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Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Meaning in Real Estate

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A multiple listing service (MLS) is a database real estate agents and brokers create, maintain and pay for. Because it’s a collaborative tool, it makes transactions easier for all parties involved in the sale of real estate. Real estate brokers can see each other’s listings, schedule showings and easily connect buyers and sellers.

The MLS is an invaluable tool for buyers and sellers who are working with real estate agents. In this article, you’ll learn what the MLS is, the information it contains and how it works. We’ll also discuss the advantages buyers and sellers gain from using the MLS.

What Is a Multiple Listing Service?

A multiple listing service is a database real estate professionals use to share information with other agents about the properties they’ve listed for sale. Real estate brokers can easily connect home buyers to home sellers through the MLS. Because the MLS is the largest database of information available, agents use it to track housing trends in their local market. 

Real estate brokers collaborate by consolidating information in one central location for buyers, sellers, and other licensed professionals. By using an MLS, agents ensure buyers get access to a wide variety of home listings, and sellers have peace of mind knowing their home is being presented to a larger pool of potential buyers. 

The MLS allows small real estate brokerages to compete with big, national firms. That means sellers and buyers can work with their broker of choice, knowing, no matter the size, they’ll have equal access to all the properties available on the market.

What Information Is in an MLS?

An MLS contains details about properties, including all the basic information a buyer might want to know and all the special features a seller wants to highlight. An MLS listing typically includes the:

  • Property’s address
  • Asking price
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Property type (house, condo, etc.)
  • Square footage of the home
  • Square footage of the lot
  • Number of days on the market
  • Information about property taxes
  • Information about utilities
  • Property features (additional rooms, pool, etc.)
  • Listing agent’s contact information
  • Scheduled showings

In addition, the MLS listing for a home typically includes photos of the interior and exterior. 

MLS vs. real estate websites

While an MLS contains much of the same information you’d find on housing sites such as Zillow, additional data is provided, and some of that data is only available to real estate agents. The data may include information on:

  • The current owner
  • Specifics about the listing
  • The expiration date or bank requirements if the home is a short sale (selling a home for less than its appraised value to settle mortgage debt) or REO (real estate owned by a lender)
  • Homeowners association information
  • Seller conditions or requirements
  • Exclusions – which are items the seller wants to take with them when they move out – such as appliances or lighting fixtures

Finally, the MLS also provides instructions to real estate agents for showing the property or accessing it.

Making Sense of an MLS Listing 

Trying to decipher an MLS listing can be a bit baffling for a newbie. Listings are often filled with abbreviations and real estate jargon. 

  • MLS number: The first thing you’ll see is the unique ID number assigned to every real estate listing on the MLS. If a house sells or is removed from the market and gets relisted, it gets a new MLS number. No MLS number is ever reused.
  • Listing status: Most of the properties a buyer looks at will be listed as active, which means they’re currently on the market. A pending status means the seller has accepted an offer, and the property is in escrow, but escrow hasn’t closed. Backup status means the offer is pending, but the seller is accepting backup offers in case the deal falls through. If the deal falls through, you might see BOM indicated on the listing. It stands for “back on market.”

Here are a few other abbreviations or real estate terms you’ll need to know:

  • YB: It stands for year built. It’s the year the property was originally built or whether the property is new construction.
  • Sale type: Most sales are standard sales. Some sales are short sales, probate sales or foreclosures.
  • Zone: This indicates the zoning assigned to the property by the county. It determines the types of buildings that can be built on the property (single-family homes versus multifamily homes).
  • FP: The number of fireplaces
  • STO: The number of stories
  • SF: Square footage of structures on the property (think: the home and garages)
  • LSZ: Square footage of the lot
  • DOM: The acronym stands for “days on market.” It’s the number of days since the listing was posted.
  • LP: It stands for “list price.” If the asking price is reduced, you may also see OLP, which stands for “original list price.”
  • LP/SF: This is the list price per square foot. This is a handy metric for comparing the relative value of comparable properties.
  • APN: The APN is the assessor’s parcel number. The number lets you access the home’s property tax information.

