Matt Petersman
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MLS - Multiple Listing Service

Anyone who has even a passing interest in the real estate market has seen or heard the term 'MLS.' But few consumers know exactly what MLS is, or understand the important role it plays in the real estate industry.

The MLS system, also known as the Multiple Listing Service is a complex information-sharing and cooperative marketing network created by REALTORS several decades ago to help the public buy and sell homes. While it is computer based today, it began as an exchange of paper listing information and photographs.

The Multiple Listing Service is a member based service, paid for by the REALTOR members of the local real estate Board. The MLS mark symbolizes the cooperation among REALTORS to effect the purchase and sale of real estate, and is much more than a database of property information. It is the local real estate Board that actually administers and operates the local MLS system.

The MLS service makes the real estate industry unique by encouraging a high degree of cooperation among salespeople. For example, if you're shopping for a car and you visit a local dealer, the salesperson's goal is to sell you a car from that car lot. They won't provide you with information on cars available at other competing dealerships. In the real estate industry, the opposite is true. The MLS service allows for cooperation between all REALTORS no matter which company they work for.

If you are selling a property, listing with a REALTOR who uses the MLS service means your property gets maximum marketing exposure to all other members of the local Board. You'll have REALTORS everywhere trying to find a buyer for your property. It is the MLS computer system that will provide other members of the real estate Board with detailed information about your property.

If you are buying a property, the MLS system is a valuable research tool for your REALTOR. They'll input the criteria you want and generate a list of all properties that meet your needs. These homes might be listed by other REALTORS from five or ten other companies - to your REALTOR, it doesn't matter. Their goal is to help you find the property you want. The MLS system supplements the in-depth knowledge the REALTOR has of the neighborhood and current market conditions to help you make a wise buying decision.

The MLS system provides REALTORS with access to much more detailed information than you'll find on a web site. MLS information includes the number of days a property has been on the market as well as the date on which any changes were made, such as price or status. It also includes agent remarks by the listing agent that only other agents can see. Through the system, REALTORS can also access the sales history of a home in order to see how many times it has changed hands and at what prices.

Whether you're buying or selling, the MLS system is an indispensable tool for your REALTOR.

For Sale By Owners in MLS While there is no separate category for a For Sale by Owner (or FSBO) listing, the MLS can contain listings from sellers who are unrepresented.

  • The way FSBOs circumvent some MLS restrictions is to pay a flat fee to a discount real estate broker to enter the information, but the seller is not really represented.
  • Instructions to present all offers directly to the seller is often frowned upon or prohibited by MLS authorities.
  • Sometimes the selling commission is less than the fee agents are offered by traditional brokers -- which does not motivate agents to show these listings.

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