A consumer’s guide to the Multiple Listing Service

Anyone who’s had a passing brush with the real estate market has seen or heard of the term ‘MLS’.  Few consumers know exactly what the MLS is, or understand the important role it plays in the real estate market.

The MLS is a complex information-sharing network created by Realtors several decades ago to help the public buy and sell homes.  When a Realtor lists a property for sale he or she completes a detailed data sheet describing the home and submits the information to Real Estate Boards which manage the MLS Board staff enter the information into a central MLS computer databank, accessible only to other Realtors.

MLS makes the real estate industry unique by allowing and encouraging a high degree of cooperation among sales people – much more so than in any other industry, for example, if you’re shipping for a car and you visit a local dealership, the salesperson’s goal is to sell you a car from their lot.  He won’t provide you with information on cars available at other competing dealerships; you would have to visit those on your own.

In the real estate industry, the opposite is true.  MLS allows for cooperation between all Realtors, no matter which real estate company they work for.  Using the computerized MLS system, you Realtors will enter the criteria you want in a home and generate a list of all the homes that meet your needs.  These homes might be listed by agents from five, ten, or twenty other real estate companies – to your Realtor, it doesn’t matter.  Only properties not listed with a Realtor (For Sale By Owner) are not accessible on MLS.

Before the computer era, the MLS system was managed manually through an immense amount of paperwork.  Real Estate Boards printed daily ‘listing sheets’.  While these catalogues still exist, they have largely been replaced by a computer system that allows realtors to check up to the minute listings that are posted.

This program provides Realtors with access to much more detailed information, such as room by room measurements and specifics on the property condition.