What you need to know before searching MLS listings

The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) gives homebuyers expansive access to for-sale properties but diving into MLS listings without proper preparation wastes time and overwhelms you. Before searching the MLS, arm yourself with key knowledge to maximize your effectiveness. Here’s what every buyer should know first.

The MLS aggregates listings from member real estate brokers of the local Realtor Association. It primarily covers homes represented by agents. Some FSBO or non-MLS properties won’t appear. And listings aren’t 100% comprehensive—some sellers elect not to list. But the MLS captures the wide majority of available homes.

Listing agents input the data

Listing agents create the MLS listing for each home. They write the descriptions and enter the specs like bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, etc. Understand agents aren’t infallible—MLS data can contain always verify details nystatemls.

You can’t access everything

MLS platforms reserve some listing details for agents. You won’t see confidential agent remarks, showings feedback, or back-end datestamps marking status changes. Some “public view” MLS searches only display basic listing info. Status = “Active” doesn’t guarantee a home is available. The listing could already have an accepted offer but stay Active until closing. Likewise, Active doesn’t mean the home is move-in ready. Speak with agents to get the real scoop on availability.

Days on market matter

Days on market (DOM) measures how long a listing has been public on the MLS. High DOM can signal an overpriced listing; low DOM indicates a hot property. Most markets see average DOM of 30-90 days higher than average DOM deserves scrutiny.

Remarks have insights

Listing remarks contain notes from the agent not visible in the standard fields. Read remarks carefully for disclosures on repairs needed, background on previous showings and offers, or insights on seller motivations. Remarks provide unique intel.

Pictures can mislead

Nice photos sell homes, so listings may minimize or disguise flaws through staging and editing. Examine photos closely to look beyond the gloss, because they don’t always tell the full story. Always visit in person.

Square footage varies  

MLS square footage isn’t an exact measurement. Different sources (appraisers, assessors, agents) calculate it differently. Square footage is best used for general comparison, not as an absolute number. Verify if it seems significantly off.

You need an agent

MLS websites allow searches without an agent. But DIY homebuyers miss out on an expert guide. Experienced agents deftly navigate MLS tools, decode listings, provide area insight, and optimize your overall search. Going into an MLS search fully prepared sets you up for success. Arm yourself with this background knowledge before diving into listings so you can search smarter. Doing your homework helps you with this invaluable home buying resource.