Most people have heard of the MLS, but many are unclear as to exactly what it is. MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service.
The Multiple Listing Service is probably your best tool as a home buyer and your best friend as a home seller.
But what exactly is the MLS?
The MLS is a database.
In the old days MLS databasing was done on filing cards and notebooks. Today that information is aggregated on computers. MLS data includes information about what properties are for sale and certain details about those properties such as condo amenities, number of bedrooms, garage parking. Almost everything you'd want to know about a given property is cataloged on the MLS.
Much of that information is public, such as the selling price and the address. Some of that information is private, or reserved for those who have professional access to the MLS. For example, real estate agents know which properties are vacant. The general public doesn't need to know this information as sharing that information might pose a risk to some property owners.
Yes, the MLS is a database, but it is also something more.
The MLS is a marketplace.
The collection of information on the MLS serves as the primary repository of details about real estate for sale or rent. MLS data is the foundation for most websites, and it is the primary reference point for most real estate professionals. As properties are contracted and sold, the data is constantly updated. Today, most agents and websites have data that is practically up to the minute.
The MLS is not free, but it's free to you the consumer. Agents and brokers pay fees for access to MLS data and to fees to maintain and improve the system. Professionals like me make that data available to the public for the purpose of helping buyers and sellers connect.
The MLS is a tool.
Like all tools, the MLS gives the best results when wielded by a professional. (More on this below.)
The MLS is for sellers.
Home sellers want access to the maximum number of buyers, in the most cost effective manner. When compared to the expense of newspaper, radio or other ads, the MLS is incredibly targeted and very affordable. The professionals who use this data will only bring qualified buyers shopping for property in your price range. It doesn't get better than that.
When a seller chooses a real estate agent with MLS access, the seller's sales force is equal to the number of agents who are using the MLS. The larger pool of prospective buyers the greater the chance that the property will sell quickly and for a fair market value.
The MLS is for buyers.
The MLS makes home shopping extremely convenient. MLS data does not cost the buyers a dime. Thanks to the internet and sites like NesbittRealty.com you can search MLS listings 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Many consumers find that a "self-search" through the MLS is a good starting point for finding the right home.
A real estate agent is for you.
In the old days consumers needed an agent to help them look through the data. These days its easy for the public to access most of the data available. So, you can do it yourself.
But if you try to find a home on your own or you try to sell without an agent, you'll quickly discover why most people choose to employ a professional. It's true: you could probably cut your own hair, change your oil filter and fill your own cavities. But why would you?
These days the problem isn't that the data is hard to find. The data is often up to the minute. These days, the problem is that there is too much data. Buyers are overwhelmed with choices. Sellers are drowned out by the noise of available information.
That's one reason why when it's time to get serious about buying or selling, a real estate professional can help guide you through the process.
Most agents know the tricks and secrets of the MLS.
As an agent, I have access to more complicated tools and search processes not available to the consumer. I work with the MLS every single day. The MLS is one of the most important tools in my toolbox. Once you have an idea of what you want to accomplish, I can employ the MLS in ways that you haven't imagined.
Julie Nesbitt is an ABR who has served buyers in some of Alexandria’s most exclusive neighborhoods. She is a top producing agent who has listed and sold property in Northern Virginia. In addition to helping folks buy, sell and rent property in Northern Virginia, Julie is the primary administrator of the property management services performed by Nesbitt Realty and Condo Alexandria. Call Julie at (703)765-0300.