Multiple Listing Service

Updated on May 17, 2024
Article byAswathi Jayachandran
Edited byAaron Crowe
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is A Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?

Multiple listing services (MLS) are private databases that contain property information entered by real estate professionals on behalf of sellers to list their properties. MLS stores and indexes data listings with serial numbers that are accessible for query and insertion and are updated by local real estate association members.

How Multiple Listing Services Work?

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MLS lists down the available properties and benefits both buyers and sellers. It leads many potential buyers to the sellers and vice versa. Since the owners have to pay the brokerage fee, agencies must continuously improve service quality. In addition to it, it also lowers costs and speeds up the closing process.

Key Takeaways

  • Multiple listing services (MLS) is a database of property listings created by a group of real estate agents who consent to cooperate, combine their knowledge, and sell property listings by working together.
  • One can access it by partnering with local real estate agents since access to an MLS is mostly exclusive to licensed agents and brokers.
  • MLS accelerates the process of real estate transactions by matching buyers and sellers
  • The main benefit of the Multiple Listing Service is that it increases the likelihood of a sale by making real estate information available to the clients of other brokers.

How Does Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Work?

Multiple listing services are created by a group of real estate agents who consent to cooperate, combine their knowledge, and sell property listings by working together. The MLS links brokers who are active in this market and allows the introduction of complicated services on local real estate marketplaces. Each region’s local real estate industry develops, maintains, and funds each local multiple listing service. Real estate agents post their listings on the MLS, including comprehensive details and images. It may even include the usage of videos, diagrams or drawings, etc.

Participating agents and brokers frequently update the data accessible on the real estate multiple listing service databases. Homeowners who sell their property independently cannot add to MLS. In most cases, they must engage with agents or brokers to have their homes listed there.

Typically, all participants in the real estate industry must register their listings into the MLS systems within a brief window. As a result, real estate markets can function better through MLS’s development, which will boost the quality of services provided and lower the expenses associated with performing marketing and sales efforts.

This system works like any other market. When there is a demand (for properties), there is a search request, and people seek and analyze matching profiles. After that, if the demand and supply match, sellers and buyers can settle a deal. The fundamental rule is to split the commission between the agencies or brokers representing the transaction’s parties. Therefore, the real estate owner is the only party from which the agency or broker fee is collected. It forces the agencies to work to improve the quality of their services continuously.

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The main benefit of the multiple listing service is that it increases the likelihood that a sale will be made by making real estate available to the clients of other brokers. This lowers the costs of finding a client interested in a particular offer and speeds up the closing process. In addition, according to real estate professionals, a local multiple listing service is advantageous for buyers and sellers since it gives buyers access to the maximum number of listings and guarantees that sellers will reach the maximum number of potential purchasers.

Examples of Multiple Listing Service

Check out the following examples to get a better idea of real estate multiple listing services:

Example #1

Jack wanted to buy a house. He needed to figure out whether to trust the information on other websites. So he consulted a real estate agent. On behalf of Jack, this agent can access the MLS database and enter desired specifications to find the right property. Since agents mostly provide the information, one can consider it accurate, and when a property matching the specifications is found, the deal can be made.

Example #2

In June 2022, reports suggested that  Texas housing property rates were rising steadily. They were rising continually over seven months, and despite this, there was no shortage of sales. In addition, the report mentioned that there had been a surge in people listing their homes in the MLS, as it remains the most reliable and timely residential data source.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of an MLS system:


  • The listing agent must enter all the information into the MLS. Therefore, there is assurance that they will verify its accuracy. In addition, it is regulated by a board that oversees the MLS, and all of the information is usually accurate.
  • It has a huge database and provides buyers and sellers with potential clients.
  • Most industrialized countries’ economies heavily rely on the real estate sector, and MLS compiles a listings database, making transactions a little easier.


  • Some MLSs do not exchange listings with other MLSs, and membership in other realtor associations may be required. This may incur additional expenses.
  • It is computerized. Therefore, power shortages can disrupt normal functioning so that there can be a delay in editing listings or updating, which may lead to the potential loss of deals.
  • The usual commission rates are around 5–7%, deemed higher than the competitive commission rate, and the burden falls on the buyer.
  • Even though it makes finding properties easier, technological advancements and high commission rates make them undesirable and obsolete.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When were the multiple listing services created?

Although the concept of sharing listings with other brokers extends back much further—at least to the late 1800s—the first automated MLS was introduced in 1975. The MLS system for real estate first came into being in the US at the end of the previous century.

How to get access to multiple listing services?

It can be accessed by partnering with local real estate agents since their access is mostly restricted to licensed agents and brokers. However, to browse the local MLS, many agents can set up a private client access site for individuals.

Who owns the multiple listing services?

Individual realtor organizations, local multi-association conglomerates, or independent real estate brokerage cooperatives can own and run MLSs.

How many multiple listing services are there in the US?

There are currently 597 multiple listing services in the United States. But the proper number changes on a regular and frequent basis.

This article has been a guide to what is Multiple Listing Service. Here, we explain it with its examples, advantages, disadvantages, and benefits. You may also find some useful articles here –