What Exactly is the MLS?
As this year comes to a close and a new one begins, I think it is always good to go back to the basics.
This year has brought much change to the Real Estate community, local as well as national. Technology is trying to catch up to Real Estate just like it has evolved and improved our lives in the financial, travel and retail businesses.
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a very complicated animal for your home search. As a REALTOR®, we tend talk in our own jargon which may not be clear to the general public. So here is a brief explanation of what the MLS is and how it works and how it is trying to survive in the new world of Real Estate Technology.
First of all, there is not just one MLS, this a dream of many new Real Estate Tech Ventures and many out there, but this goal will be one that will take time.
You see the MLS is a proprietary tool that only REALTORS® have access to for a fee and it varies by state. There are many MLS's in the United States by counties and different geographical areas and some REALTORS® belong to several MLS’s to encompass areas they service, just depends on the guidelines of the MLS.
For example, we belong to the NTREIS, (North Texas Real Estate Information System) which services all of the North Texas counties. Another point of interest is that beside NTRIES, we REALTORS® have another software based program called Rappittoni, some use one system and some the other, both are good and have different features depending on a particular searches you are doing.
These tools are far more advanced then any third party real estate search out there for the general public because they encompass ALL information that is entered into the MLS.
This is what happens when a listing is taken by a REALTOR®:
1. Very Detailed information is entered into system, photos, tours, disclosure and any files you want to upload you can within certain size limits.
2. When all listing info has been entered and approved the listing is marked active and given an MLS number. (Congratulations! you are officially on the Market)
3. Your Days on market starts, with day 0 and starts counting. (First 5 weeks are most important because this is considered a NEW listing and will generate the most interest.)
4. MLS info is downloaded by other brokers and third party sites and this is where it gets interesting, download times will verify dramatically and the way information is given depends on the way the third party has written software and what they want to show and what the MLS will allow then to show, usually very basic info.
When information is entered into the MLS it is entered by many different people, so mistakes are made by pricing, amenities, locations, zip codes which affect the mapping of a property and how the property is perceived online. All this can be changed but it has to be caught and then changed on the MLS then downloaded once again to all the third party sites.
That is why a lot of information about there is not correct and a great house does not have pictures or a good description or pertinent information that can sell a home! For example, today I looked up a property that the status had changed 10 days but show shows active on all third party sites. Usually, sites will not download new MLS info everyday, maybe once or twice a week, so you can see the information you get can have many flaws in it, REALTOR.com takes a while to correct, although it has gotten better.
With the onslaught of national MLS searches and databases, Trulia, Zillow, RealEstate.com, Propsmart just to name a few, that are changing how we get information for our homes and communities, only one thing stands in their way and that is assembling the proprietary information from all the MLS's all over the country, it is old school vs new school and the gloves are on.
We are all in for an interesting year as the dissemination of Real Estate takes shape. You see the MLS makes money from all the brokers and REALTORS® that enter their listings on to this service, they get all this information for free then sell it to third party vendors, who in turn will get leads form the listings and sell back top REALTORS®, just because you are the agent or broker of record does not mean you will be the first point of contact. Anyway, that is the mess the NAR (National Association of Realtors) needs to figure out and fast!)
So, What is the most accurate MLS information out there to start your home search? It is your local MLS, broker or REALTOR® websites that will give you the best or most accurate information, the most accurate would be a website set up specifically from your REALTOR® from the MLS directly so you can take advantage of the best tools out there today. All REALTORS® have this at their fingertips and should be using this for all their client searches, see example here.
Now more then ever the information available has been so dissected and massed out there that listings are more like a commodity and the fight is over who owns them, I really don't care, I just want my listings marketed and out there for the world to see and get it SOLD! Even though REALTORS® work on 100% commission and are self employed it still seems like we work for a corporation! Stay tuned, it will be an interesting year and you will find the latest tools to search for your home here. (this is in progress, so please check back)
Happy New Year & Happy House Hunting in 2007!