What Is MLS? Understanding Multiple Listing Service In Real Estate

When you’re in the process of buying a home, you’ll often work with a single real estate agent who will help you to find the perfect place for you and your family to call home. But did you know that there’s a way for real estate agents to share information with one another about available properties in order to better serve homebuyers and sellers?

This special arrangement is called a multiple listing service, also known as an MLS. With 64% of the National Association of Realtors claiming to use MLS listings regularly, the concept is very widespread.

Today, we’ll explore what an MLS entails and how it benefits real estate agents, buyers, and sellers alike.

What is a Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?

Essentially, an MLS is a privatized database that can be accessed and edited by active real estate agents and brokers. The goal of a multiple listing service is to help real estate professionals connect their clients with high-quality listings that might fit their needs, even if they’re outside of the agent’s brokerage.

Though the concept of an MLS was originally created solely for real estate pros to share information with each other, the databases have developed over time to become an important resource that agents can use to share properties directly with their clients.

MLS listings will include vital information such as:

  • List price
  • Acceptable kinds of financing
  • The number of beds and baths
  • Number of days listed
  • Property tax information
  • Listing agent information

Depending on the MLS listing, other information will often be included as well, such as the age of the property or disclosures regarding the property’s condition. Information like this can give buyers a better understanding of what’s available in their desired area so that they can make more informed choices.

The databases include family homes and open properties as well as condos, foreclosures, and international properties. Rentals will occasionally be included as well.

Are All Homes for Sale Listed on the MLS?

If sellers do not list their properties through a real estate agent, their home will not be included on an MLS. Likewise, any property that is listed through an agent will be included on an MLS.

If you’re in the process of buying a home, know that the vast majority of properties for sale will be available for you and your agent to peruse together on a multiple listing service. Even so, MLS online listings aren’t the same as home-buying websites.

Real estate organizations across the country have been allocating millions of dollars toward the development of comprehensive, helpful multiple listing services. Some of this information gets forwarded to sites that list houses for sale, but the most complete and accurate information is often in the MLS.

Therefore, it benefits sellers, buyers, and real estate professionals to utilize an MLS for their buying and selling needs.

Benefits of Multiple Listing Services

MLS databases allow the property seller’s real estate broker to achieve a wider reach for the property, increasing their chances of finding the right buyer and selling the property for the right price. Similarly, using an MLS can help a buyer’s broker widen the variety of options that they can show to their clients.

In a sale created from exposure via the MLS, both the buyer’s agent and the listing agent will share a piece of the commission. An MLS acts as a kind of neutralizer that allows both small and large real estate companies to interact with one another on an even playing field.

At the same time, sellers and buyers who don’t have real estate training will come away with a positive experience. It results in both parties getting to receive what they wanted at a price that’s fair for everyone involved.

How to Receive MLS Listing

Multiple listing services are reserved for sellers and serious buyers who are represented by an agent. A realtor license number is required for access. Real estate professionals pay dues regularly in order to keep up the legitimacy and accuracy of MLS databases.

However, many real estate companies will display current MLS listings right on their website for potential buyers to peruse. Should a potential client hire a real estate agent or broker for assistance in buying a property, they will gain access to the MLS that the company belongs to by way of their agent.

Alternatives to the MLS

If you’re interested in buying a home, perusing an MLS is not your only option. There are several other popular real estate websites and apps available, including Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin. All of these alternatives allow potential buyers to find out what’s available in their area without requiring the services of a real estate agent.

Available homes can also be listed on sites dedicated to listings that are for sale by owner (FSBO). However, since these homes are sold without real estate representation, they won’t be available on an MLS. Instead, they may only be available on a limited number of third-party real estate sites.

Additionally, large real estate firms in busy markets will often have their own websites that are dedicated to their listings, which potential buyers are free to check at any point in time.

What is a Pocket Listing?

Pocket listings are properties that real estate agents keep “in their pocket” by only sharing them with specific potential buyers and a select few agents. In a sense, these listings are kept secret by not being included in any MLS listings or third-party real estate websites. Most pocket listing homes don’t even display a “For Sale” sign publicly.

Elevate Your Real Estate Experience with MLS Listings

Navigating the housing market can be difficult without the help of a real estate agent or a broker. Once you’ve hired a professional to aid you in the process, an MLS can be a crucial part of finding your family’s perfect home or securing the right buyer for your property!


Ready to Buy Your Dream House?

All material is presented for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as individual financial, investment, or legal advice or instruction. ZeroMortgage does not guarantee the quality, accuracy, completeness or timelines of the information in this publication. While efforts are made to verify the information provided, the information should not be assumed to be error free. Some information in the publication may have been provided by third parties and has not necessarily been verified by ZeroMortgage. ZeroMortgage, its affiliates, and subsidiaries do not assume any liability for the information contained herein, be it direct, indirect, consequential, special, or exemplary, or other damages whatsoever and howsoever caused, arising out of or in connection with the use of this publication or in reliance on the information, including any personal or pecuniary loss, whether the action is in contract, tort (including negligence) or other tortious action. ZeroMortgage does not provide tax advice. Please contact your tax adviser for any tax related questions.

This page last updated: March 21, 2022