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How Multiple Listing Services Works


Sharing Multiple Listing Service Data: Consumers Take Control
The explosion in use of the Internet has spawned online real estate search services and challenged the long-time monopoly of the MLS.
The explosion in use of the Internet has spawned online real estate search services and challenged the long-time monopoly of the MLS.
Jonathon Elderfield/Getty Images

­The advent of the Internet in the 1990s has changed the way the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS) works. At one time, only brokers saw and controlled the listings on the service. Now the Internet has turned it into more of a consumer marketplace. This trend has leveled the playing field between buyers and sellers and their agents.

 

Through the Internet Data Exchange, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) allows limited listings to be viewed by potential buyers on its consumer Web site, MLS®. According to NAR, more than half of real estate buyers in 2006 used this site or another multiple listing service Web site to search for a home. For what it says are security reasons, NAR deliberately withholds some information from the public, including seller contacts, whether a home is vacant and showing times.

But buyers and sellers increasingly have less need of the MLS®. This is due to Internet search capabilities and a burgeoning number of online service providers specializing in real estate. With a spike in the number of American homebuyers now finding their homes on the Internet, the role of the real estate agent is transitioning from one of matching buyers with sellers to one of helping them navigate the paperwork and procedures involved in the transaction.

What the future holds for multiple listing services remains to be seen. But few agents would deny that they'll have to evolve to avoid becoming obsolete. They'll have to become more transparent and accessible to compete with rival services, and they'll have to keep pace with the rapidly changing demands and expectations of an Internet-savvy public.

Whether you're buying or selling, the links on the next page can help you join the revolution of enlightened, well-informed real estate consumers.