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Using MLS: Terms to Know

The MLS is the Multiple Listing Service used by real estate agents. It is a database of comprehensive, up-to-date information on homes for sale in a specific location or region. It contains more information than is generally available to buyers, and is generally not open to the public. To use the MLS to find homes you might be interested in buying, you need to have a real estate agent. There are a few terms that might be helpful in your search for a good agent, in reading an MLS listing, and in your home-buying process in general.

• Real Estate Agent or Realtor: A real estate agent is someone who is licensed to sell property in your state. A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), an organization with a strict code of ethics by which members must comply. Either type of professional should have access to the MLS.

• “AWC”: If you see this on an MLS listing, it means Active With Contingencies. An active property is one that is available for sale. One that is AWC has had an offer submitted to the sellers that has contingencies. If the contingency isn’t met by the seller or the buyer (whatever the contingency is), other offers will be considered. You can still make an offer on a house that is AWC, but it will not be considered if the contingencies on the first offer are met.

• Broker: A real estate broker is also a real estate agent. They have an additional broker’s license or broker’s training. Some states require agents to take college classes or have a certain amount of training to receive their broker’s license. Broker’s exams are generally more difficult than a regular real estate exam.

• “Pending”: On an MLS listing, “pending” means that an offer has been accepted by the sellers and there are no contingencies. The buyers and sellers have not yet closed on the house. Some transactions don’t make it to closing, even after the offer is accepted, so you don’t have to totally give up on these properties.

• Listing Agent: A listing agent is a real estate agent who represents the sellers. They are also known as a “seller’s agent.” They are often the agent who has listed the property on the MLS.

• Dual Agent: A dual agent represents both the buyer and the seller. This can generate a conflict of interest, isn’t legal in all 50 states, and should be avoided if possible.

• Buyer’s Agent: A buyer’s agent is a real estate agent/Realtor who represents the person looking to buy a home. Many buyer’s agents are exclusive, meaning they never represent the seller.

• “TOM”: On an MLS listing, this stands for “Temporarily Off Market.” Sellers place their homes off-market temporarily for a number of reasons. They might be in poor health and want to recover before they show the house again, or they might be travelling or fixing up the home. Once the seller is ready, the home will be relisted as available.