What is MLS?
MLS stands for multiple listing service. It is a database of homes for sale that is produced and maintained by real estate professionals to help their clients buy or sell property. Homes for sale on an MLS are called listings. The MLS listings typically include important property information, such as exterior and interior details, asking price, taxes, and other costs.
The MLS was first created in the United States in the late 1800s. Members of the Board of Realtors in a given area would come together on certain days and share information about what properties were for sale. During these meetings, realtors exchanged information about properties and carried out the purchase of properties on behalf of buyers they represented.
Today, a local MLS provides publicly available information about listings to interested buyers. However, some information is kept private. This includes anything that could expose the seller or the property to certain risks. For example, contact information about the seller is not publicly listed to protect their privacy, and details about when the home is vacant for showings is never listed to prevent break-ins. To access those details, buyers need to work with a licensed real estate agent.
MLS systems range in size, sometimes covering the local municipality— such as the Chicago MLS Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED). In rural areas, like Portland, ME, one regional MLS can cover several counties. Potential buyers can also access MLS information via home search websites, where listings can be viewed before buyers decide on their agent.
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