What Is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and how does it work?

When looking to either buy or sell a home, you will inevitably encounter the Multiple Listing service, or MLS. This is, in many ways, the very lifeblood of the real estate business. But just what is the MLS?

In the late 1800s, real estate brokers regularly gathered at the offices of their local associations to share information about properties they were trying to sell. They agreed to compensate other brokers who helped sell those properties, and the first MLS was born, based on a fundamental principle that’s unique to organized real estate: Help me sell my inventory and I’ll help you sell yours

Today, the multiple listing service is the most effective tool real estate brokers use to sell a property. Listing your home through a broker’s MLS makes it available to every member of the MLS, plus their buyers.   Once a broker publishes a listing, every brokerage within that local MLS system will be notified.  The premise being that there is a real estate agent somewhere within the local area that is working with a potential buyer for that property.

The MLS has proven to be very effective.  According to the National Association of Realtors, ninety percent of all homes sold are listed in the MLS.  Once a home is listed in their local MLS, that property is published on Realtor.com and real estate websites like Zillow, Trulia, hundreds more.  Only properties listed on the MLS can be published on realtor.com.  The listing also is shared with all local brokerages like Century21 and Coldwell Banker, just to name a couple.  As you can see, the immense marketing reach the MLS has is why it is by far the most powerful real estate marketing platform available.

Home sellers without a real estate license can’t post their home directly to the MLS, because access to this database is limited to licensed agents and brokers who pay for membership. Most of the homes listed on the MLS are through conventional full-service brokerage relationship where seller agrees to pays a 6% commission which is divided between a listing agent and a buyer’s agent.  With the advancement of technology and the abundance of resources available to property owners, a flat fee listing method is growing in popularity.  Savvy property owners can use a company like Premier Flat Fee Realty to add their property to the MLS and save at least half of that lofty 6% commission. Homeowners using FSBO MLS listings save money because they’re only paying commissions to buyer brokers.