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What is MLS?

MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service, and it is a tool used by real estate agents. The MLS is a database that contains information on homes that are for sale. Real estate agents share the information in the database, which is not open to the public. The MLS used to be printed in a bound book form, but today it is mostly accessible online.

Brokers use the MLS as a group- listing brokers enter in the data of a new home for sale, and share the commission with the agent who sells the home to the buyer. The MLS contains valuable information about homes for sale, including several pictures, the square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, what school district the home is in, and more. Some MLS listings also include a virtual tour.

Though the MLS is mostly run by brokers, sellers who are selling their home by owner can sometimes have their property listed in the database. The sellers of these properties can pay a fee to a listing broker to have the data about their property entered into the MLS, but the broker isnít really representing the owner. The seller still has to offer a commission to the agent who brings a buyer, but it is sometimes less than the traditional commission. Keep in mind that might make some sellerís agents less apt to show the property though.

The MLS benefits the seller because it gives all local and regional brokers access to information about your home. It benefits buyers because it allows your agent to narrow down the properties he or she shows you based on available criteria. For example, if you only want to see 5 bedroom homes with three bathrooms and more than 3,500 square feet, the broker can search for those criteria in the MLS to find houses near you that meet your specifications.

Multiple Listing Services in your area can be owned privately, or by a board of local real estate agents. Many local MLS groups are merging together to form regional listings, though there isnít a national listing service.

The internet is also changing the frequency with which buyers depend on their agentís MLS access to find their next home. With the evolution of the internet, more and more information about homes is available online. Buyers can do their own searches on the web for homes that meet their criteria, though their information will not be as comprehensive as that which is available to a broker.

Buyers who are looking for a home can ask their agent to set up an MLS report for them based on their criteria. Make sure the agent doesnít give you a ďcustomer report,Ē which contains less information. The agent can create a customizable search that sends you updated listings within your parameters at regular intervals (like once a week). The MLS is free for you, and gives you the most accurate, up-to-date information on homes in the neighborhood you are interested in. Take advantage of your agentís access, and donít be fooled into thinking a regular internet search will always give you the same level of information.