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Using The MLS to Find Your Next Home

The MLS is the Multiple Listing Service, or listed homes database, used by local or regional real estate agents to search for homes to show potential buyers. The MLS is generally closed to the public, but your agent can use it to send you periodic reports of updated listings that meet your needs. You can then use the report to pick what homes you want to view with your agent.

The first and most important thing you can do to take advantage of the MLS is to figure out what youíre looking for in a home. Make a list of the things you wonít compromise on, like the minimum number of bedrooms you have to have. Do you have large dogs or kids that need a big backyard? Do you need proximity to public transportation? Is there a specific neighborhood you want? Do you absolutely need to be in a good school district, or are there family members with special needs that require you to have a one-story house? Write all these requirements down.

Then, make a list of bonuses you would like, but donít necessarily need to have. Maybe you prefer a paved driveway over a gravel driveway, or you prefer hardwood floors over carpet. Perhaps having a screened-in porch would be nice, but isnít at the top of your priority list. This list could include things you wouldnít mind adding to a home later, or cosmetic things you can probably change yourself (like wall colors, faucet types, or lighting fixtures).

Give both lists to your real estate agent, along with your price range. If you find a home that meets all your priorities and also has most or all of your wants, youíre in luck! Your search is over. However, itís not very common to find a tailor-made home for you, so donít lose hope if it doesnít happen.

Have your agent set up an MLS search based on your needs, using your email address. Have the search be set to update twice a week, so you get updated listings that meet your requirements. You can then search the listings with your list of wants to see if the homes on the MLS report have any of them. When you see a home youíre interested in, contact your agent to set up a viewing.

The information on the MLS is very comprehensive, so you should have no problem narrowing the search down to only listings that meet your non-negotiables. This allows you to save both your time and your agentís because you wonít be driving around looking at homes that end up being out of your price range, too small or big, or lacking the handicapped ramp you need.

Remember that while internet searches on your own can give you information about nearby homes, they will not always yield you the concentrated, detailed information that is available through the MLS. The MLS is mostly digital now, so it can be up-to-the-minute accurate. Meanwhile, homes listed on Craigslist might not be updated for weeks. Take advantage of the tools at your agentís disposal to find your next home.