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The Multiple Listing Service, or MLS as it is known in the real estate world, is the No. 1 source of listing information on homes for sale in the United States. Whether buying or selling, the MLS plays a big role in the marketing and sales of homes across the country.

What exactly is the MLS? The Multiple Listing Service is a real estate database, organized by region, that contains the most up-to-date information on properties for sale. The data is sourced from subsidiary sites and can be sorted many consumer-friendly ways, including by ZIP code, city or town. Searches can be further defined by price, square footage and other helpful parameters.

Who can use the MLS? In some states, only members of the National Association of Realtors™ can use the MLS on behalf of clients. Other localities may only require an active real estate license to access the database. A seller’s agent will add client properties to the database. Agents working on behalf of buyers will comb the database looking for properties that best match what a client is looking for in a new home. Properties sold by owner do not appear on the MLS.

What are the advantages to using the MLS? The Multiple Listing Service provides one-stop shopping, listing thousands of properties and the corresponding details on each, including square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms and photos. It gives potential buyers quick and easy access to a wealth of information on all the properties professionally listed in a particular area. For sellers, the MLS provides instant — and wide — advertising exposure to all interested buyers in the area working with a real estate professional. Working with a licensed real estate agent will give you the quickest access to the most current data.