How to Get MLS Access

How to Get MLS Access - The Multiple Listing Service Database Explained

by The CE Shop Team

What Is a Multiple Listing Service?

The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a private database that allows real estate professionals to list properties to other real estate professionals. It helps to make the buying and selling process more efficient and streamlined. It also allows smaller brokerages to compete with the mega brokerages in helping their clients buy and sell homes. This MLS guide will cover who gets access to this private database and how to secure that access.

Can Just Anyone Access an MLS?

In most situations, the MLS is owned and operated by real estate agents and real estate Brokers. So no, not just anyone can access the MLS to see what is available. The limited access allows the MLS data to be largely utilized by licensed real estate professionals. In total, there are 800 MLSs that agents can use to share their properties and find other professionals to assist in either the buying or selling process. When you think about an MLS, view it as a way to bring real estate professionals together to generate a purchase or sale.

Did You Know? 

The first MLS dates back to the late 1800s. As the National Association of REALTORS® points out, it was then that Brokers would regularly gather at the offices of their local associations to share information about properties they were trying to sell. They agreed to compensate other Brokers who helped sell those properties, and thus the first MLS was born.  

How Do You Get MLS Access?

There are several paths to accessing the MLS in your real estate market. We’ll cover the most common access points below:

Become a Real Estate Agent 

The easiest way to gain access to the MLS is to become a real estate agent. Since the service is designed for real estate agents, Brokers, and REALTORS®, you’ll need to use it eventually anyway, and gaining access is simply a formality once you’re a licensed agent. 

In general, those looking to obtain a real estate license must:

  • Be a legal resident of the United States
  • Be at least 18 years of age (minimum 19 years of age in Nebraska)
  • Hold a high school diploma or its equivalent (this condition isn’t always required - check your state’s real estate commission board for more details!)

If you meet those requirements, you're ready to begin your real estate classes. You’ll have to complete Pre-Licensing coursework, pass your state’s real estate exam, find a real estate Broker under which to work, and apply for your real estate license.   

For more information on how to become a real estate agent, such as how much it costs and how much you can earn, be sure to check out this guide.

Create a Relationship With an MLS

Since the MLS is owned and operated by agents and Brokers, the most common practice is to only allow those who are paying members to use it. You can view it as a sort of lockbox for real estate professionals to help protect their transactions. But, if you don’t have the time to become an agent, you could potentially build a relationship with the MLS in your area. 

You would have to create a sound plan and reason for why you need to access the MLS. If you simply want to use it as a way to property search in your area, that likely won’t fly. So while building a relationship will no doubt help, you also need to have a professional reason to justify accessing the MLS. And remember, you’re accessing their system in this scenario - do not act like a black knight, expecting to raid the MLS in a hostile takeover. If you’re granted access, be respectful and prove that they made the right decision in giving you the keys to this lockbox.

Partner With a Real Estate Agent 

Partnering with a real estate agent can be a difficult but worthwhile way to gain MLS access. Reach out to your network of agents and they may be able to grant you access to their MLS database. Although some agents are willing to help individuals out on a case-by-case basis, becoming an agent is a more reliable option for those interested in gaining MLS access.    

Use a Real Estate Site 

If none of those recommendations appeal to you, there are also real estate websites that you can use for property listings, foreclosure viewings, and referrals. By now, you have no doubt heard of Zillow, Trulia, REALTOR®, Realtor.com, and RedFin. While most of the MLS sites are private and reserved for paying real estate professionals, many MLS sites now publish listings to the public through sites like these. It’s important to point out that these sites typically present active listings only and don’t offer the same level of detail found on an MLS.

Use an IDX 

Some real estate agents and Brokers will have their own MLS sites that include their listings. These sites are known as IDX sites, and they’re used for agent-to-agent marketing. IDX sites offer agents a way to reach more people and potential clients that can either help buy or sell the home that is listed.  

Use an MLS Syndication Service 

The final option is to use a service that collates the MLS listings. One of the more popular syndication services is ListHub. As is the case with most syndication services, ListHub’s listings are based on a data feed that runs on RSS and provides its subscribers the information that is published on the original real estate website. This service is great for anyone in real estate, whether a real estate student, agent, or journalist, since it gathers the information from all available resources and organizes them in one area.

At the end of the day, there are several ways to access an MLS. The most reliable strategy is to become a licensed real estate agent so that you can fully access all that your market has to offer with a click of a button.