How to Get MLS Access: No Realtor's License Required

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By Josiah Wilmoth Updated September 1, 2023


What is the MLS? | Who gets MLS access? | How to get an MLS listing without a realtor | How to get access to MLS listings without a license

When you're buying or selling a house, you need to access the MLS (multiple listing service). It's the most accurate, up-to-date resource for finding homes for sale online. It's also the most popular place where sellers list their houses for sale.

Typically, the MLS is restricted to professionals with an active real estate license, but there are several options for accessing it without a license.

If you're selling, you can:

  • Use a flat fee listing service
  • Use a public MLS database
  • Ask a local realtor to set you up with a listing

If you're buying or investing in a property, you can:

  • Browse live MLS listings using a third-party site like Zillow or
  • Use a public MLS database
  • Use a data aggregator or API
  • Ask a local realtor to set you up with a search

Aside from working with a licensed agent, these options don't offer full access to the MLS. But in some situations, you might not need full access. A flat fee listing service could be a sufficient, low-cost option if you have real estate experience and want to avoid paying realtor fees.

In other situations, it may make sense to partner with a local realtor. If you decide the latter is your best option, you can still save money on fees by working with a discount real estate broker.

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What is the MLS?

The MLS — short for "multiple listing service" — is a regional and private database where brokerages advertise properties for sale.

There are more than 800 MLS databases across the U.S., and over 91% of sellers post their homes on the local MLS with a listing agent. The information then gets syndicated to real estate sites like Zillow, Redfin, and Buyer's agents also use the MLS to access the most up-to-date property information for their clients.

Third-party sites like Zillow offer quick, free access and user-friendly interfaces, but these sites tend to lag behind the MLS. When time is of the essence, it’s helpful for buyers and sellers representing themselves to understand that public websites pulling from MLS data can run hours or sometimes even days behind. The information made publicly available is also not comprehensive, so lining up a showing can take even more time.

Who gets MLS access?

Full MLS access is restricted to licensed realtors and brokerages with an active membership in the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This is primarily to protect sensitive information such as sellers’ and prospective buyers’ personal data, security-related details like access codes, and times when a property will be vacant for showings.

Another reason for the limited access is that keeping an MLS online and up-to-date is costly. By collecting fees from paying members, the NAR bears the cost of hosting and maintaining MLS databases.

A NAR membership is not the only way of gaining access to listings on the MLS, though it's the most direct and comprehensive method for doing so. For many buyers and sellers operating without the help of an agent, limited access may include all the information they need.

How to get an MLS listing without a realtor

You can get an MLS listing without a realtor by hiring a flat fee MLS listing service. These companies post your property on the MLS for a few hundred dollars (compared to the 2.5–3% that most listing agents charge).

If you're selling a house for sale by owner (FSBO), using a flat fee MLS listing service is a budget-friendly way to advertise your home to potential buyers. Some flat fee MLS services include just a bare-bones listing, essentially leaving you to sell the house yourself. Others offer more hands-on support, like pricing assistance, showing schedulers, and consultations on offers and contracts.

A flat fee MLS listing can cost anywhere from $100 to over $1,000, depending on the company and service package you choose.

How to get an MLS listing with a realtor and still save

If you want to save money but aren't sure about a DIY sale, another option is to sell with a low commission real estate agent. The top brands offer the same listing services you'd find with a local listing agent — but at a far more competitive commission rate.

Clever Real Estate, for example, negotiates discounted commission rates with full-service agents from well-known brokerages like Keller Williams and Berkshire Hathaway. We invite agents into our referral network based on local sales performance and customer ratings.

Clever partner agents provide the same service you'd expect from a top-selling agent in your area. The only difference is that you pay just 1.5% in listing fees when you find your agent through Clever. Read Clever Real Estate reviews and see why sellers trust us.

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How to access MLS listings without a license

If you're ready to buy a house, here are the top ways to gain MLS access and research homes for sale in your area.

Work with a local agent

MLS access is generally restricted to licensed real estate agents, so if you want to view MLS listings, your best bet is to find a great local realtor.

Your agent can set you up with MLS access through a private online portal, and they'll also set up instant MLS alerts when new homes go up for sale. And that's just one of the MANY benefits you'll get when working with a top buyer's agent.

