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What Is The MLS?

If you’re looking to buy or sell your home, then you’ve likely heard of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). For those unfamiliar, the MLS is a tool used by real estate professionals across the United States to provide accurate and detailed information on property listings. Real estate professionals also use it to find listings for potential buyers.

Online Listing Sites vs.The MLS

Although online listing sites (for example aggregate listings from multiple MLS feeds, these sites aren’t considered MLS databases.

» MORE: Use our Home Search tool to find local real estate listings

Can Anyone Access The MLS?

The answer depends on your region.

While the MLS was traditionally accessible only to licensed real estate professionals, the rise of online real estate portals has made much of this information available to the public. In many regions, MLS listings are syndicated to websites that the public can view.

However, even when MLS listings are publicly viewable, you might not see the same depth of information on the listings that a real estate agent would see.

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How Does The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Work?

The MLS works by sorting listings into geographic areas, allowing your real estate agent or broker to find listings that are relevant to you.

Since each MLS is location-specific, some real estate professionals opt to join more than one MLS to locate homes in different regions.

Let’s delve further into how the MLS operates.

MLS Cost

The cost to access a local MLS ranges from around $40 all the way up to $2,000+, typically paid on an annual basis.

Additionally, an MLS may require an initial sign-up fee, which can reach several hundred dollars, and occasionally exceed $1,000.

Not surprisingly, joining multiple MLS databases is quite costly, as the cost of each MLS adds up.

Price of Hiring An MLS Flat Fee Company

The typical cost of hiring an MLS flat-fee company to list a property is usually a few hundred dollars, with the listing remaining active for one year.

It’s certainly possible to pay more, however. In fact, premium listings can cost as much as $1,500+.

Opting for a premium listing comes with several benefits that may or may not justify the cost. Whether the price is worth it depends on your goals.

The benefits of a premium listing include but are not limited to:

  • Enhanced visibility
  • The inclusion of property videos
  • High-resolution photos
  • A virtual tour
  • Complimentary listing updates
  • Access to downloadable contracts and disclosures

MLS Membership and Access

As mentioned above, MLS listings, although traditionally accessible only to licensed real estate professionals, are usually now syndicated to websites that the public can view.

With that said, in some cases, only members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) have access to the MLS since a number of MLS systems are owned and operated by local NAR affiliate groups.

Sharing of Information On An MLS

The MLS operates on the principle of cooperation and compensation. When a listing is added to a local MLS, the listing agent is offering to share their commission with any other MLS member who can find a buyer for the property.

This incentivizes all the agents in the network to sell all the listed properties, not just their own listings.

MLS Property Search

The MLS serves as a platform where real estate professionals can search for properties based on various criteria. This may include the neighborhood, number of bedrooms, square footage, price range, and many other specific features.

MLS Number

Every listing in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is assigned a unique identifier, often called an MLS number. This number helps real estate professionals quickly and accurately locate specific properties within the MLS database.

MLS numbers are particularly useful when there are many listings with similar characteristics, as they ensure each property can be distinctly identified.

MLS Data Accuracy

The information on the MLS is considered more reliable than other real estate websites and resources. That’s because MLS rules require that listings be updated in a timely manner.

MLS Maintenance and Updates

The MLS must be constantly maintained and updated. This includes adding new listings, updating existing listings, removing sold properties, and making any necessary changes to the platform or database.

MLS Notifications

When new properties are listed on the MLS, notifications can be sent out to agents, keeping them informed about new listings their clients might be interested in.

MLS Data Input

To add your home to your local MLS, you need the help of a real estate agent, who will input all the details about your property.

This includes the asking price, square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, property type (single-family home, condo, land, etc.), location, and detailed home descriptions.

Photos, 3D tours, and floor plans can also be added to the listing to give potential buyers a more accurate view of the property.

» MORE: Get a home valuation to find out how much your home is worth

How Is An MLS Created?

Simply put, a local MLS is created when a group of real estate professionals decides to make one.

Real Estate Agents Pooling Resources For The MLS

Once real estate professionals in a local area decide to band together and pool their resources, they then create a database, website, or platform where members can access the data.

This is done with the help of a software provider that specializes in creating MLS systems.

Setting The Rules For A Local MLS

Before the MLS can operate effectively, rules have to be established that cover the following:

  • How members can use the MLS
  • What types of properties can be listed
  • How listings should be entered
  • How quickly listings must be updated
  • How commissions are shared
  • Other operational details.

Setting Up MLS Membership Fees

To fund the creation of an MLS, members are required to pay a fee, which is typically charged annually and is used to:

(1) Cover the cost of maintaining the MLS database and (2) pay for member services and other needs.

Benefits of Using A Multiple Listing Service

The MLS is a valuable tool for real estate professionals, as it provides exposure to clients who are selling their homes while the buyers get access to detailed listings.

But the MLS comes with several other benefits beyond this.

The MLS Levels The Playing Field

One of the MLS’s key benefits is that it levels the playing field between large and small real estate firms.

This is made possible as, irrespective of a company’s size, all members of an MLS enjoy equal access to its listings.

MLS Auto-Syncing to Real Estate Websites

The MLS’s ability to auto-sync listings to prominent real estate websites (like Zillow and Trulia) dramatically increases the exposure for listed properties.

The MLS Reduces Costs for Real Estate Agents

The MLS reduces the cost of client acquisition for real estate professionals by offering a variety of benefits. These include increased visibility, an efficient search platform, shared commission, professional networking, and automated tools.

Faster Closing Process with The MLS

The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) accelerates the property closing process by offering streamlined communication, document sharing, and progress tracking for listings.

The MLS Has Accurate Property Listings

The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is widely recognized for its accuracy, and there are several reasons why this is the case.

Here are the main ones.

1. Professional Responsibility – Agents are accountable for their MLS entries, with inaccuracies potentially damaging their reputations.

2. Data Verification – Agents verify listing details before posting, often cross-checking with public records or other reliable sources.

3. Updating Requirements – MLS rules require timely updates when a property’s status changes.

4. Standards and Rules – MLS guidelines ensure consistent and accurate listing information.

5. Member Accountability – Errors can be reported to the MLS for correction by the listing agent, promoting greater accuracy.

How Popular Is The MLS?

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), an overwhelming 97% of homebuyers utilized the internet as a key part of their home search in 2022.

As we proceed into mid-2023, it’s reasonable to expect that this reliance on online resources, including the MLS, will remain just as significant.

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How Many MLSs Are There?

The NAR states there are currently more than 800 MLSs.

Does The MLS Contain All US Home Listings?

No, not all homes are on the MLS.

What Types of Homes Are Not On The MLS?

Homes listed by larger brokerages and homes that are for sale by owner are unlikely to be found on the MLS. This is because large brokerages often maintain their own databases for listings, and homeowners cannot directly add listings to the MLS without the aid of a real estate professional.

Additionally, pocket listings, which are purposely kept exclusive or off-market, are generally not included in the MLS.

History of The MLS

The roots of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) date back to the late 19th century. During this time, real estate brokers began to exchange information about properties for sale through their local associations.

In the MLS’s early form, brokers who contributed to successful sales received compensation, laying the groundwork for the cooperative system we know today.

Fast forward to 1975, and the first computerized MLS was introduced, marking a significant milestone in the evolution of real estate transactions. This technological advancement streamlined property listings, improving accessibility and efficiency for brokers and agents.

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