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A multiple listing service (MLS, also multiple listing system or multiple listings service) is a suite of services that real estate brokers use to establish contractual offers of compensation (among brokers) and accumulate and disseminate information to enable appraisals. A multiple listing service’s database and software are used by real estate brokers in real estate (or aircraft broker in other industries for example), representing sellers under a listing contract to widely share information about properties with other brokers who may represent potential buyers or wish to work with a seller’s broker in finding a buyer for the property or asset. The listing data stored in a multiple listing service’s databases is the proprietary information of the broker who has obtained a listing agreement with a property’s seller.
Purpose and benefits
The primary purpose of an MLS is to provide a facility to publish a “unilateral offer of compensation” by a listing broker, to other broker participants in that MLS. In other words, the commission rate that is offered by the listing broker is published within the MLS to other cooperating brokers. This offer of compensation is considered a contractual obligation; however, it can be negotiated between the listing broker and the broker representing the buyer. Since the commission for a transaction as well as the property features is contained in the MLS system, it is in the best interests of the brokers to maintain accurate and timely data.
The additional benefit of MLS systems is that an MLS subscriber may search an MLS and retrieve information about all homes for sale by all participating brokers. MLS systems contain hundreds of fields of information about the features of a property. These fields are determined by real estate professionals who are knowledgeable and experienced in that local marketplace, whereas public real estate websites contain only a small subset of property data.