The infamous MLS often intrigues sellers and buyers with its ‘mystery’. MLS stands for ‘multiple listing service’. It is a database formed by real estate brokers to share data about properties listed for sale. The MLS lets agents see each other’s listings so they can better connect their clients (sellers and buyers). With the MLS, both the selling and listing agents benefit from the sharing of all information. The MLS is an impressive electronic database that is updated regularly by real estate agents and the MLS staff.

The history of the MLS goes back to the 1800s when brokers would gather to share information about local properties listed for sale. The in-person networking created the concept of the MLS. Nowadays, agents and brokers must pay dues or a monthly membership fee to access the MLS which then gives them admittance to local listings. Currently, there are around 800 MLS organizations located around the country which cater to the local community.

An MLS listing will contain the following:

  • Photos of the home (sometimes a video)
  • Address
  • Age
  • Square footage
  • Number of bedrooms/bathrooms
  • Upgrades
  • School districts
  • Tax information
  • Financing options such as cash or loan
  • And much more…

There will also be a description of the property with key information that is beneficial not only to the broker but also to the potential buyer. Although some online sites pull information from the MLS and make it publicly available, the services still do not provide all the information that can be garnered only from the MLS. Some of that information is available only to the licensed professionals who are subscribers to the MLS.

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What Is A Multiple Listing Service (MLS?)


Real estate agents and brokers pay dues or a membership fee for access to each MLS. In return, the agents receive information on the homes in an area, including listings, photos, and details such as square footage and features of each property, as well as the ability to enter these listings.

An MLS can only be accessed by licensed agents and brokers. Although each MLS may have its procedures, they typically follow the rules set out by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The rules stipulate that the listing must show the commission earned for the seller, which gets shared with the other realtor or broker who introduces the buyer.

Is there a nationwide real estate multiple listing service?

Many people mistakenly believe that there is a nationwide real estate multiple listing service, but this is a misnomer. Instead, the MLS is made up of 700+ MLS sectors that are both small and large. Each one covers it’s own regional location and has its own listings database.

How A Multiple Listing Service Works


MLS allows small or large brokerages to see everything in the area that is available for sale. A buyer or seller can choose a qualified agent to work with and rest assured that they have access to all the listings via the MLS. The MLS is made up of private databases that are paid for and maintained by the local real estate professions. Not all data is available to the public on the MLS such as a seller’s contact information or when the home is available for showings. That information is only available to the agents.

We Negotiated Lower Realtor Fees For You has negotiated significantly lower commissions with some of the best real estate brokers so you don’t have to. We will match you with a top local agent in your area that will sell your house (without sacrificing service) for a much lower fee!


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For Real Estate Agents

Real estate agents have access to their MLS databases. They access the MLS to find and list properties for sale for their clients. They also have access to historical data of the MLS such as listings that have sold or were listed and did not sell. This data is critical for a real estate agent to access the current state of the local market and to appropriately advise their buyer and seller clients.

For Home Buyers

A home buyer must work with an agent or broker to gain access to the MLS. The agent will use multiple listings to match the properties to the home buyer’s preferences. Keep in mind, the real estate agents clients will only have access to publicly facing information, reports and listings and not all data that is in the MLS.

For Home Sellers

Home sellers work with an agent who will list the property on the MLS. The realtor will input all property information so that the listing is viewable by all the local agents.

Sellers do NOT have direct access to the MLS. This is a common misconception with home sellers who want to sell without an agent with what is called a flat fee MLS listing. With that service, a licensed broker will still have to list the home for sale under their license but they will not be providing any other services to the seller, it is a listing only service.

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Why Multiple Listing Services Are Needed


Multiple listing services guarantee maximum exposure for a property because all the local real estate agents utilize that as the primary source of listing data. Also, they allow agents to work together so both parties receive a commission at the time of sale. Agents who work with small or large brokerage houses have equal opportunities with multiple listing services.

Benefits Of Multiple Listing Services


The MLS benefits everyone involved in the sale of a property. Not only does it afford exposure, but it makes the entire process of finding an ideal home easier. The MLS has the listing monopoly for the region, so all agents benefit by participating.

MLS benefits include:

  • A buyer can access listed properties for sale and locate one that matches their unique criteria by working with an agent who has MLS access.
  • The broker can quickly fulfill their responsibility and provide up-to-date listings to their clients.
  • A seller gains maximum exposure for their property through the MLS and can rest assured that all the area’s brokers can see the residence for sale.

The MLS remains a time-saving masterpiece for brokers and agents. By subscribing to the area via the MLS, an agent never has to worry about missing out on a listing and potential sale. Unless the seller lists with an agent who does a “Pocket Listing”, we will discuss this in more detail later.

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Alternatives To The MLS


The MLS has been the go-to tool for agents, buyers, and sellers for over a century. However, real estate investors who are seeking investment opportunities often become discouraged because there are very few opportunities to find good deals on fixer-uppers that they can repair and flip or use as cash-flow rentals. Unfortunately, that was never the reason for the MLS. Overall, the MLS meets the needs of the typical home buyer and seller. However, a real estate investor often looks for alternatives to the MLS.

