What Does MLS Stand For and How Does It Work in Real Estate?

If you’re learning about selling your home from the ground up, you’ve probably bumped into the term “MLS” quite a few times. You may think this is jargon only realtors need to know, but in fact, the MLS is a fundamental tool when buying or selling homes.

So what does MLS stand for, and how can you use it to effectively sell your house? Read on to learn the ins and outs of the MLS and the role it plays for your listing!

What Does MLS Stand For?

MLS stands for multiple listing service, and its name largely describes its function. The MLS is a huge, private database of home listings that allows real estate agents and brokers to connect clients with homes for sale and prospective buyers.

Although this sounds like a modern system, it was actually invented in the late 1800s, when real estate brokers and agents gathered at offices or conferences to share information about properties for sale. They quickly found that this cooperation and collaboration was highly effective for their clients.

In 1908, the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges, which later became the National Association of Realtors, recognized the system’s effectiveness and endorsed its use for all agents. Step by step, it evolved into the system we know today – an online, fully searchable system that allows real estate agents to search for homes by price, neighborhood, and features.

How the MLS Works

The MLS is actually made up of about 800 regional databases instead of a single national system. Licensed real estate agents and brokers who pay memberships are the only people able to access the MLS. Some real estate agents become a member of more than one MLS so they have access to multiple regions.

The MLS enables agents to gather a large amount of detailed data that they can pass on to their clients, such as photos, square footage, amount of bedrooms, seller disclosures, and HOA regulations.

One of the main reasons why this information isn’t available to the public is that it also includes information that could endanger a sellers’ privacy or safety. This information includes their contact information and times the home is available for vacant showings.

Pocket Listings

Pocket listings are essentially hidden in an agent’s pocket. High-profile sellers working with agents may not want to list their home on the MLS to avoid publicity.

This means that these homes are only available for purchase by people the real estate agent works with directly, not the average public.

MLS Alternatives

If you’ve hired a real estate agent, all the information you need to know stops here. But some people don’t want to pay a 3 percent commission when they’re selling their home, and they opt to list their home on For Sale By Owner (FSBO) sites. These sites include:

  • For Sale by Owner
  • FSBO.com
  • Fizber
  • Owners.com
  • Zillow & Trulia
  • Redfin
  • HomeFinder.com
  • eBay
  • Craigslist
  • LoopNet
  • Facebook

However, your local MLS will still be the largest and most accurate database compared to the above sites. Your house will be seen by many qualified real estate agents who are looking for the best deal for their clients. Moreover, sites like Zillow pull listings from the MLS, so you’ll be lessening your workload.

How to List on the MLS

Thankfully, there are ways to list your home on the MLS without having to employ a full-service real estate agent.

Flat Listing Fee

This is the simplest way to list your home on the MLS, yet if you’re not experienced with selling homes, you’ll also be on your own. You pay a state licensed real estate broker a set fee – usually $500 or less – to list your home on the database for you and make changes when needed, and this is the extent of their services.

Although the listing originates under their name, they’ll put your name and contact information as the point of contact for showings and offers.

There are numerous terms for this kind of listing that you should be aware of to ensure that everyone is on the same page. The Department of Justice typically describes this service as “non-traditional,” “fee-for-service,” and “menu-driven.”

Discount Brokers

Discount brokers will only take about a 1% to 2% commission, but they won’t give you the personal service that a full-service real estate agent would provide. They typically work in teams, so you may not be in contact with the same person day to day.

Some of the services they may provide are adding your listing to the MLS, scheduling showings, and investing in professional photography. However, this can vary, and you’ll need to make sure you’re aware of all the services they provide before signing any contracts.

How to Prepare for the MLS

Now that you know what the MLS is, how it works, and how to get your listing on it, you need to prepare! While a real estate agent will help you through these steps, if you’re doing it on your own you need some guidance to avoid mistakes.

1. Property Details

Gather as many documents about your property as possible so that you can refer to them all at once. This includes building materials, any upgrades, repairs, and appliance specifications.

Know your home’s total interior square footage, along with your listing price. You’ll also want to write up a compelling listing description that highlights the unique features of your property and neighborhood, and money-saving features like new appliances.

Lastly, gather details about your homeowner’s association, the neighborhood, and the community, such as nearby amenities and features.

2. Seller Disclosures

Seller disclosures are required by law in most states and include the Seller Property Questionnaire, Transfer Disclosure Statement, and Carbon Monoxide Detector Notice. They let potential buyers know of any issues with the property. This should be completed before you list your home.

3. Cleaning and Staging

A professional cleaning is the easiest way to ensure your home is spick-and-span and ready for staging, photography, and open houses. A clean, staged a home is inviting for potential buyers and removes personal details that may make it hard for them to envision your house as their next home.

Professionally staged homes typically sell faster, and for more money, than unstated homes. This may seem like a lot of preparation, but it will lead to less headache later on!

4. Professional Photography

Professional photographs are invaluable for your home. Many potential buyers will first find your listing online, and they’ll make their first impressions and decide whether they want to go to an open house based on those photographs. Likewise, bad photographs will drive many buyers away!

You may think you can take these on your own to save money, but real estate photography is highly technical. A professional will be able to make your home appear bright and inviting while capturing the entirety of rooms with wide-angle lenses.

Before the photographer arrives, be sure to:

  • Mow your lawn
  • Sweep your driveway
  • Open all curtains and blinds to let in natural light
  • Remove all pet-related items
  • Make your home look like a hotel – completely clear countertops, tables, and end tables take off magnets from the fridge, remove personal photographs

5. Schedule Open Houses

Now that your home is cleaned and staged, and you have professional photos for marketing, it’s time to schedule open houses. The best times to schedule these are on weekends.

6. For Sale Sign

Real estate agents typically install For Sale signs in front yards or windows a few days before a house is listed on the MLS. You can also opt to distribute flyers around your local area to build even more interest. The goal is to have some interested buyers before your house is actively listed.

Sell Your Home Fast and Easy

Hopefully, we’ve answered your question of what does MLS stand for, but if you’re selling your house on your own for the first time, you probably have many more questions! FSBO essentially means you’re becoming your own part-time real estate agent.

This means that you’re responsible for answering inquiries quickly and professionally, having your home professionally cleaned, staged, and photographed, and marketing. If this already sounds overwhelming, consider BlueMatch.

BlueMatch bridges the gap between flat listing fees and full-service realtors, giving you the cost savings of flat listing while helping you along the process with licensed agents.

Interested in learning more? Get started with a free account today!

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