Realtor Tools: the MLS
The modern day MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is the method that information on real estate for sale and sold properties are disseminated throughout the real estate community; from brokers to other brokers and to appraisers. The MLS is the evolution of what began ascooperative brokerage agreementsbetween real estate brokers allowing fellow brokers and agents to sell each other’s inventory of unsold homes. These agreements were started between individual brokers consenting to split the commission paid to the listing agent in return for ‘bringing a buyer’ to the deal.

Once it was established that homes sold much more quickly using these agreements, their use spread throughout the real estate profession. A system for organizing the amount of real estate listings was needed.

Initially listings were published in newsletters, with Realtors having to keep track of other brokers newsletters. The first Multiple Listing Services were formed to allow a central publisher to publish all the available listings within an area. This made the process of advertising homes to other brokers much simpler with listings being available by subscription to the service. As computers began to be used, the process became more and more digitized.

Today, virtually all real estate brokers and agents use their local MLS to advertise listings and to find listings for prospective home buyers. MLS systems have been fully computerized in the St Louis area by Mid America Regional Information Systems (MARIS) since 1997. This allows for up to the minute collection of new listings, changes and showing information so that agents can better focus on doing their job instead of laboring to gather information.

The MLS has powerful search features that give Realtors a definate advantage in being able to search either very broadly or very limited criteria to fit the search to the situation. Buyer’s only wanting to see a small number (narrow range) of properties can do that, while buyer’s that want to sift through hundreds of listings (or more) can do that with the right criteria being used by their Realtor. What this means for the buyer getting more information in less work.

The past 6 years has seen the advent of a new tool for prospective home buyers: IDX. IDX (Internet Data Exchange) was established to provide an abbreviated MLS service to home buyers directly from real estate brokers or other direct marketing sites. IDX is not only a benefit to home buyers in their increased access to real estate listings they seek, but also is a benefit to Realtors, in that home buyers are able start the home search process prior to contacting their Realtor. IDX, while very useful, is not as up to date, relevant, or as specific as the actual MLS. This gives buyer’s looking for the ideal search an incentive to begin working with a Realtor after preliminary searches on IDX sites become to limited or incomplete. One example of this limit, is that the MLS shows in real time when a listing goes “under contract”, whereas the IDX search would display the unavailable ‘pending’ sale property until it closes without any indication that it has already been sold.