How to Access MLS Listed Properties Without Having a Real Estate License

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About three years ago I decided that I wanted to start pursuing bank owned properties that were listed on the MLS. My first thought was to find a buyer’s agent to get listings and submit offers for me, but after talking to a handful of agents who had no interest in submitting multiple low offers, I decided that it would be much easier to just make the offers directly to the listing agents. While this seemed like the perfect solution to me, there was one big problem: I wasn’t licensed (and had no desire to go through the licensing class), so I did not have access to the MLS!

If you find yourself in a similar position- not to worry!  There are ways to gain access to MLS properties without having to go through the hassle of getting your real estate license.  Following are two websites that can be used in conjunction with one another to give you all the information you need to start making offers on MLS listed properties.

Realtor.com

Realtor.com is a free service that allows you to search for listed properties in your area.  While the listing information provided on Realtor.com is fairly basic, they do provide you with the contact information for the broker’s office of each property, so if you’d like to get more detailed information, it’s just a phone call away.  Following is an example of a current listing on Realtor.com:

ZipRealty.com

ZipRealty.com is similar to Realtor.com, except that the listing information they provide is much more detailed.  Aside from the basic property information, they also include a description of the property, which often gives important information such as whether or not it is a short sale or an REO.  In addition, they include the property pricing information, which let’s you know how many price drops have been made, and when those price drops occurred.

Here is an example of the Zip Realty listing for the same property  shown above:

Zip Realty listing

As you can see, this listing is much more detailed than the one given on Realtor.com.  Zip Realty also allows you to see the recent sold properties in the neighborhood by simply clicking the “Sold Homes” tab at the top of the page (circled in red).

The one drawback to using ZipRealty.com is that it does not provide you with the listing broker’s information.  You can easily find this out, though, by simply taking the MLS number (circled in red at the top right of the listing), and then heading back to Realtor.com, and doing an MLS number search!

While the information provided on these two websites is nowhere near as detailed as what is available on the MLS, it will still provide you with the necessary information to research properties, contact the listing agents on the properties that you are interested in, and start making offers!

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About Author

Formerly a bartender, Steph Davis is now a full time wholesaler in Tampa, FL. If you'd like to get an idea of what it's really like out there in the trenches, head on over to her blog: FlipThisWholesaler.net!

12 Comments

  1. I like ziprealty.com but I have often wondered about these types of sites and how they get their info. Is it gathered directly from the mls or do realtors submit them to ziprealy/ trulia/ etc? My concern is that it may not be all inclusive when I am trying to price comps or view trends.

  2. I am Zip Agent in Atlanta who has been doing this awhile.

    All the data for both Realtor and Zip comes from the MLS. Typically Zip will sweep the MLS system for new listings and updates 3 time a day. Realtor maybe once a week. All RE agents rely on the diligence of the listing agent to keep the listing info accurate. It’s the old garbage in garbage out rule.

    Before I take any client out I always confirm the property is still available or if it has offers on it. It may take weeks for a listing agent to change a status from active to pending on the system. So you need to contact them first.

    It is hard but not impossible to find a buyer agent to write offers on low end (less than 50k) on these properties. The key in getting an agents attention is proving you are serious, and have the money to buy.

    As you can imagine there are lots of pretenders out there who will gladly waste my time and gas. And believe it or not, good agents stay busy and are still making a living in RE.

    Despite what you hear on TV or radio these homes are not selling for 50% of the asking price. Most of the time the home is priced well below market and sells for over the asking price. Yes.. really.

    Get a good buyer agents, interview a few, prove you are serious and take their advice. If you are doing multiple deals most agent will be happy to work with you and develop a professional relationship.

    Remember the listing agents fiduciary responsibility is to get the most money for the seller. If you think you can lowball the listing agent think again. I can talk more about this later if anyone cares.

    So who do you want to represent you?

    • Good points, Ed, and thanks for the info about Zip Realty.

      I still prefer to make my offers directly to the listing agents, though, and I make low offers to them all the time without any hassle. In fact, I just made an offer of 21k on a property that is listed for 39k. I called the agent first to let him know I was going to be sending a low offer his way (and also that I’m giving him both sides of the commission), and he was fine with it.

      If a property warrants a low offer (high DOM, major rehab needed, etc.), I have no qualms about making it, and the agents don’t usually have a problem with it.

      That’s been my experience, anyway….

  3. Sounds great, but looks like ZipRealty only covers about half of the U.S. and unfortunately not here. Realtor.com is all over tho I believe.

  4. Zip.com has offices in about 35 cities so our footprint is small when compared to Realtor.com. Which may explain why it takes them a week to update. We are now the 5th largest brokerage in volume. The real difference is we are not franchised….. it’s all the same company.

    This post and Stephani’s responce made me think, which is always a good thing…and run some numbers. The results may explain why it’s harder to deal with an agent as an investor who wants to low ball offers.

    We looked at 145 RANDOMLY selected SFR, REO properties listed for 50k or less and closed in March through May. All properties are in either Cobb or Fulton County Georgia. How these stats hold up in other metros is speculation. Average DOM for Atlanta is around 90 -100 days.

    I would have guessed close to these results based on a “gut feeling” so it was good to see them born out.

    Of the 145 closings:
    29% went under contract in less than 15 days
    A total of 50% are under contract in less than 31 days.

    Can you guess the selling to listing price?

    For 1-15 days it is 101%.
    For 16-30 days it is 100%

    (on my blog I break the numbers down further)

    Here is what these stats are telling me. The REO property managers are not crazy, with 50% of the homes being sold inside 30 days at 100% of asking.

    One more thing I have been told….
    Just because you submit an offer to a listing agent doesn’t mean you have submitted an offer. Yes, agents must present every offer received to the seller. But the banks asset manager can instruct a listing agent not forward low ball offers to them within X number of days from listing, or enter them in the system. These asset manager are handling 100’s of properties and don’t need the distraction of a low ball offer. Furthermore, the listing agent’s performance is based on the DOM and listing to sales %. If it’s early in the listing it makes sense for them hold a lowball aside to see what kind of offers come in next week.

    With a list price of 50k or less an offer of $ 2,500 more will make at least a 5% increase in the list to sales %. Well worth the wait for the listing agent. If $ 2,500 makes the difference between profit and loss then your numbers are to tight anyway.

    • The market I’m in is pretty much the same- most properties go under contract within a day or so if they are priced right. I don’t even bother going after those because there’s too much competition, and they always get bid up higher than what I’m willing to pay.

      Like I mentioned, though, if a property warrants a low offer, I have no problem making one. Most of them don’t get accepted, but some of them do. And I prefer to make the offers directly to the listing agents because they tend to go the extra mile when they are getting 2 sides of the commission as opposed to one. Perhaps things are different in your market, but here in Tampa a lot of the REO agents don’t give a crap about their fiduciary responsibility to the bank. I know of wholesalers who bribe certain agents along with giving them both sides of the commission in exchange for holding other offers and pushing theirs through.

  5. Yikes, I have not seen any serious holding of offers etc… like I used to. It may be most of my clients are not buying investment properties but buying a REO as their primary home. So we are not down in the mud wrestling with the crazies. But when I do work with an investor it seems pretty straight forward. We win some, we lose some. In fact our last investor came up from FL to buy.

    A couple of years ago that went on…no doubt. But I think there are so many foreclosures out there nobody has the time or inclination to mess around. And why mess around? Atlanta is a real gravy train for these REO listing agents anyway.

  6. Nicole Lewis on

    This post was excellent and useful. I am sure to use both Realtor.com and ZipRealty.com as secondary options to the MLS.

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