What Does MLS in Real Estate Mean?

What is an MLS system?

In real estate, MLS is short for Multiple Listing Service. A Multiple Listing Service is a private database that can only be accessed by realtors and brokers, and is a vital tool used not only for sellers but for propspective buyers as well. This is one of the many reasons people choose to work with a professional, not only for their knowledge but for the exlcusive access they have to information pertaining properties.

What makes it so special and different from public platforms, such as Zillow or Redfin, you might ask? Well, ask yourself this: how many home search websites and apps do you know? At the beginning of this paragraph, we listed two, but each real estate company (such as Windermere, John L. Scott) often has their own website, as well as those specializing in rentals, farm land, commercial properties, ect. The point is, all of those platforms are limited to some degree. Why browse through multiple home search platforms when ALL properties within a certain geographic area could be at your fingertips? This is what makes the exlcusive access that real estate professionals have to an MLS system so vital. Everything that you see as a consumer on individual sites and apps can all be found in one place: an MLS system.

Is it accurate?

Many would argue that it is the MOST accurate, and with good reason. A realtor/broker is under strict regulations to not only upload any transactions that they participate in onto the MLS system within a timely manner, but are required to be accurate in the information provided as well to the point they will be fined if they don't. This ensures that the MLS system is very accurate and up to date. A realtor/broker can thus pull up an address and see the entire history of listings that property has had (often as far back as even a decade+), along with tax information, pricing, and previous notes and details. Often, each state has their own MLS system, but can have multiple if the state is rather large.

What are the benefits of a MLS?

Because real estate professionals are under such strict guidelines when it comes to the MLS, this also allows them to make very refined searches. Often times, when looking on brokerage websites or public platforms such as Zillow, there are very few "filters" that can be applied when searching. On a MLS, every possible critera that a potential buyer could imagine exists; not just bathroom and bedroom count, but as detailed as whether you want a septic tank or sewer, a particular neighborhood, driving time, and better yet, the ability to exclude properties. Want to live in a particular county but don't want a home with a specific feature (say, a pool?). Easy to do. All the filters that you wish existed on public platforms are found on a MLS site, allowing agents to easily and efficiently narrow down potential properties for clients in a matter of minutes.

This is why if you are considering on selling by owner, you are not only cutting out the help of a knowledgable agent, but severly limiting your home's visibility to potential buyers. If someone decides to do FSBO (for sale by owner), then a buyer's agent is unable to pull up your listing in the MLS system--because it doesn't exist. A homeowner is simply not able to upload to the MLS if they do not have an agent representing them. A homeowner or potential buyer also can't buy access or create an account to the MLS, even just for viewing purposes. 

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