Why do I need an agent to get "full MLS access?"

11 Replies

Hi All,

I'm new to this business, and been doing a lot of research to try and get to speed. Something that I keep reading, repeatedly, is that I need to work with a real estate agent so that I can "get MLS access." Now, I have no problem working with an agent, but every time I read that, I find myself wondering what it is that only real estate agents have access to in the MLS. I am in the Washington DC metro area, MRIS.com is our local MLS, and brokerages who operate in our area, like Redfin, will show you active, pending, and sold listings, along with the price history, historical sales for any given property, if it's a foreclosure or short-sale, room dimensions, directions to the listing, listing agent, remarks... I can't figure out what's missing.

What is is that agents can see on the MLS that the general public can't see? I've worked with agents in the past, and when I compare the listing info they send me doesn't have any details I couldn't already find on Redfin. Is MRIS (the DC area MLS) unusual in that it allows brokerages to publish more information than most other MLS operators?


Hi Josh,

At least in my mls (metro atlanta), There are various reports available. What you're probably being sent is the client version of the report.  There is also an agent report with more info such as listing info, commissions and private agent comments related to the property. Yes in this day, most info is available via the internet,  but depending on the site it may be old info.  Some sites do have the info feed to then via an idx feed. 

I don't regularly use redfin or others, so I am not sure exactly what is there,  but the biggest difference I see from what my clients send me (that they found online) is the info is old. 

I cant speak on your particular MLS.

There isn't much of a difference other than the fact the there is some information intended for other realtors. This information can make a world of difference even if it's just a minor detail. But as far as tax info, and property specific info, it's all pretty much the same since those site get their info from the MLS.

I can tell you quickly, one of the MLS's I belonged to many years ago decided to experiment because of the use of personal computers and thought they would be in the forefront and offer access to the public. It lasted 3 months and was cancelled, why because the sellers were being used and abused by the public in addition to the criminal element.

They allowed access to everything except the personal remarks to and from agents. I won't list all the abuses but I started to have my sellers sign a clause not to be entered on the mls to cover my failure of mandatory entering it within 48 hours. A group of agents met each morning and handed printouts to other agents or dropped off a copy at other offices and the input on the mls was dropping which meant listing fee income by the mls was dropping which covered most of the cost of the mls.  By the end of the first month we kind of had a fedex thing going. you dropped off your listing at a print shop we made a deal with and the next morning someone from your office would go there and get a copy of all the previous days listings if you were in the movement. 

Which is another point, why do you think you should be allowed to use for free something I pay for to support and provide content for, and was established by, and intended for the use, of others like me. Lots of agents will provide that for you for $100 a month and will rebate that if you do a deal with them. Other will give you their password but even as an investor I consider that crossing the line and have helped several members lose their mls membership for doing that. You want that right then join the mls or actually use an agent and have enough class not to ask him/her to do something that can cost him/her their membership, you can still get the info you seek. Those investors just started looking for some other sucker to do it, the agent had to start looking for a job flipping burgers or delivering pizzas.

All of these are extremely god points about the MLS.

When personal information is open to the public you open the seller up for abuse (just look at the scams on Trulia and CL). Every other day I get a request for a property that I check into and find to be a false or outdated source. 

Also agents pay for their MLS, you too have the right to join and pay. I belong to MRIS it's a couple hundred a quarter and I'm sure if you go to MRIS.com they'll be glad to help you out or at least tell you why they can't.

In our area there's only one MLS (MRIS). As far as I can tell it covers, DC, MD, VA, WV, DE and PA. As you go from site to site the difference in listings and what is shown is partially MRIS vs other areas but it has more to do with the person setting up the IDX exchange and their license status. In short...what is shown comes down to the law. In our area you must be a licensed real estate agent to tell someone the address, price, bedrooms, baths, etc. This is why when you sign up on certain sites they take your info and have an agent call you or if you call and office the receptionist will put you on hold and go find an agent. If you as a consumer set up a real estate site you would not be able to show these things. As an agent my IDX and hence my web site has everything in the MLS that is available on any customer report I would print out at my desk because I have the right to pass on this information.

