What Is MLS in Real Estate: Unveiling Its Role and Importance

Posted by Excelsior Realty Team on September 15, 2023

The Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, is a powerful tool in the real estate market. Whether you're looking to sell or buy a home, understanding how this network functions will give you valuable insights. But what is MLS in real estate?

In short, it's an organized system where licensed agents and brokers can share information about properties for sale with one another. For buyers and sellers, access to this comprehensive database of property listings can make all the difference in successful transactions.

This article aims to demystify the concept of MLS by explaining its importance in real estate transactions. We'll delve into the origins and purpose of MLS while also exploring its benefits. Keep reading to learn more.

What Does MLS Stand For in Real Estate?

MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service in real estate. It is a repository that real estate agents and brokers use to share and access information about homes available for purchase. It is a valuable tool for customers and vendors to find homes and for agents to list and sell properties.

What Is MLS in Real Estate - Unveiling Its Role and Importance


What Is a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in Real Estate?

A multiple listing service (MLS) is a helpful tool real estate brokers use to share information about properties for sale. It acts as a repository where cooperating brokers list and update houses regularly in print or online.

The main objective of an MLS is to connect potential customers with sellers, providing them access to all the listings from affiliated agents. This connection allows listing and selling agents to benefit by consolidating resources and sharing commissions on successful sales. 

With an MLS, real estate specialists can efficiently navigate the market and provide their clients with comprehensive property options.

Why Listing on MLS Is Important?

In today's digital age, potential buyers have endless choices on real estate websites. Despite this, the MLS remains crucial. When working with a broker registered in an MLS, buyers can easily search all available properties listed by participating agents. 

Plus, the MLS listing often includes private contact information and shows details for convenience. Without this service, brokers would have to scour multiple websites of different brokers to find properties in their desired area. 

The ease and efficiency that the MLS provides are unmatched. It's especially true when finding suitable homes for buyers while saving time for brokers.

How Does the Multiple Listing Service Work?

Participating in the MLS allows professionals to market their listings to their clients. In some cases, brokers may need to join multiple MLS repositories if they want access to areas not covered by their current membership.

Across the country, nearly 600 different MLS repositories are available for real estate professionals. However, this number has decreased over time as neighboring databases have merged into larger regional ones.

Agents and brokers must pay for membership to access an MLS database. Each MLS sets its own prices and fee schedules, ranging from several hundred dollars per year to a one-time registration fee.

Being part of an MLS provides valuable resources for real estate professionals. That's because it allows them visibility into homes available for purchase within their chosen area. Moreover, collaborating with other industry members enables more significant marketing opportunities.

How Many MLSs Are There?

Currently, the U.S. has about 600 MLSs, per the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO). However, this number can fluctuate due to regional consolidation. There are also some MLSs in Canada, but fewer than in the United States. On an international level, though, MLS usage is rare.

Many countries don't have MLS or only cover a small portion of their real estate demand. This scarcity makes the United States unique in its extensive use of services like multiple listings.

That being said, there are exceptions in specific U.S. markets without an official MLS system. New York City is one example. Instead of relying on an overall system like other areas, local services exist that syndicate available real estate listings. 

Even without a formal MLS, the goal remains the same: to efficiently and effectively connect buyers and sellers with property information.

Benefits of Multiple Listing Services

MLSs offer numerous selling and buying broker benefits. 

  • These services increase exposure for the selling broker, allowing them to reach a broad audience of potential buyers.
  • It also gives customers more options, as their broker can access all listings from various brokers in the area.
  • The MLS levels the playing field by enabling small and large brokerages to compete on an equal footing. Smaller firms could only share their listings with buyers without an MLS, limiting their choices significantly.
  • By consolidating information in one repository, multiple listing services encourage cooperation among brokers toward a common goal. That's to help sellers find interested customers and assist homebuyers in finding suitable properties. 
  • The collaboration between agents helps prospective homebuyers access countless home listings. Moreover, it ensures sellers connect with potential purchasers through their agent or brokerage firm.
  • Popular real estate websites like Zillow rely on regional MLS databases for comprehensive national property listing data. This further emphasizes its significance in today's market.

Does the MLS Contain Every Single Home for Sale?

Most homes for sale can be found on the MLS, but exceptions exist. Homes sold by owners or certain brokerages may not appear in the repository. Large brokerages sometimes keep listings exclusively on their databases instead of placing them on the MLS system.

To address this issue, the NAR has implemented its Clear Cooperation Policy. This policy requires listing brokers to submit a property to the MLS within one business day of marketing it publicly. This policy ensures cooperation with other participants.

While most homes can be found on the MLS, buyers, and sellers must understand that some properties may need to be listed. Working with an experienced real estate agent knowledgeable about local inventory is crucial to finding these off-market opportunities.

Can I Access My Local MLS without a Real Estate Agent?

You can access your local MLS without a real estate agent in certain regions. Some provincial MLS repositories have a public-facing side where consumers can view the same listings as agents. However, there are some differences between the consumer and agent sides. 

The agent's side provides more information about 

  • Showings
  • Property access 
  • Submitting offers 
  • Agency
  • Commission cooperation
  • Market analysis 

Additionally, many brokers give their clients access to view listings with limited data compared to what agents have. 

If you are buying or selling a home, you should work with an agent, even though you can access your local MLS without one in some cases.

What Is an MLS Number in Real Estate?

An MLS number, also known as an MLS#, is a unique serial number assigned to properties in the real estate market. It helps users quickly identify and locate specific properties among the countless listings. 
When a listing agent enters a new property into the MLS, it generates a distinct MLS number for that particular listing. This number streamlines the search process for customers and agents alike.

What Fees Are Associated with the MLS?

MLS organizations nationwide impose varying fees on real estate brokers, not the public. These charges support membership in MLS networks and are determined by each organization.

Do I Need a Real Estate License to Access a Multiple Listing Service?

You usually have to go through a real estate agent to access the regional MLS as a buyer or seller. Posting properties on the MLS requires having a real estate license. 

However, if you want to avoid getting licensed or working with a whole seller's agent, some areas have flat-fee multiple listing services that can list your property for you. It provides an alternative way for sellers without a license to gain exposure in the market and reach potential buyers.

Is Using the MLS Worth It?

Utilizing the MLS can help you sell your home faster and for a higher price. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 44% of home sellers in 2020 used the MLS to list their homes. Homes listed on the MLS also tend to sell quicker than those not listed on it. 

They even fetch a higher selling price, with Zillow reporting an average increase of 6%. Additionally, Redfin states that homes listed on the MLS have a 20% greater chance of selling within 60 days than those not using it.

Considering these statistics, utilizing the MLS seems worthwhile if you want speedy sales and better profits in real estate transactions.

Nonetheless, consider that there are associated costs like listing fees and commissions. Weigh them against potential benefits before deciding whether or not using an MLS is right for you.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a crucial tool in the real estate industry. It allows buyers, sellers, and real estate professionals to access a comprehensive database of properties for sale. 
MLS enables efficient listing and selling processes by providing accurate information about homes on the market. Whether you're looking to buy your dream home or sell an existing property, leveraging MLS effectively can significantly streamline your transaction. 

At Excelsior Real Estate, we understand the importance of utilizing the MLS. We know how it facilitates seamless communication between agents and clients while ensuring transparency throughout every process. Trust us with your real estate needs as we expertly navigate this valuable resource together.