A multiple listing service commonly referred to as MLS, is a type of database created by a network of realtors cooperating. The database is consistently updated with new property listings available for sale. This allows collaboration between agents and connects property buyers and sellers.
MLS systems contain a lot of information regarding the properties for sale. This typically includes its address, size of the property, number of rooms, size of the lot, number of days on the market and other fields.
Real estate brokers benefit from the sharing of information as it allows them to share commissions on properties. This is because typically both the buyer and seller have different realtors representing them.
It is important to note that there is no single MLS for the entirety of the United States. There are roughly 500 or more regional MLS databases. Every MLS has listings based in its region, and realtors and brokers tend to pay a fee to access the MLS. Some realtors pay to access more than one MLS to maximize their reach.
Typically MLS systems are restricted to licensed realtors and brokers only. An individual trying to sell their own property as For Sale By Owner or FSBO will not be able to list it on most MLS systems. A few may permit FSBO listings but will require the seller to pay a fee to access its systems.
The use of MLS systems is common in both the United States and Canada. While some other countries may also make use of MLS systems, it is less prevalent.