How to Use Multiple Listing Services

If one house listing is good, multiple listings must be better.

That’s the underlying rationale of the multiple listing service: by gathering as many listings in one place, buyers will be able to find the houses they are most interested in, streamlining the selling and marketing process for sellers and agents.

Multiple listing services (or MLS) are databases owned by local consortiums of realty agents.

For sale by owner listings are included in multiple listing services when an agent agrees to enter the listing into the database, typically for a modest flat fee. offers entry to over two hundred multiple listing services around the U.S., through its network of agents.

Here is how to make the most of getting your home included in the multiple listing service in your area:

  • Offer a commission to agents representing buyers, commonly called a “co-broke” fee. You can determine the amount of the commission, but the closer it is to the traditional 3% that most agents get for working with a buyer, the more seriously agents will take your listing.
  • Have a professional listing. Use the template that is available to every customer to produce a clean, well-written, nicely presented summary of what your home has to offer. That way, your listing will compare well to others in the multiple listing service.
  • Put up as many photos as possible. Buyers scrolling through multiple listing sites on their own want as much information as they can get to narrow down their list of ‘must-see’ houses for sale. Make sure your listing includes multiple photos and that each photo is well lit, showcases a feature of the house, and reflects a clean, decluttered, interior.
  • Convey your desire to cooperate with agents who are accustomed to relying on the multiple listing service. Emphasize the commission you are offering and say, “Happy to work with buyers’ agents.”

If your multiple listing entry attracts the attention of a buyer who is represented by an agent, you probably will be asked to sign a contract promising to pay the agreed-on commission. Read the contract carefully; this is your final chance to confirm precisely how much commission you are willing to pay and under what circumstances.

Because they are so ingrained in the homebuying process, multiple listing services are invaluable to selling your home by owner.

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