Below are a few alternatives to the MLS:

  • Find vacant properties
  • Bank-owned
  • REO properties
  • Potential foreclosures
  • Auctions
  • FSBO (For Sale by Owner)
  • Expired listings
  • Consider alternative marketplaces such as Mashvisor

For Home Buyers

Homebuyers have to work with a realtor to gain access to the MLS but there are other ways they can peruse properties from the computer for their own home without having to work closely with an agent to see what is available on the MLS.

  • Redfin
  • Zillow
  • Trulia
  • Realtor
  • HomeSnap
  • NeighborhoodScout

Search Zillow (Includes MLS and FSBO listings)

Zillow is a huge online marketplace that is a great way for would-be home buyers and sellers to search the local marketplace. It not only includes MLS listings but also FSBO In fact, as many as 36 percent of sellers try to sell their house themselves using Zillow. Ultimately, 11 percent of those sellers will end up selling without the aid of a real estate agent. Using Zillow to search local listings lets a buyer not only see the local MLS listings but also the FSBO.

Search (this directly pulls from MLS)

Yes, to search the actual MLS site you need the assistance of an agent but pulls directly through the MLS. You can explore MLS listings quickly and effortlessly on this site and feel comfortable that you are looking at accurate and up to date real estate listing information.

For Home Sellers

Deciding to sell a home is a complicated decision. You might not want to hire a listing agent but instead, try to explore the potential of FSBO. Without a doubt, there are many perks to listing a home for sale by owner. You can use an online site like Zillow to sell your home by owner or you could abstain from even listing the house and simply go with an iBuyer or a ‘we buy houses’ cash company to quickly sell your home. There are also flat fee and discount real estate brokers.

List FSBO On Zillow

On Zillow, you can create an FSBO for your listing. Listing your home for sale on Zillow is an easy process and free. You can add photos and videos. Best of all, home shoppers in your area will even receive an email letting them know you just listed a house as an FSBO in the area. Zillow is a great way to market your home without an agent and the MLS. As the seller, you will have complete control over your listing, and you can work out your show schedule. You can also use Zillow to research your area by running your comps to determine the best selling price and get a feel for the current market. You can also utilize Zillow Instant Offers if you want to sell quickly for cash.

Sell To An iBuyer

Selling to a iBuyer is a relatively new process, learn all about them here. There are a variety of online sites that will buy your home. You visit the site and input your home’s information. The system will usually calculate the home’s worth and an offer will be made. The offer is dependent on someone visiting the home. However, an iBuyer is a fast way to sell the house. However, it will usually sell for less than its overall value, but the perk is that you get to move the property fast with a speedy close. We wrote an in-depth review on Opendoor, which is the largest iBuyer company.

Sell To A We Buy Houses For Cash Company

Is the property you are selling ran down and perhaps won’t qualify for a home loan or even pass an inspection? Selling to a We Buy Houses for cash company is a wonderful option for many homeowners who need to move their property fast but who do not want to put a lot of money into the home to make it financeable. However, if you choose this option then please be aware that the offer made will be less than the market value but you won’t have to make any needed repairs and you can coast on to the close date which will occur relatively fast because the entire process is a cash deal. For all the ins and outs of how these companies work, check out our review of We Buy Ugly Houses.

Consider Flat Fee MLS Listings

As we described earlier in this article, with Flat Fee MLS services, you can list your home for sale on the local MLS. To be listed on the MLS, you’ll need an agent. The agent will charge a flat fee to list the house on the MLS. Basically, with the flat fee, the only service that you are paying for is the opportunity to have your home on the MLS.

We put together the video below for you to watch that shows you everything you need to know about how to use flat fee MLS to list your house without a Realtor.

YouTube video

Get Started Listing Your Home On The MLS Without A Realtor

Consider Discount Real Estate Brokers

A typical real estate commission is 6 percent. However, a discount real estate broker is a way to reduce that percentage. The percentage commission is often as low as 1 percent to 2 percent but the service is typically reduced compared to that provided by a standard agent. Some offer al-a-carte services, so you’ll want to determine what is included and what is excluded before deciding if a discount real estate broker is an ideal option.

Typically, all low commission real estate agents will list your home on the MLS. One of the first things to determine is exactly what services are included with a discount real estate broker. You’ll also want to factor in their experience level with selling homes and how long they have been functioning in the area to make sure that they are familiar with the region and its sales.

We Negotiated Lower Realtor Fees For You has negotiated significantly lower commissions with some of the best real estate brokers so you don’t have to. We will match you with a top local agent in your area that will sell your house (without sacrificing service) for a much lower fee!


Find An Agent Near You!


What Is A Pocket Listing?


With a pocket listing, your home will not be listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Instead, the agent will try to sell the home using his/her private network. Often in hot locations, a broker will already have a list of would-be buyers who are looking for a home.

Instead of wasting money on preparing and staging the home, they will contact one of their potential buyers to see if they are interested in the property. This is a pocket listing. The broker keeps the listing hidden in his ‘pocket’ and only shows it to his buyers who he believes are looking for just such a property.

This is a bit under-handed and often carried out in a ‘hot’ market for a ‘red hot’ property location. Although there is no law against it, it is shady, so you’ll want to explore how you feel about the process before agreeing to a pocket listing.

However, if your home is not underpriced and you want to move it quickly then a pocket listing is a definite process. Such listings are usually kept very private. Please remember that a pocket listing will bring down neighborhood comps and you also might not get as much money from your home as you would going with a more conventional listing.


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