A Seller’s Guide to the MLS


You’ve cleared your belongings from your home and restored the living space to a respectable shine. You’ve completed the challenging and sometimes frustrating work of making your property presentable. Now what? It’s time to announce that you’re selling, and one of the most effective advertising tools at your disposal is the Multiple Listing Service or MLS. 

How does listing your home for sale on the MLS benefit you? 

It can help agents find qualified buyers looking for a home like yours

When working with a listing agent, once your listing goes live, it’s instantly visible to the brokers and licensed real estate agents that are members of your agent’s MLS. Agents representing buyers can then share your listing with their clients, coordinate showings, and send offers your way so that you can hand over the keys and focus on your next chapter.

What Is the MLS?

Before you get into the weeds, it’s helpful to understand what the MLS is and how it works. The MLS is an electronic database created by and for brokers and agents. There are nearly 600 MLSs spread across the U.S. that operate independently, and that number fluctuates annually as regional MLSs consolidate. It fosters cooperation among brokers large and small to sell each other’s properties and share commissions. Think of your local MLS as a private inventory of all properties, including rentals and commercial property, that are for sale, pending, or sold. It is constantly being updated to reflect the most current and accurate information.

The MLS Vs. Real Estate Websites 

The key difference between the MLS and real estate websites like Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com is that the MLS is far more accurate and complete. For example, MLS listings will display major property details, along with sensitive information like lockbox codes and seller contact information. Brokers and their agents pay fees for access to conduct research and find properties for buyers all in one place, as they can sort listings quickly by open house, neighborhood, or other criteria their buyers want. Updates to listings are instantaneous. Agents share information with each other such as contact information, special showing instructions, or disclosure of death on the property. Note: Agents can become members of multiple MLSs for broader access to listings.

Real estate websites advertise broker-approved listings, so the general public has less access to properties when they’re looking to buy and sell. Think of the listings here as partial listings. While open houses, seller disclosures, and even inspection reports can appear on a public listing, agent remarks will remain private and will not transfer over from the MLS. These websites take time to update and are minutes to hours behind the MLS. In hot real estate markets, minutes can make a difference between closing a deal and losing out on a sale.

What Data Appears on the MLS?

MLS listings contain specific property information, such as:

  • number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • square footage
  • listing price
  • agent remarks
  • HOA
  • neighborhood details

It’s highly granular. Quality real estate photos and even video tours of your property will help attract buyer’s agents’ attention in a sea of listings. Your listing will also show times when your home is vacant so buyers can view your property.  

How Does the MLS Help Sell My Home?

The biggest advantage of using the MLS is that it gives your listing maximum exposure to qualified buyers. Buyer’s agents can quickly narrow down properties that meet their clients’ home criteria and set up email notifications for listings during the home search process. This is why working with a competent agent is important.You’ll have a higher chance of selling your home if the listing is complete and accurate. The MLS is also helpful for either you or your real estate agent to conduct a comparative market analysis (CMA) to ensure you’ve priced to sell.

Alternative Selling Strategies

There is more than one way to sell your home. In this section, we’ll share selling options that you might find more appealing.

Flat-Fee Listing Service

This is an à la carte advertising option that will get your home on the MLS and allow you to purchase professional services without using an agent. You pay for what you want, but still receive the visibility of an MLS listing. 

For Sale By Owner

If you need to sell your home quickly or want to avoid paying high commissions to an agent, For Sale By Owner (FSBO) may be a viable option. FSBO makes sense if you have a buyer lined up or if you have a very good understanding of your home’s value in the current local market. You can use word-of-mouth, classifieds, and social media to sell your home. Selling on your own is time-consuming and may be difficult without an agent’s assistance.

Pocket Listing

What if you want to keep your property listing private? That’s where a pocket listing or “off-market listing” comes in. If you have a buyer lined up or own an expensive property, your seller’s agent will not put your home on the MLS. They would work on your behalf to find a buyer if you don’t already have one. Then they’d assist you with the rest of the homeselling process.

The Bottom Line

Listing your property on the MLS is worthwhile for most sellers, as it creates instant exposure to buyer’s agents in your region and the local area. Remember that listings alone do not sell houses. Rather, it is a combination of skill and awareness of your local market that will result in a positive selling experience. And whether you work with an agent or not, you’ll have multiple options to sell your home. 

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