How Does the MLS Work?
If you buy or sell a home, you’re probably going to hear about the MLS. MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service, used by real estate agents and brokers to provide information about properties that are for sale and to find listings for buyers that are available.
The MLS is like a database of homes for sale in any given geographic region. If a real estate agent lists a property for sale, they add it to the database. Once the property’s in the database, all the agents and brokers in the area with access to this system can see and review the listing. A buyers’ agent can use the MLS to show clients potential homes. There are pictures and detailed descriptions of all the homes for sale.
Brokers and realtors pay a membership fee to have access to the local MLS database where they work.
Because of the MLS, smaller real estate agents and offices are able to compete with much larger firms. The brokers and agents with access to the MLS can show clients listings from other agents in their region rather than only being able to show the ones their office represents.
The databases are private, and they are created, maintained, and also paid for by the local area’s real estate professionals.
A real estate agent shares their listing on the MLS. The agent will upload information and pictures for every listing, and the database information is updated on a regular basis by the brokers and agents who participate.
If you’re a homeowner, you can’t add your home to the MLS on your own. You have to work with agents or brokers.
There are hundreds of MLSs throughout the country, and the number goes up and down depending on factors like regional consolidation of brokerages.
Other countries don’t typically use something like an MLS.
Additionally, there are some markets in the United States without an MLS. New York City is one example. Even though New York doesn’t have an MLS, there are other services where real estate listings can be added.
Most homes for sale are on the MLS, with a few exceptions. Homes only for sale by owner will usually not be on the database, and sometimes larger brokerages have their own database where they put their listings, opting not to add them to the MLS.
A pocket listing isn’t marketed in a typical way, and these can be known as off-market listings or exclusive listings. These aren’t on the MLS because the seller wants to keep it quiet that they’re selling the property.
Some regional MLS databases will let consumers look at the same listings an agent could see, but on the agent side, there is more information about submitting offers, showings, property access, and other things an agent would need to do a market analysis.
Many brokers will give their clients access to the MLS so they can see listings, but again, the public doesn’t have the full access the broker does.
The MLS is one reason that, for most buyers and sellers, working with a real estate agent is the most convenient and effective route to take. The MLS lets these agents and brokers see and share information about listings, and often if you aren’t an agent, you can’t see what’s on the MLS at all.