"The MLS is a marketing organization composed of member brokers who agree to share their listing agreements with one another in the hope of procuring ready, willing and able buyers for their properties more quickly than they could on their own," explains Sue Britton, owner/instructor of the Cape Girardeau Excellence School of Real Estate and broker/salesperson with Prudential Bridgeport Inc. "The MLS will expedite a sale because it increases a single property's exposure to more potential buyers. When a listing is entered into the MLS system, an MLS number is generated specifically for that property."
MLS members -- who must be licensed with the National Association of Realtors -- can then access that information, including details about the properties, photos to show prospective buyers and information on comparable properties.
"The online MLS has truly changed the way the industry operates," says Joan Sanders, an executive with Realty Executives of Cape County. "Prior to the online MLS, Realtors were issued printed books monthly that contained properties for sale, and a printed book at the end of the year that contained all the sold properties, which was used for a comparative market analysis for a listing. As soon as they were printed, they were outdated. Now we have access to all of the information immediately. As soon as a home is listed for sale, every member of the MLS is notified and can send that information to interested homebuyers with ease."
Britton says the MLS is also helpful for licensees who need to prepare a competitive market analysis to determine the value of a property before suggesting an appropriate listed price.
According to the National Association of Realtors, the MLS dates back to the late 1800s, when real estate brokers gathered to pool information about properties they were trying to sell and agreed to compensate other brokers who helped them sell their properties. Today, Realtors can pool that information online, and prospective homebuyers can search for properties by entering their MLS numbers into websites like semohousehunter.com.
"They can view many available properties, with most properties having exterior and interior photos along with a short description of the amenities," says Britton. "An MLS number can be entered in the website to access this information. Also, other type searches can be accomplished on this website without using an MLS number. Prospective buyers gain because of the variety of properties on the market and prospective sellers gain because their property is exposed to a larger market."