In the competitive world of real estate, timely and accurate information is priceless. A multiple listing service or MLS is the real estate industry standard for finding properties to buy or listing homes to sell.
Access to an MLS is often restricted to licensed real estate agents and brokers. However, there are certain methods to get around this constraint and gain access to an MLS without a license.
In this article, we will discuss how to access mls without a license and other strategies you can employ to find real estate inventory.
What is the MLS Database? And why is it private?
According to the National Association of Realtors, the MLS is a “tool to help listing brokers find cooperative brokers working with buyers to help sell their clients’ homes.”
The MLS Database, also known as the “listing service” or “Multiple Listing Service”, is a database of active listings that brokers and agents can use to market their properties to other agents in their area. It’s a private database that is updated in real-time and it’s a reliable place to find listings.
The multiple listing service was born in the late 1800s when realtors would gather at their local Board offices to exchange information about properties on the market. Offers of compensation were made to brokers who could help sell these properties. In the following years, this system spread across the country and multiple listing services gained widespread adoption.
There are multiple listing services for any given region in the United States. For example, there are separate MLS listings for Los Angeles County and San Francisco County, California.
There are several reasons why MLS is made private. These include:
- To protect the privacy of the buyer, who may desire to keep their home search private.
- To protect the privacy of the seller, who may not want to be identified as selling a home
- The type of sensitive information available. Property listings may include access codes, detailed home history, and other information of a private nature.
- The cost of creating and maintaining an MLS database can run fairly high and brokers need to recoup these costs somehow. It makes financial sense to offer access to members for a fee.
How do I access my local MLS without a real estate license?
In most cases, it is impossible to access an MLS without a real estate license to show that you’re a registered agent or broker. However, if you can’t spare the time (about six months) or money ($1000 upwards) to get a real estate license, then, here’s how to access MLS listings.
Browse online MLS databases like Bright MLS
MLS databases such as Bright MLS provide you with direct online access to property listings with or without a license.
Bright MLS is the multiple listing service for the Mid-Atlantic region. This listing service was formed in 2015 as a result of a merger between MRIS (Northern Virginia, Washington, Baltimore) and TREND (Philadelphia).
The MLS serves over 95,000 subscribers, spanning 40,000 square miles throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
Bright offers different pricing schemes for subscribers. Apart from paying a one-time activation fee of $250, non-realtors must pay $174 quarterly while unlicensed assistants must pay $90 quarterly for access to the database.
Bright MLS only offers listings in the Mid-Atlantic area. The MLS features listings from 42 associations in these seven U.S states – Washington; Virginia, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
If you’re looking for properties outside these states, you’ll need to check and see if the MLS providers there have a public MLS site. Here is a complete list of MLS providers by state. Some of these do not require you to be a Realtor to register and access property information.
Partner with a local, investor-friendly Realtor
Working with a local, investor-friendly realtor will allow you to gain full access to the MLS in your region. This method requires you to network and build a trusting relationship with a local real estate agent or broker. They will then give you their own login details to the MLS.
The process of getting a realtor to partner with you can be challenging, but it can be advantageous in the long run. It requires you to explain what you want and outline the benefits the agent will get in return. Your negotiation skills will certainly come in handy here.
You can offer incentives such as a finder’s fee, which can either be a flat fee, a percentage, or a mix of a flat fee and a certain percentage. You can also offer to pay part of their annual MLS fee.
Some MLS do not allow realtors to share their login information, so it’s advised to check first before trying out this method. Also, if the agent changes their password, you will be locked out of the MLS.
Use listing syndication tools like Listhub
Listing syndication tools, such as Listhub, allow you to search for listings without a license. They can be free, or they may require that you pay a small monthly subscription fee.
These services are limited to supported MLSes and may not have all of the listings available through a traditional MLS system. ListHub currently supports 600 Multiple listing services.
Listing syndication tools are often used by real estate agents who want to source new leads and clients. They might also want to give their existing clients an alternative way of viewing properties outside of their brokerage network. Listhub offers a Basic account for free while the Pro account costs $10.75 per month.
Become an unlicensed assistant to a real estate agent
The traditional way to access MLS listings without a license is to become an assistant to a real estate agent or broker. Most MLSes will grant access to a non-licensed assistant either for free or for a small fee. This method requires you to develop a relationship with a real estate professional and get them to vouch for you.
Becoming an unlicensed assistant is the fastest and most affordable way to gain access to an MLS without a license.
How do I find inventory and run comps without the MLS?
It is quite possible to find properties without using a local multiple listing system. Numerous online platforms exist solely for that purpose, some of which are actually better options for investors:
Use real estate networks like RealWealth
RealWealth matches its members with reputable property teams that sell REAL Income Properties, including single-family and multi-family rental properties, across the country in markets such as Florida, Ohio, Georgia and Texas.
RealWealth is a great option for investors looking for deals that are not on the MLS and only available to private buyers. RealWealth also offers free education for real estate investors, access to an exclusive network of real estate professionals and more. You can join RealWealth for free here.
Use real estate platforms like Zillow and Realtor
Websites like Realtor.com, Trulia, and Zillow provide searchable property listings on their platforms. You can search properties by city, zip code, price range, property type, and other similar filters to find one that meets your investment criteria. There are notifications available so you’re alerted when properties match your criteria.
You can get access to detailed information about listings, including photos and floor plans, as well as historical data on home values in your neighborhood or city.
Zillow’s Zestimate and Realtor.com’s Home Value Calculator give estimates of a property’s sales price, based on the value of the other properties in the area.
It should be noted that these estimates are often inaccurate by varying margins and cannot replace a professional home appraisal. However, with these features, investors can browse listings and get an idea of prices and what’s on the market.
Compared to the MLS, the information on these websites isn’t updated in real-time and homes may be overvalued. Zillow, for example, can take up to 48 hours to show an active MLS listing. By that time, the property could have already been sold. Therefore, it is imperative to use due diligence when dealing with listings on these websites.
Use Redfin to search for market comps and premarket leads
Redfin shows you premarket homes in the “Coming Soon” category. These are properties that are not yet available for sale but are expected to be listed within 21 days. Some sellers list their homes as coming soon to generate buzz and buyer interest. They’re also easier to access because there’s no broker fee; and you get the contact information for the home seller’s agent or broker. Also, there is a Home Tour feature where sellers can post open houses and invite buyers to attend.
Redfin also provides a home valuation tool that shows home value estimates of selected properties using MLS data. However, as mentioned before, this estimate cannot be substituted for a proper home valuation carried out by a certified appraiser.
Build lists using real estate data companies like Corelogic and Propstream
Propstream is a real estate data provider that gives you the requisite information you need to develop your investing strategy. This includes lead generation, property research, and market evaluation tools for real estate professionals. Propstream also has several features targeted at real estate investors such as a nationwide property search tool (that uses data procured directly from the MLS and other sources) and an intuitive targeted lead generation tool that allows you to choose from over 120 filters. It uses an api to access MLS data. Real estate investors will find its failed listings and sales data very useful.
Corelogic is a property analytics company that produces software solutions targeted at real estate investors in the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. Corelogic’s “Find” software solutions were created to help investors assess market trends and find the most promising properties. They have a listing management platform called Matrix MLS, a property insights platform called Realist, and a property data marketplace called Trestle.
Having learned how to access mls without a license, here’s one other thing you should know. Keep in mind that finding profitable properties is only the start of a successful real investing strategy. You still need to manage and maintain them properly to ensure that they remain profitable through the years. Become a member of RealWealth to view sample property pro formas, schedule strategy sessions with expert investors and for access to exclusive deals.