Seller's Guide to The Multiple Listing Service

By Home Bay

Posted on March 25th, 2015

Before you list your home, it’s important that you understand all the fundamental elements involved in the process. One of the most important things to learn about is the multiple listing service, also commonly known as the MLS. This post will teach you what it is, why it matters and what role it plays in your home sale.


Let’s start with a definition:

At its core, the MLS is a member-based service that allows real estate agents to list and find properties for sale. This service plays a major role in all real estate transactions.

Who can list on the MLS?

There are only two ways to get your home listed on the MLS:

  1. You can hire a licensed real estate broker who can enter a listing into the MLS on your behalf.

  2. You can use a for sale by owner (FSBO) service like Home Bay to access the MLS and list your own home. FSBO companies leverage brokerage relationships to gain access to the MLS on behalf of their clients.

What goes into a listing:

An MLS listing is broken down into four basic sections:

  1. Key listing details.
    This includes things like the address, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage and list price.

  2. Listing photos:
    We recommend listing a minimum of five photos that highlight your outdoor space, kitchen, bathrooms, closets and any features that are unique to your property.

  3. A listing description:
    This portion of the listing allows the listing agent or home owner to describe the property, neighborhood, local attractions, lifestyle and amenities. Descriptions are typically limited to 400 characters or less, but the length can vary by MLS.

  4. Property details:
    This includes things like what type of heating or cooling system comes with the house, details on parking and other such information on the home.

What happens after a listing is added to the MLS?

Once a listing is added to the MLS, it is distributed electronically to thousands of real estate sites across the web. This process is known as listing syndication. This syndication includes big sites like Trulia, Zillow and as well as hundreds of local real estate agent websites that are set up to pull all new listings from the MLS.

Why is the MLS so important?

  1. It’s the best source of exposure:
    As mentioned above, many real estate sites, like Trulia and, require that you list on the MLS in order to have it syndicated on to their sites. It’s also the go-to resource for agents actively seeking listings to share with their buyers.

  2. Your listing will be delivered directly to the most qualified buyers:
    Buyer agents often have MLS listing emails setup that deliver new properties directly to buyers. When a new listing hits the market that matches their search criteria, they’ll get an automated email that notifies them about the property. Listing your home on the MLS will make you eligible to get great buyer exposure with these emails.

Is there just one MLS?

While the MLS is referred to as a single entity (the MLS), it is actually made up of more than 800 local boards. Real estate agents and brokers pay dues in order to be a member of one or more local MLS boards in order to gain access to post listings.

All MLS boards syndicate their property listings to, but they don’t all syndicate to other popular sites such as Zillow, Trulia and Redfin. Depending on the structure of your local MLS, you may need to submit your home separately to those sites, or use a service (like HomeBay) that will do this for you.

That covers all the basics. If you have any additional questions, please ask them in the comments. We’re happy to help!

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Posted in Marketing Your Home, Preparing to Sell Your Home