At some point yoi'll have to decide if you want to get a license or not but for now (since you don't pay your buyers agent anyway), make the best use of a free commodity. 

One difference: In my experience, the MLS is "real time" - vs. getting posted up to 24 hours later across the web. The minute an agent posts a listing, it is live on the MLS. In our fast paced market, sometimes a few hours can be the difference between getting a home, and not.

@Joshua Beall

I am a licensed agent who has access to the MLS as well as an investor. I became a licensed agent so that I could get access to the MLS so I could bypass my agent. I do actually use Redfin because I like the interface much more than the MLS....but when I go into really research a property nothing beats the actual MLS. There is a wealth of information that does not make it onto Redfin....there is also likely a wealth of information in the MLS that your agent does not pass along to you. When I as an agent set up emails to a client from the MLS, it does not include a lot of information like seller subsidies, the hidden private agent remarks on a property, information on the comissions and a wealth more of information.

@Joshua Beall This is off subject slightly but it must be said....

I repeatedly see on posts people (investors) wanting to cut out the Realtor. As a Realtor I find it offensive the lack of respect for what we do. Granted, there are a bunch of poor agents, as is with any profession. 

Investors want to use our resources, use our time but when it comes to compensation for said time they want to cut us out (generally speaking). Please stop! We are all in this game together. We're all trying to get ahead and make moves that will benefit our families. 

A good Realtor is worth his or her compensation for the time and dedication to finding and helping you close a deal. Please remember, we (agents) work for free until you go to the table. Take the time to build a relationship with a quality agent, one who is hungry and dependable, who will answer your call or proactively find deals for you. You will find it to be a profitable experience. It starts with a conversation with the perspective agent and setting expectations. 

Build a team of people who are on the same page as you and include in that team an agent or two who will go to bat for you. If you want to become an agent, take the classes- take the test-pass the tests and become your own advocate for selling and buying. 

By the way in our small state of Delaware we use Trend MLS, it covers DE, PA and NJ, they offer a non member membership to the MLS however I don't know what information you get with said membership.

 I've done a bunch of transactions, it hasn't been my experience to work with bad agents. Once in a while I might have a transaction where the agent is clueless; that's not the norm. My office has high quality agents and we work well together. Another suggestion is look at the major brokerages for quality agents like Remax or Keller Williams.

Happy investing!!

So it sounds like there are a few things that isn't available on the web, and I've seen the following as specific examples so far:

1) seller subsidies

2) hidden private agent remarks on a property

3) information on the commissions

And, it also sounds like I touched a nerve with some agents who perceived my question as "how can we cut real estate agents out?" As a reminder, my question was actually "What is is that agents can see on the MLS that the general public can't see?" and not "how can I avoid using a real estate agent?" I also specifically stated "I have no problem working with an agent."

Let me revise that: I plan on working with an agent. So to all the agents that are worried I'm trying to cut their industry out: fear not, friend! I completely believe in working with a team of capable people and "sharing the success."

Hi Joshua,

I'm a new-ish agent and investor. I wanted to be in real estate full time, so I became a full-time realtor with the plan of learning the industry so that I can become a great investor in the long-run. I used to do tons of research on my own before I got my license and MLS access.

Aside from the 3 points you mentioned above, here are a couple more I've found:

1) Advanced search function while doing comps. You can adjust your search to virtually any characteristic of the house, not just the limited search fields that are provided on any of the public sites. I know, some are good, but not as good as the MLS, because that's the database all the information is actually put into.

2) Convenience/speed of research. If you have to run comps on lots of properties, doing it without MLS would be cumbersome. With MLS, I can get a pretty accurate ARV for any property in about 10 minutes or less and without a headache.

As far as finding properties for sale, there isn't THAT much of an advantage. Most sites are only delayed a couple hours, if that, from MLS. And sometimes info doesn't get changed or removed from those sites.

Working with an investor-minded real estate agent could be a great thing to do, both for you and the agent. Good luck!

The seller subsidy section can be pretty surprising too.  Seeing how common 10k or 12k subsidies is pretty surprising. I've even seen a subsidy as high as 30k...that drastically changes the numbers on a home sale.

Short answer- The MLS is not a public record. It is a private service for paid members.

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