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How the Internet Has Changed the MLS

The MLS is the Multiple Listing Service used by real estate agents. It has up-to-date information about all the homes for sale by brokers in a specific area (and some for sale by owner). Real estate agents search the MLS for homes that they think their clients will be interested in, using search parameters like lot size, number of rooms, price range, or school district.

The MLS used to be a printed volume that was reprinted every month. Updates were printed weekly and mailed to the agents. Now, the internet has altered the way in which real estate agents can use the MLS. It has also provided competition in the form of other websites that provide information straight to the consumer (the actual MLS itself is only accessible by real estate agents and is not open to the public).

Most regional MLS listings are online now. That means that listing agents can update their listings and other agents can see the changes within minutes. There’s no more driving through neighborhoods to see if any new houses have come up for sale. This fosters competition because now agents must race against each other even more quickly to get their clients in the door of a home first. It also means that your house could sell more quickly in a hot market than it would have back when the MLS was merely printed.

Perhaps the biggest change is the invention of other websites that are open to the consumers. There are websites that list some of the same information as that on the MLS, along with several pictures and even virtual tours. Consumers can sometimes bypass the use of the MLS altogether, and send links of homes that they have found to their agent, instead of vice versa. Some consumers might even bypass the use of an agent altogether since they have access to some of the same information that an agent does.

There have been a number of antitrust lawsuits brought against owners of certain Multiple Listing Services that have tried to limit listing information to their services only, keeping it off other websites. The lawsuits have made it possible for other websites to publish the information as well, allowing consumers to cut out the middleman of a real estate listing agent.

However, these competing websites are not perfect. Not all properties will make it onto those sites, and the information might not be as comprehensive as the information on the MLS. They might be updated more slowly than the MLS. While more and more information is available to the buyer because of the internet, it is still wise to go with a professional real estate agent who you know has access to the most accurate, current information about the market you are interested in.