The short answer is: Well, kind of. The multiple listing service is
compiled by our association of Realtors, and only Realtors can log in
and directly search the MLS. But because of broker reciprocity, and idx
technology, real estate websites are able to repackage the information
in the MLS and show consumers almost the entire inventory of Twin
Cities homes for sale.
The reason consumers can only see most of the inventory, is
because to make their listings available to the public, listing brokers
must agree to participate in broker reciprocity. This means that when I
enter a listing into the MLS, I need to decide if I want to let my
competitors display my listing on their websites. I always let them,
because it's really a win-win situation. My seller gets more exposure,
the other companies have an opportunity to attract buyers, and if one
of them finds a buyer for my listing then it helps me too!! The benefit
to buyers is obvious, they can go to just about any real estate website
and search for active twin cities listings.
The reason some brokers don't participate in broker reciprocity, is
because they don't want other companies to benefit from their listings.
I feel they are missing out on an opportunity to help themselves and
everybody else, but it is their choice to make.
I have been a St. Paul area real estate agent for over 20 years. So,
some of this is hard for me to get used to. It used to be that only Realtors could search the MLS data base of active listings. My buyers
had to rely on me to find out about available homes. These days,
everybody with an internet connection has some idea of what's for sale,
and what the list price is.
I think it's great that more information is being made readily
available to consumers. But it can also be dangerous. There is
something about sitting in front of a computer, with the ability to
search through thousands of homes for sale that leads buyers to believe
they have all the information they need. In fact they are missing a lot
of critical information that they can only get from an agent who has
direct access to the MLS. The biggest mistakes are made by people who
don't know what they don't know. And it is no secret that a lot of
buyers paid too much for homes over the last few years. Here's how it
can happen. Let's assume a family is looking for a 3 bedroom 2 bath
single family home in Rosemount. They have been carefully looking
online for several months, and they found one they like priced at
$215,900. Here's what they don't know: They don't know how long it has
been for sale, or how much the owner paid for it 3 years ago. They
don't know that the almost identical home across the street sold last
year, or how much it sold for, or if the owner paid the buyer's closing
costs. They don't know what the average sale price is for the
neighborhood, or if there are other similar homes that have been taken
off the market after failing to find buyers. And it's possible that
there is a nicer one listed with a company that doesn't participate in
Information about similar properties that are sold, pending,
expired, or cancelled is critical in determining the value of any
property. This important information is available to Realtors through
the MLS, but it is not passed on to consumers through real estate
websites. I believe that a lot of the problems we are having in the St.
Paul real estate market can be traced to poorly educated buyers. For
the last several years, I watched buyers purchase homes for prices that
really couldn't be supported if you looked at all of the data.
Psychologists tell us that if you inundate people with tons of
information, they will assume that they have all of the information
they need. Too many buyers have been making their decisions after only
looking at active listings. If they had been aware that they were
buying homes that were literally surrounded by homes that had recently
sold for much less, or failed to sell at all, they would have made
Going to a real estate website and seeing what is actively for sale
in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is a good place to begin looking for a
home. But before you get too serious, you want to find an experienced
real estate agent to represent your interests as a buyer broker.
Your agent will have access to all of the active listings, but you
already have most of that anyway. Your agent should be providing you
with all of the other information that will help you establish value,
so you are prepared to make an informed decision.