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What Is a Multiple Listing Service and How to Use It

Listing your home on the MLS will expose your property to a larger pool of buyers. Find out more about the MLS and its features, how to post on the MLS, and the difference between flat-fee MLS agents, discount agents, and full-service agents.
Listing your home on the MLS will expose your property to a larger pool of buyers. Find out more about the MLS and its features, how to post on the MLS, and the difference between flat-fee MLS agents, discount agents, and full-service agents.

When selling your home, getting your house marketed on the MLS (multiple listing service) is an important first step. The MLS is the most extensive database used by realtors for all properties on the market, so posting your home on the MLS will ensure your property is viewed by the largest number of potential buyers.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through exactly what the MLS is, how it is used, and the different options available for getting your home listed on the MLS.

Understanding the MLS

The MLS, or multiple listing service, is a network of listings posted by qualified real estate agents. There are over 500 regional MLS networks in the country. Your real estate agent will have access to several different MLS directories. The MLS houses all the information about a particular property (more than you would find on search sites like Zillow or Trulia) and has the most up-to date information on pricing and any changes to the listing.

Data found on online home search sites is pulled from the MLS, though not all fields are shown to the general public. In order to gain access to the MLS, you must be an accredited realtor. Alternatively, you can (and should) partner with an agent to gain access to properties on the MLS, in order to find your dream home the moment it’s posted.

Additional Features of the MLS

The MLS contains every detail about a home, from square footage and room count to amenities like pools, jacuzzis, and solar panels. It typically contains photos of the home, as well as room tours, and all of this information is available for agents directly after being listed. Pricing information, including funding options sellers, are open to, are also listed on the MLS.

Real estate agents can set up specific searches on the MLS to target new homes that pop up that match a set of criteria. This can give buyers access to homes before they hit the general housing search sites, getting them first dibs on showings and making an offer. Sellers, likewise, will find qualified buyers faster by listing their home on the MLS.

Listing on the MLS: 3 Options

In order to list your home on the MLS, you’ll have to work with an agent in some capacity. Here are three of the most common ways to get your property listed on the MLS:

1. Flat-Fee MLS Listing

If you’re not interested in working with a real estate agent to sell your home, the flat-fee MLS listing might seem like the most appealing option to you. A flat-fee listing agent does just what the name implies: they list your property on the MLS for a flat fee.

While traditional listing agents charge around 3% of your home’s closing price for listings only, flat-fee MLS agents typically charge between $95 and $500 to list your home, with most options averaging around $100.

This fee must be paid up front, rather than when the home sells and typically only covers the listing. That means you’re still responsible for advertising your home, providing listing photos, scheduling showings, screening potential buyers, and handling all paperwork on your own.

2. Discount Agents

Discount listing agents are real estate agents who offer their services for reduced fees. A traditional agent might charge 6% to help you sell your home, while a discount agent may only charge 3%.

A discount agent will almost always help list your home and may help advertise, as well. However, they are not full-service agents, so you shouldn’t expect them to help you with every aspect of the selling process. You might be responsible for showings, inspection, or handling all paperwork on your own.

3. Full-Service Agents

The last type of agent who will help you list your home on the MLS is a full-service agent. Full-service agents are the people you picture when you hear the title “real estate agent”. They offer expertise on the selling process, run a comparative market analysis on your home to ensure it’s listed at the right price, come up with marketing strategies for reaching buyers, run showings and open houses, help you negotiate and manage offers, and follow you through the sale, all the way to closing.

Since these agents provide many valuable services to help homeowners sell their property fast, they typically charge a higher commission rate of around 6% (on average).

However, if you work with a Clever Partner Agent, you’ll receive a full-service, top-rated real estate agent who will perform all of the above services for a flat fee of $3,000 (or 1% on homes over $350,000). Not only will you get listed in the MLS, but a Partner Agent will help create the right marketing strategy to spread the word about your home for sale.

Partner Agents are all vetted and experienced, with many working at some of the top real estate franchises in the country. To get your home listed on the MLS and get help with the rest of the selling process, get connected with a Clever Partner Agent today.


Andrew Schmeerbauch

Andrew Schmeerbauch is the Director of Marketing at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you top agents to save on commission. His focus is educating home buyers and sellers on navigating the complex world of real estate with confidence and ease. Andrew has worked on projects for the United Nations and USC and has a particular passion for investing and finance. Andrew's writing has been featured in Mashvisor, L&T, Ideal REI, and Rentometer.

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