MLS Advantages 

An MLS serves as a central hub of information for all things real estate in a local market. Licensed real estate brokers, sales agents, appraisers and other licensed professionals rely on this database for accurate and timely information to make homeownership a reality for their clients. Below are some additional advantages of using an MLS.  

MLS advantages when buying a home

Home buyers and their agents gain plenty of advantages from using the MLS. With an MLS, you can:

  • Focus your search: Agents can use the MLS to narrow down buyers’ searches, and buyers don’t waste time viewing properties that don’t meet their needs. Because agents have access to all the properties listed on the MLS, home buyers don’t have to worry if they’re working with an agent at a smaller firm.
  • Stay current: The MLS makes it easy to keep up with the housing market. In a hot market, it can feel like properties are snatched up almost in an instant. With the MLS, you never miss a new listing if you set up listing alerts to let you know when a new home hits the market.
  • View new listings faster: MLS often lists properties that haven’t been made available to the public yet. If you’re working with an agent who uses the MLS, your agent has access to these new listings – which means you have access as well.
  • Research investment properties: Investors also find the MLS invaluable when it comes to researching investment properties. The wealth of information available on the MLS makes it easy to compare potential investments and make smart choices.

MLS advantages when selling a home 

Sellers also reap big advantages when they use the MLS. Listing a home on the MLS can help:

  • Increase exposure: An MLS listing increases a home’s visibility and exposure because every real estate broker in the region has access to the listing and can share it with potential buyers.
  • Target qualified buyers: Buyers have likely been vetted by the real estate brokers representing them. That means they’re more likely to be able to afford your home – which can help a homeowner avoid a lot of hassle and wasted time. Your agent will present buyers who want what you’re offering and can afford to buy your home.
  • Streamline transactions: Selling a home is a complex financial transaction, and few sellers are fully conversant in all the details of home inspections and escrow. Real estate brokers use the MLS as a powerful tool to streamline the home’s purchase.

How To List Your Home on MLS

Working with a real estate agent is the easiest, most straightforward way to get your home listed on the MLS. Your real estate agent handles all the details involved with listing your home.

When you discuss the listing with your real estate agent, you’ll discuss how long the listing agreement will last and what additional marketing your agent plans on doing, such as open houses. The agent also handles home staging and has professional pictures taken of the property for the listing.

Can you list without a real estate agent?

Only a real estate broker can list a property for sale on the MLS. But there are some cases when a seller can list. A homeowner who wants to do a “for sale by owner” (FSBO) sale can list their home on the MLS without enlisting the full services of a real estate agent. 

These flat-fee deals, which some brokers are willing to facilitate, cost a few hundred dollars. That’s a lot less expensive than the commission a seller pays working with a full-service agent.

When a seller makes a flat-fee arrangement, they lose out on the valuable services a real estate agent can provide. All you get out of the arrangement is an MLS listing that indicates your property is a FSBO property.

Under a flat-fee MLS arrangement, you’ll be responsible for all the legal paperwork associated with selling your home. You’ll have to take charge of getting pictures taken and staging the home. You won’t get help with inspections or escrow. And you’ll still pay a commission to the buyer’s agent, if they’re using one.

And Now You Know

You’ll enjoy the smoothest possible real estate transaction when you work with an agent because the agent is your ticket to full access in the MLS. If you’re selling your home, you’ll be better positioned to connect with the right buyer. If you’re in the market for a new home, you’ll have access to the widest rang

A multiple listing service (MLS) is a database real estate agents and brokers create, maintain and pay for. Because it’s a collaborative tool, it makes transactions easier for all parties involved in the sale of real estate. Real estate brokers can see each other’s listings, schedule showings and easily connect buyers and sellers.

The MLS is an invaluable tool for buyers and sellers who are working with real estate agents. In this article, you’ll learn what the MLS is, the information it contains and how it works. We’ll also discuss the advantages buyers and sellers gain from using the MLS.

Take the first step toward buying a home.

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The Short Version

  • MLS-only listings mean that licensed real estate agents have agreed to let other licensed agents access listing information
  • MLS databases are similar to real estate sites like Zillow or Rocket Homes, but listings on the MLS have more detailed property information
  • The MLS is the largest real estate database available and offers a way to track the housing market and easily find or list properties
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