What you’ve always wanted to know about Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

If you've ever been through the process of buying or selling a property, you surely have heard of what stands for MLS - Multiple Listing Service. Today we will have a look at some of the basic background of MLS, its history, future and functionality.

The essentials of MLS

Multiple Listing Service is in simple terms a database of all the property for sale in a certain region. It connects a realtor representing the seller with a realtor that represents the buyer. It contains all the specific information about the property (the address, age, square footage, number of bedrooms, baths, upgrades, etc.), information about the local area (distance from shops, schools, public transportation, etc.), information on the type of financing the seller would consider and so on. It also contains photos and/or a virtual tour of the property.

Although it might sound like a description of just about any listing you can freely access on your realtor website or blog, it is not so. MLS listing was created by realtors, is maintained and paid for by realtors and is accessible by realtors only (it is membership based). All those listings you might have seen online are just a fraction of the complete information that your realtor has at hand. The public listings are simply incomplete.

A bit of history

MLS started some fifty years ago as listing sheets or ringed binders publishing all the property for sale from a given region, updated bi-weekly. This was followed by a second generation of the system - real bound MLS books that were published monthly with weekly updates. Since the maintenance of the system was quite a costly burden, only those realtors paying the membership fee could access the system. Then in the 70s came the third generation - a computerized database which was accessed by realtors through "dumb terminals" and phone lines. With the expansion of personal computers the system was upgraded again when it became web-based, accessible through the Internet. That's what exists today: regional web based databases storing information on property for sale.

The fifth generation: MLS 5.0?

Today and especially in the connection with the US real estate market we hear more and more about MLS 5.0. What is it supposed to be? Well, just like the Web 2.0 ("the second generation of web development and design that facilitates communication, secure information sharing, interoperability and collaboration") changed the way we behave online, MLS 5.0 is supposed to change the way we work with property information. MLS of the future, incorporating the web 2.0 features, should be parcel, not listing based (providing information of all the properties, not only those for sale) and should be available not just to the realtor, but also to consumers, vendors and developers. While all the previous versions of MLS were region-based, MLS 5.0 is supposed to constitute one mammoth system and comprise all of the previous regional databases. As for Canada, we have to stick with the current "4.0" version, because as far as we know, no nation-wide database is being developed.

Why should you be interested in MLS?

If you intend to sell your property, without it being listed in MLS it will not get the kind of exposure it needs. Currently about 75% of properties are sold through the MLS. Equally, when you are buying a property, at some point you will need to access the MLS through your realtor for additional information that you cannot access in online listings. Therefore when choosing your realtor, always make sure that they are part of the local board of realtors and have access to the MLS in the region you intend to buy the property.

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