The Pros and Cons of a Multiple Listing Service in Real Estate

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By Thomas O'Shaughnessy Updated February 7, 2023


An important part of marketing your home is making sure it's seen by the largest possible number of people. Using a multiple listing service (MLS) ensures just that. The MLS is just one of many tools an experienced, local real estate agent will use to help you attract more motivated buyers and, ultimately, secure a great offer for your home. Read on to learn more.

MLS pros cons

There are many reasons people sell their homes: sometimes it's because the house can no longer accommodate the needs of their growing family; other times they need to relocate to another city or state for a new job, and some people are just looking for a lifestyle change or upgrade.

Whatever reasons you have for selling your home, chances are you have the same goal as everyone else: to get a great offer quickly, with a minimal amount of hassle or stress.

This is exactly why the vast majority of home sellers choose to work with experienced, local real estate agents.

Top agents not only have the requisite knowledge and skills to guide you through the home selling process smoothly — they also have access to a wide variety of tools and resources that help you attract motivated buyers as quickly as possible.

One of the most impactful of these resources is a Multiple Listing Service, or MLS. Below, we'll outline everything you need to know about the MLS — what it is, how it works, and how your agent will use it to get you the highest offer within your ideal timeframe.

> Have questions about the MLS? Clever can help! Get answers from a top-rated, local real estate agent for free with no obligation to sign!

What Is a Multiple Listing Service?

MLSs are private databases that centralize real estate listings and property information in a given region or local market. As a tool, its main purpose is to facilitate collaboration between listing agents and buyer's agents, enabling them to share information and work together to better facilitate and execute real estate transactions.

Only licensed real estate brokers can access and list homes on an MLS. While some MLS data may be accessible to the public, via brokerage websites or open platforms like Zillow and Trulia, only professionals will view all the available data, including owner info, addresses, disclosures, price history, sales comps in the area, and more.

How Does an MLS Work?

Put simply, listing agent and brokers will list active properties on one or more MLS in their specific area or region. Buyer's agents search these listings to identify properties that meet their clients' unique criteria, such as neighborhood, size, features, style, budget, and more.

Importantly, each MLS operates in accordance with its own set of rules and procedures. That said, most impose strict rules regarding the quality and breadth of data listings must include, which makes it a much more useful and reliable tool than many publicly accessible real estate websites.

While there isn't an official count, back in 2011, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) estimated there were upwards of 883 individual MLSs in the United States. New MLSs are continually popping up in markets across the country to help meet the needs of residents and realtors alike.

The Accuracy of Multiple Listing Services

MLS databases are considered the most accurate as far as details on a property are concerned. This is due to rules that are strictly enforced, which go as far as administering fines to members who do not actively follow the structure and content rules.

Some of the rules include:

  • Timeliness: new listings must be entered within a specific length of time. Fines occur when a member doesn't register the full listing by the deadline. This is typically twenty-four to forty-eight hours after the listing agreement is signed.
  • Accuracy: from square footage to direction and location, the MLS association wants to maintain a high level of quality in the information entered.
  • Photos: quality and number of photos are often mandated as well, though this can vary from one MLS to another

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Key Benefits of a Multiple Listing Service

As a seller, you benefit significantly from gaining access to the MLS via your realtor. In addition to increasing your listing's general visibility (MLSs will typically share portions of data with third-party, public sites), because the platform is only open to licensed agents, the inquiries and offers you get through it will come from more highly qualified buyers.

That saves you a ton of time and energy, not only in terms of fielding phone calls and questions, but also when it comes to showings.

Every time you show your house, it's a mad dash to get everything organized and sparkling clean, then you have to high-tail it out of there until the prospective buyers have taken as much time as they need to inspect every detail of your house with a fine-toothed comb.

When your initial pool of prospects is vetted via the MLS, it's likely you will do fewer showings before getting a desirable offer. In other words, no more dealing with randos who just want to keep tabs on other homes in the neighborhood.

Can You Get on the MLS Without a Realtor?

Homeowners who are trying to sell list their homes "for sale by owner" (FSBO) can't post their home directly to the MLS because access to this database is limited to licensed real estate professionals who pay for the membership. You have to pay an agent to list on the MLS for you.

There are ways to gain access to an MLS without the help of a full-service real estate broker — for example, working with a flat-fee MLS service — but these approaches typically have their own set of drawbacks that must be weighed against the potential cost savings.

Learn More: Better Alternatives to a Flat-Fee MLS Listing Service

Cons of a Multiple Listing Service

There aren't many cons, except perhaps for the large firms that have benefited from private information. The MLS is so efficient because it gives many, many people have access to accurate market information. This is great for everybody because it levels the playing field.

Although it isn't a huge hiccup, some people consider the cost to post to the MLS to be one drawback, since you have to pay an agent to get your home put into the database.

How Can the MLS Help You Sell Your Home?

Almost half of home buyers go to the internet to search for home listings. Because most local MLS systems feed into common real estate portals like Zillow, having your property listed in the MLS will ensure that you reach the largest audience possible.

You can decide if you want to use the MLS as part of your strategy to sell your home. If you're working with an experienced realtor, however, the service will already be included.

Using a full-service realtor doesn't have to mean giving up a huge part of your profit from the sale. In fact, you can work with a Clever Partner Agent and get a top-notch full-service experience from a highly rated realtor in your area.

Best of all, you'll only pay 1.5% of the sale price. It's the best of both worlds — you get access to the MLS and you save a ton of money.

If you're ready to sell your home for top dollar using the MLS and a variety of other marketing methods for a low flat fee, it's time to contact us.

We'll connect you to an experienced local realtor for a no-obligation consultation right away.

FAQs About Multiple Listing Services

1. Do Realtors Have Access to More Listings than Individuals?

Yes, because they have access to an MLS a realtor can get more up-to-the-minute information about what homes are on the market than other people. That's why it's so important to work with a realtor on your home sale or purchase, especially in a hot market.

2. How Do I Get a Flat Fee MLS Listing?

There are services that charge you a flat fee to list your home on the MLS in your area, but that's where the service ends. Fill in all the information to the required standards and upload photos. Why not pay a low flat fee to get MLS access and a full-service sales experience with a Clever Partner Agent?

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