As a buyer, you also shouldn't have to pay your agent anything out of pocket. The seller typically covers your agent's fees out of the sale proceeds. So, if you're ready to start the home buying process, you have everything to gain by finding an experienced realtor to help you find the perfect house and negotiate a winning offer.

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If you're looking to buy or sell a house and weighing your options, Clever can help!

Our fully licensed Concierge Team is standing by to answer questions and provide free, objective advice on how to get the best outcome with your sale or purchase.

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Give us a call at 1-833-2-CLEVER or enter your basic info below. Our Concierge Team will be in touch shortly to help.

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Use a public MLS database

Some of the larger MLS providers allow you to browse listings online, even if you're not currently working with a licensed real estate agent. For example, Bright MLS — the local MLS for parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, DC — offers a public home buying website called Nestfully.

Since Bright MLS Homes and other similar services get their data directly from the MLS, listing information should be accurate and up-to-date. However, public MLS databases don't include all the information that agents can access.

For example, you typically won't find information like:

  • Confidential agent notes
  • Buyer's agent commission details
  • Showing instructions
  • Security codes for accessing the property

Use a home-buying website

You can search for MLS listings on home-buying websites like Zillow,, Trulia, and Redfin. This is possible because these sites syndicate MLS listings from across the U.S. You can also set up alerts from these sites to get updates on properties that match your criteria.

» LEARN: The best home-buying websites (full rankings)

However, compared to local MLS data, the information on these sites is more likely to be incomplete, out-of-date, or inaccurate.

Further, many home buying websites get some or all of their data from third-party companies — not directly from the MLS. This limits how quickly the websites can update their listing information.

On Zillow, MLS updates can be delayed by as much as 24–48 hours. That's why a home will sometimes still appear as "for sale" even after the seller accepts an offer.[1]

Additionally, some agents block their listings from third-party data companies, which prevents them from appearing on some home buying websites.

Use a real estate API

An API, or application programming database, allows web developers to access data and incorporate it into their websites and apps.

Developers use commands to tell the API what type of data they want (e.g., housing market data, home values, property details, neighborhood characteristics), and the API retrieves that data from its database. This system allows developers to build features like real estate search tools (think Zillow or Trulia) and home value estimators.

An added benefit is that an API can monitor multiple MLSs or other public sources at the same time, returning results from across several real estate markets.

Some of the more popular real estate APIs include:

  • Zillow API
  • Retsly API
  • Attom Data API
  • Black Knight Developer Portal
  • Estated API
  • Trulia API
  • Picket Homes
  • PropStream
  • Home Junction

While using an API may seem similar to setting search parameters and alerts on a site like Zillow or Redfin, the two options operate differently.

Public sites are likely to offer less comprehensive data updates than a self-purchased API. Third-party websites update on their own schedules and often lag behind the MLS.

Using an API directly is often more efficient, particularly for real estate investors who consistently buy homes and want specific property data.

FAQ about MLS access

How can I get access to the MLS as a buyer?

Buyers can view MLS listings in a few different ways. Your best option is working with a local real estate agent. Your agent will send you instant MLS alerts and let you browse listings through a private client portal. You can also find MLS listings on third-party home-buying websites like Zillow, although the data is much more likely to be inaccurate, incomplete, or out-of-date.

Can I get an MLS listing without a realtor?

Yes. A flat fee MLS listing company will put your home on the MLS for a few hundred dollars, potentially saving you thousands in realtor fees. However, some companies provide more value than others, so make sure to compare rates and services before making a decision. Find flat fee MLS listing services in your area.

What is the MLS?

The MLS, or multiple listing service, is a private database that contains all the properties that real estate agents are selling. You only receive MLS access if you're a licensed real estate agent. Learn more about how to get MLS access without a license.

Can I find a townhouse, condo, or apartment on the MLS?

Yes, the MLS contains all properties that are currently for sale in a particular area, including townhouses, condos, and apartments. If you're searching for a specific type of property, you need to partner with a local real estate agent to gain MLS access.

Who has access to the MLS?

As a general rule, licensed real estate agents are the only individuals allowed to have access to the MLS. This typically includes any real estate broker, agent, or brokerage with a license, as well as members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

What is the difference between the MLS and a real estate license?

The MLS, or multiple listing service, is a regional and private database that contains properties for sale. A real estate license is issued by the state and allows realtors and real estate brokers to legally represent a home seller or home buyer in the real estate process. Only licensed real estate professionals are allowed to access property listings on the MLS.

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