How to Gain MLS Access Without a Realtor (2024 Update) 

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By Steve Nicastro Updated February 5, 2024

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Accessing the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a pivotal step for anyone looking to buy or sell a home. For buyers, it provides the most accurate and current property listings available, sending alerts the moment new homes hit the market. Sellers benefit too, as 90% use the MLS, making it the preferred method for listing properties.[1]

But gaining access to the MLS poses a hurdle for those without a real estate license, as it's reserved for professionals in the field. This limitation makes it challenging for people looking to sell their homes For Sale By Owner (FSBO) or buy without an agent.

There are now innovative ways to gain access without a realtor, including flat-fee MLS listing services. Whether you're aiming to sell your home on your own or embark on the home-buying journey, solutions exist to bridge this gap.

For sellers who prefer professional help at a reduced cost, Clever offers connections to top local agents charging only a 1.5% listing commission - significantly lower than the nationwide average of 2.83%.[2] You’ll still save thousands, but with a full-service realtor by your side.

💰 SAVE: Get full MLS access and a 1.5% listing fee

What is the MLS – and why does it matter?

The MLS is a crucial network for real estate transactions, acting as a comprehensive, regional database where properties are listed for sale.

Across the U.S., there are over 800 MLS databases, broadcasting listings to local realtors and major home buying websites like Zillow and Realtor.com.[3] The system not only maximizes visibility but also keeps property information up-to-date, aiding buyer's agents in their search for the perfect home for their clients.

The MLS stands as the primary platform for selling properties, used by about 86% of all sellers due to its effectiveness in increasing exposure. In contrast, only 3% of FSBO sellers use the MLS, which impacts their sale outcome, often resulting in lower sale prices compared to agent-assisted sales.[4]

For home sellers, leveraging the MLS can mean a difference of nearly $50,000 in the sale price, underscoring the value of this tool in the real estate market.

Who can access the MLS?

MLS access is only available to licensed real estate agents and real estate brokers, designed to safeguard sensitive details like personal information of sellers and buyers, security codes, and showing schedules.

This exclusivity also stems from the financial costs associated with maintaining the MLS. Membership fees paid by real estate professionals help cover these expenses, ensuring the system remains current and secure.

How to get MLS access without a realtor

1. Use a flat fee MLS listing service

If you're considering selling your home by yourself, a flat fee MLS listing service offers a cost-effective strategy to get your property listed on the local MLS. These services, provided by licensed brokerage companies, allow you to list your home on the MLS at a fraction of the cost of traditional real estate commissions.

With fees ranging from under $100 for basic listings to a few hundred dollars for more comprehensive services, you stand to save compared to the standard listing agent commission. Opting for a flat fee MLS listing not only saves money but also grants you greater control over your home sale process, ideal for those preferring to manage their sale.

However, it's crucial to weigh these benefits against potential drawbacks:

  • Data from Clever Real Estate highlights a significant disparity in sale prices between homes sold FSBO versus those sold with an agent, with agent-assisted sales often netting nearly $50,000 more.[5]
  • Additionally, NAR has found that homes sold through agents achieve sale prices at or above the asking price, offsetting any savings from avoiding traditional commission fees.

Maximize your profit with professional guidance

The immediate savings of a flat fee MLS listing may seem appealing, but partnering with a real estate agent has its advantages. Agent-assisted sales not only tend to secure higher sale prices but may also streamline the selling process, offering a balance between cost savings and service.

» 💰 Ready to save? Get a 1.5% listing fee today

2. Browse public MLS listings online

Did you know you can view MLS listings without an agent? Select MLS providers, including major ones like Bright MLS—which covers areas in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, DC—offer public access through platforms such as Nestfully.

Keep in mind that public access has its limits. Details such as agent notes, commission information, showing instructions, and security codes remain exclusive to professionals.

For those ready to take the next step towards viewing a home, contacting the listing agent or partnering with a buyer's agent becomes essential.

3. Use a real estate website

Exploring properties? Websites like Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia, and Redfin let you search MLS listings nationwide. They pull in listings from various MLS databases, allowing you to set alerts for homes that meet your search criteria.

However, these platforms may not always present the most current or accurate information compared to direct MLS sources. Here's why:

  • These websites may rely on third-party data providers and the homeowner's inputted information, not the MLS directly, which can delay updates or lead to errors.
  • For example, websites like Zillow might use data from third-party providers or homeowner inputs rather than direct MLS information, causing delays or inaccuracies in updates. This approach can affect Zillow's home value estimate accuracy, with outdated public records and incomplete details leading to incorrect property valuations.[6]
  • Listings on these sites can lag behind real-time MLS changes by 24–48 hours, meaning a property listed as available might already be off the market. That's why a home will sometimes still appear as "for sale" even after the seller accepts an offer.[7]
  • Some agents choose not to share their listings with these third-party services, resulting in missing properties from your search.

» LEARN: Is selling on Zillow worth it? Listing fees explained

How to get MLS access with a realtor

For buyers

To explore MLS listings as a buyer, teaming up with a trusted local real estate agent is key, given that MLS access is typically reserved for licensed professionals.

Your agent can grant you access to a private online portal and set up instant alerts for new listings, enhancing your home search with their expertise. It's no surprise that 89% of buyers choose to work with agents, leveraging their knowledge for a smoother purchase experience.[8]

As a buyer, you also shouldn't have to pay your agent anything out of pocket. Sellers usually cover the buyer's agent fee, meaning you can enjoy the benefits of professional guidance without direct expense.

If you're hesitant about committing to an agent but still want MLS access, simply communicate your situation. Many agents are willing to provide access to help you start your search, leaving the door open for future collaboration.

Maximize savings with home buyer rebates

Consider the added advantage of a home buyer rebate to sweeten the deal on your path to homeownership. With rebates offered as a percentage of the purchase price or your agent's commission, understanding the math behind your savings is key.

For instance, a 0.5% rebate on a $350,000 home purchase could return $1,750 to you at closing—equal to about one-sixth of your agent's commission on a standard 6% total commission split between buyer's and seller's agents.

Calculate your potential savings with our home buyer rebate calculator and see how partnering with Clever can make your dream home more affordable.

For sellers

For homeowners aiming to price their homes competitively, gaining MLS access is crucial for assessing comparable properties to conduct a comparative market analysis (CMA) report.

A CMA involves comparing your home to similar properties in the area that have recently sold or are currently on the market. It helps sellers understand market trends, identify the right price point, and position the listing competitively.

Lacking the detailed information on recently sold properties that the MLS provides, homeowners risk overpricing their home. This is a common pitfall for those selling their homes without professional guidance.

Overpriced homes tend to linger on the market, losing appeal to potential buyers over time. As a listing becomes stale, sellers may be forced to make significant price reductions, ultimately diminishing profits.[9]

Reaching out to a listing agent for MLS insights is a strategic move. Clever offers connections to premier local agents for MLS access and a CMA report, all without requiring a firm commitment.

» NEXT STEP: Get a free home valuation based on the latest MLS 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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