes additional information that is not always made available to the public on these other sites, such as private contact information and home showing schedules.

What Are The Benefits Of Using The MLS?

The MLS benefits buyers, sellers and real estate professionals. It helps level the playing field between competing brokerages by allowing small and large firms to compete and earn commission by assisting in a property’s sale. It also helps real estate agents provide the best experience to their clients, whether that’s marketing a seller’s home or helping buyers find the right one.

Buyers, through the help of their agent, will be able to better find the home that suits their needs. They may find more options for what they want, especially if they’re picky. They may also be privy to any new homes as soon as they hit the market, and could possibly beat other potential buyers to a home they like.

The widespread sharing of information through the MLS also helps simplify the selling process for homeowners trying to sell their homes, because the MLS gets more potential buyers looking at their property. For buyers and sellers, the MLS can also help them price the home strategically by providing information on local market conditions.

How Do I Find MLS Listings?

As stated before, the multiple listing service is not open to the public, but only to real estate professionals like agents, brokers or REALTORS® who pay membership fees and dues. This type of invaluable access to information is one of the reasons it’s important to find the right agent for you. After all, they’ll be on the frontlines of all your real estate transactions.

While all information on the MLS is private and only viewable by professionals, brokers will usually share listing information with the public free of charge, while withholding personal information about the seller. You can also find home listings for free online. However, those will not be as up to date as the MLS, and may not include all of the homes listed on the MLS.

The Bottom Line: Use The Multiple Listing Service For Real Estate Inquiries

The MLS can help all parties involved in a real estate transaction by providing important information on homes for sale and getting those homes more exposure. However, it’s only accessible to real estate professionals, which is one of the many reasons why you should work with a real estate agent.

While the multiple listing service provides invaluable information that can help move buyers and sellers forward in real estate transactions, educating yourself on home buying and home selling can also assist you with your transaction, making it easier to navigate the real estate world.

To get started on your home-buying journey, find a real estate agent in your area through Rocket Homes®. If you’re ready to put your home on the MLS, consult a seller’s agent today.

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Lauren Nowacki

Lauren Nowacki is a staff writer specializing in personal finance, homeownership and the mortgage industry. She has a B.A. in Communications and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.