Demystifying the MLS

Posted by Brandon Vasquez on Thursday, October 7th, 2010 at 2:37pm.

As in all things Internet, when it comes to real estate there is good information and there is bad information. Some consumers are being misled into thinking they are looking at “the source” of all things real estate--the MLS.

We get the occasional call from our sellers and buyers, mild panic in their voices, asking why their home or the one they are searching for isn’t on the MLS. After we login to the database of our Regional Multiple Listing Service – NorthstarMLS, and conduct their same search, invariably we find the home they are searching for. What went awry?

They were searching the likes of Joe-Bob-Realtor.com, theMLSminnesota.com, or SuperCoolHomesMN.com (fictitious names to protect the innocent).

The Facts

Consumers do NOT have direct access to the NorthstarMLS database.

  1. The MLS, and more specifically NorthstarMLS, is a data source by Realtors, for Realtors, used to provide their clients with professional real estate services.
  2. Consumers searching for listings on local agent or broker websites are actually viewing data that was fed from NorthstarMLS to the particular website’s search engine (called Broker Reciprocity).
  3. Real Estate sites like www.zillow.com, and www.Trulia.com have relationships with the large Brokerages to display their listings, but your Realtor does not have control over the display of the data.
  4. Still other “real estate” websites troll the internet for real estate listings to “post” on their site. These sites do not receive updates, nor manage the listings.
  5. Sites with the name MLS in them are not “the MLS”. They are websites owned by Brokers able to use the term MLS due to a legal settlement.
  6. Clicking “Request a Showing” on a property listing is an invitation for the owner of that website to solicit your business.

The rule of thumb should be: The quality, reliability, and management of the real estate website is directly related to the quality, reliability, and management of the Agent, Broker, or third party whose site it is.

So, make sure you are using an organization’s website that you have come to trust. Ask your Realtor to check out the site to make sure that it is accurately displaying the listings.

I hope that this had made things a little clearer regarding your online home shopping experience. The internet is a great way to start to identify style and features of homes you like and locations you would like to live. But I would encourage you to tap into the knowledge of your professional Realtor when it comes time to synthesize all the elements of your home-buying decision. Don't be surprised. Use a professional...we can help!

--From the Desk of Chad Larsen

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