Despite advancements in technology that have altered the face of the real estate industry, no advent has replaced the benefits of MLS access. While new mobile applications and online portals have done their best to replicate the Multiple Listings Service, their benefits still pale in comparison to the potential of the MLS. To this day, no tool is perhaps more useful to investors than unrestricted MLS access. The ability to search, view, organize, and compare every property listed on the national housing market is nothing less than a huge advantage to those who know how to access MLS listings.
The MLS gives its users an unfair edge over the competition, which begs the question: How do I get access to the MLS? Better yet, can you get on MLS without a Realtor? There’s more than one way to gain MLS access, and not all of them require becoming a licensed Realtor.
The Multiple Listing Service is a private database comprised of real estate listings posted by industry professionals. As its name suggests, the MLS serves as a national portal by which brokers, Realtors, and agents may announce the impending sale of their clients’ homes. In its simplest form, however, the MLS is a tool used by real estate professionals to facilitate transactions between real estate brokers. Or, as the National Association of Realtors so eloquently puts it, the MLS “is a tool to help listing brokers find cooperative brokers working with buyers to help sell their clients’ homes.”
It is worth pointing out that the MLS isn’t a single list, but rather the culmination of hundreds of individual regional lists. Approximately 700 supplemental regional databases curated by local market experts are combined in a single, massive list we have come to know as the MLS. As a result, regional brokers are awarded the opportunity to share their own listings while simultaneously inviting real estate professionals from across the country to cooperate in their sale.
The MLS is nothing less than an invaluable tool for both buyers and sellers, which has many investors asking the same question: Can anyone use the MLS? To be clear, only Realtors have access to the MLS, but there are ways to gain access to it outside of becoming a Realtor yourself.
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Gaining access to the MLS is nothing less than an advantage over the competition for real estate investors. At the very least, the ability to search the nation’s largest database of “on-market” properties gives investors an inherent advantage over those that can’t access the MLS. Even the amount of research that may be conducted on the MLS can provide a massive advantage for savvy investors. It is worth noting, however, that there is more than one way to access the MLS. Investors aren’t required to become licensed Realtors to use this invaluable tool, so long as they use one of the following methods.
Licensed Realtors and agents are granted access to the MLS through virtue of their newly appointed positions. Therefore, simply becoming a licensed real estate professional appears to be the most direct approach for accessing the MLS. That way, licensed investors won’t have to rely on other sources or people to view one of today’s greatest home search tools. That said, not every real estate investor wants to become a licensed Realtor or agent, nor do they need to. Instead, partnering with a licensed Realtor or agent will inherently grant any investor second-hand access to the MLS. While the investor themselves won’t have their own access or login information, a working business relationship with someone who already has access to the MLS is the second best option.
To be perfectly clear, many of the listings on the MLS can be found on other platforms. While the MLS is the most comprehensive database of listings, it is entirely possible to find listings on online platforms like Trulia. Many people, as it turns out, are already familiar with Trulia, but far too many overlook it as a great lead tool. If for nothing else, Trulia is like a free version of the MLS (only with slightly more restrictions). In addition to being user-friendly and free, Trulia can help people looking to buy or sell with the help of several categories. To make things easier, users can narrow down their search with several unique categories: resale, for sale by owner (FSBO), foreclosures, and properties whose prices have been reduced.
Zillow, not unlike Trulia, offers users a free and friendly experience. The data isn’t necessarily as accurate as the MLS, nor is it as comprehensive, but it is nonetheless free. With Zillow, users can brows all sorts of properties for sale, and even try to sell their own homes. Known for its ‘Zestimate,’ Zillow has become popular for quick home value searches in a given area, something that can’t be underestimated.
While not quite the same as unlimited MLS access, Realtor.com serves as a truncated variation of the Multiple Listing Service. That’s an important distinction to make: While the MLS is a product of the National Association of Realtors, their own website does not grant unrestricted access to the MLS. Realtor.com does, however, give its audience the ability to search listings in a given area. While not nearly as detailed as those found on the MLS, the listings on Realtor.com provide one very valuable piece of information: the listing agent’s phone number. With the agent’s contact information readily available to any Realtor.com’s online visitors, gaining more detailed information on a given property is as simple as making a single inquisitive phone call.
Not unlike Realtor.com, ZipRealty acts as yet another online portal that pulls data from the MLS. Likewise, ZipRealty does not include every bit of information that can be found on the MLS. That said, it does seem to offer a little more than even Realtor.com does. In addition to the modest property information investors have come to expect from online property listing sites, ZipRealty offers more intricate details, like whether or not a property is a short sale. Additionally, investors are awarded the opportunity to gather detailed data about pricing trends. Most notably, site visitors gain insight into property price drops and increases, and how they transpire over time.
Similar to both ZipRealty and Realtor.com, a number of Realtors will also pull information from the MLS to post on their own websites. In order to generate leads for their own businesses, Realtors will post listings from the MLS on their site with the hopes of attracting buyers. That said, Realtor websites exhibit the same caveats as the previous two sources on this list: they don’t offer the entirety of the MLS. While Realtor websites will allow investors to create custom searches, view pricing changes, learn vital info such as a property’s days-on-market, and “save” favorite properties, they only offer a fraction of the homes that are actually available on the MLS.
For the longest time, it was widely believed that accessing the MLS was limited to licensed Realtors. However, the advent of the MLS has seen its applications expand beyond what anyone could have ever imagined. Due to its usefulness, MLS access was eventually granted to a number of practicing real estate professionals, and access doesn’t stop there. Accessing the MLS can be done a number of ways, not the least of which include those listed above.