MULTIPLE LISTING SERVICE faq

* What is the Multiple Listing Service?
* What are the Bay Area MLS sites?
* What categories of listings are available to the public?
* Can consumers access SOLD listings?
* Are there online MLS maps?
* Are For-Sale-by-Owner properties on MLS?


What is the Multiple Listing Service?

The National Association of Realtors was founded on May 12, 1908 at the YMCA Auditorium in Chicago, as a trade association. Eventually each State established a chapter or affiliate, and Counties/Cities then developed their own chapters.

The centerpiece of this system is the Multiple Listing Service [MLS]. At the local level all participating brokerages pool their listings in a shared database. Each brokerage offers to compensate any other brokerage for bringing a buyer to the table. The commission split is set by the brokerages, not by law and not by the local association.

For years this meant that the brokerage bringing a buyer to the table was really an agent, called a sub-agent, of the seller. So the buyer had no representation. Subsequently, in California and most other States, through legislation, buyers are entitled to retain their own agent, their own fiduciary. However, the commission structure was so ingrained that it remains, not affecting the agency relationship of buyers and their licensees.

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What are the Bay Area MLS sites?

Due to MLS consolidations, there are a number of MLS sites that are regional in nature. Very useful, even if consumers are limited to public access and not member (ie Realtor) access.

* The San Francisco multiple listing service
* North Bay access: Marin, Sonoma .....
* South Bay access: San Mateo, Santa Clara .....
* East Bay access: Alameda, Contra Costa .....

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What categories of listings are available to the public?

Generally, Active and Pending statuses.

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Can consumers access SOLD listings?

Not without having a Realtor provide access. This data is considered proprietary by NAR and its affiliates.

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Are there online MLS maps?

San Francisco has an excellent stand-alone online map, delineating all ten districts, with their respective sub-districts.

The north bay, south bay and east bay sites have pop-up maps, activated by selecting a listing.

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Are For-Sale-by-Owner properties on MLS?

Yes and no. It's a matter of semantics.

The pure FSBOs are sellers who choose to sell their homes on their own. No Realtors, at all. There are Internet sites where sellers can list their homes independent of the MLS system. All but one are small. There is no Association to wrap the seller's knuckles if the seller fails to remove the listing once an offer has been accepted. So, expect stale listings.

Other FSBOs forego a listing agent but will cooperate with the buyers' broker - meaning that they will negotiate the real estate commission.

And there are FSBOs who retain Limited Service Brokers to place their homes on MLS for a discounted fee, usually less than $300. This is discussed in more detail on our online marketing page.

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