A Multiple Listing Service or MLS, is an extensive database of homes for sale, land/lots for sale and rental homes listed by Real Estate Agents who belong to that MLS. The term MLS is generic and there are actually several hundred MLS services throughout the United States, but there is usually only one per local area.
According to the National Association of Realtors, only 8% of homes are sold FSBO (For Sale By Owner) without the MLS.* That means an overwhelmingly 92% of homes are sold every year using MLS services. There are two main reasons the MLS works so well. First, most home buyers today still prefer to work with Real Estate Agents when searching for homes. According to the NAR 87% of Buyers use an agent to purchase their home*. Agents provide a great deal of information for the home buyer and many buyers are reluctant to enter into contract agreements without an agent. A large part of the Real Estate Agents job lies in finding properties that suit the buyer's criteria. With the MLS, a Real Estate Agent can search homes for sale that suit their buyer's budgets, location preferences and other requirements. From the MLS they are able to quickly put together a list of suitable homes. The buyers that Real Estate Agents work with are ready, willing and able to buy a home, and as most sellers know, finding a serious buyer is one of the hardest things when selling your home. By listing your home in the MLS, Real Estate agents and home buyers will know you are serious about selling your home.
Second, the internet is quickly changing the way homes are bought and sold. For those home buyers not wanting to use a Real Estate Agent, the real estate sites allow them to view homes that are currently listed in the MLS for sale (unlike the MLS where updates are immediate, listings on the real estate sites are typically updated every 1-3 days). However, as a home seller, the only way to have your home listed on many of these real estate sites is by first being listed in the MLS. The MLS system, then in turn, sends your listing to the various real estate sites.
By listing your home in the MLS you will be opening up a world previously unknown to For Sale by Owners. Not only will Real Estate Agents have access to your listing with their qualified buyers, but millions of people all over the world will be able to view your house for sale. Using the MLS cuts through the complexities of selling your home yourself, exposes your property to those most likely to purchase it, and makes sure you won't waste time showing your home to those who aren't truly interested.
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The MLS is a very powerful tool when renting your home. The exposure that you receive with an MLS listing is way beyond what any internet ad or newspaper advertisement can give you. Once listed in the MLS your rental will appearing on hundreds of high-quality real estate websites such as Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia and real estate brokerage sites.
Agents, working with qualified renters, will typically use only the MLS to find homes for rent for their tenants. And many renters that are moving from out of town or with a job relocation program will only work with a local real estate agent. Out of town tenants rely heavily on the knowledge and expertise of an agent to show them homes that fit their moving criteria.
Using the MLS is the most effective way to reach great, well qualified tenants who are serious about renting your home.