Have you ever wondered how today’s investors get MLS access?
Though the multiple listing service (MLS) is a key part of any traditional homebuying experience, and requires a real estate license to access, it is an often overlooked part of the real estate investing process. While, at times, it can be a challenge to find distressed properties—which serve as the foundation for many investors’ portfolios — there are still real estate deals to be found on the MLS, especially if you know where to look.
Investors are, therefore, left with several questions: Can I get MLS access without having a real estate license? Do I have to go about the task of obtaining a real estate license, which requires both time and money, in order to look at those listings?
The unequivocal answer is, yes. It is possible to get MLS access without a real estate license. When done correctly, the real estate MLS can be a dynamic (and profitable) source of leads for your business.
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The Multiple Listing Service, or MLS as it is known in the investor community, is an attempt to facilitate real estate transactions between real estate brokers. In its simplest form, however, the MLS “is a tool to help listing brokers find cooperative brokers working with buyers to help sell their clients’ homes,” says the National association of Realtors (NAR). As it turns out, the MLS is a private database, but there are ways for people outside of the NAR to access it.
How To Get Access To The MLS
Upon discovering the importance of the real estate MLS to an investor’s portfolio, you may be wondering how to get access to the MLS database, and if free MLS access is at all possible. As we mentioned earlier, it is entirely possible to get MLS access for free, even without having a real estate license. Savvy investors typically employ some of the creative strategies as follows, to be explained in the following sections:
Work with a real estate agent
Find an individual realtor’s website
Work With a Real Estate Agent
This is probably the most difficult strategy, at least at first, for accessing the MLS without applying for a real estate license, but it’s usually the most rewarding in the long-term. Find and connect with an investor-friendly agent who will grant you access to the MLS database you need.
This approach requires more than a little confidence and assertiveness (not to mention the ability to negotiate), but mostly it requires you to be crystal-clear about what you are offering the agent in return for access to the MLS. This could include things like:
Finder’s fee percentage on property deals
Mix of percentage and flat fee
Grunt labor of filtering through the MLS (as if you were an assistant)
The key is to accentuate the benefits to the agent; “You’ll save time, make money, and possibly get more commissions!” In addition, you want to stress that this is a working real estate networking relationship that the agent can opt out of at any time. From there, it’s just a matter of setting you up as an unlicensed assistant with the MLS administrator of the brokerage the agent belongs to.
Finding an investor-friendly agent can sometimes be a challenge. A couple of good sources include:
LinkedIn ads & groups
Your real estate network
Search Online For Free MLS Listings
Those wondering how to get an MLS listing without a realtor will be happy to find out that it’s entirely possible to build a robust lead list without accessing the MLS at all. In recent years, a number of real estate listing sites have begun to provide diverse data sets that even allow investors to pull comparable home sales without actual use of the MLS.
Realtor.com: Chances are, you’re already familiar with Realtor.com, but just in case this resource isn’t already on your browser speed-dial, Realtor.com is a free service that gives you the ability to scan for listed properties in a given area. What Realtor.com lacks in comprehensive data and information — their property listing are somewhat on the basic side — they make up for in one very valuable detail: they provide the phone number for each broker representing the seller of a property. From there, if you want more detailed information, it’s just a simple task of compiling your list of phone numbers, pulling out your phone — or outsourcing it to an assistant — and beginning the task of gathering information and filtering out potential real estate leads.
ZipRealty.com: ZipRealty is like a souped-up, super-charged version of Realtor.com. Beyond the modest property information, provided by Realtor.com, ZipRealty goes a step further by offering key details, such as whether a property is a short sale or it’s an REO property. You can gather data about property pricing, and discover whether or not there have been significant price drops on a property, and at what point in the calendar those price drops happened; a key piece of intel to have when entering negotiations.
Trulia.com: This user-friendly site is widely used by rents and homebuyers alike, but can also serve as a powerful search tools for investors as well. Trulia.com is free, and offers overviews for real estate markets, including market trends and neighborhood comparisons. Site users can also search through listings of various categories, such as resale, for sale by owner (FSBO), foreclosures, and properties whose prices have been reduced.
Zillow.com: Zillow.com offers features similar to Trulia.com, such as searching through listings by sale category, as well as a “recently sold” category that proves helpful when drawing neighborhood comparisons. Users also enjoy the site’s branded ‘Zestimate’ feature, which provides home value estimates.
Find Individual Realtor Website
In nearly every market, and every neighborhood, there are real estate agents who pay for MLS listings to be available on their personal websites. They use it as a lead-generation tool, but this doesn’t mean you can’t use it for the same purpose, from an investing perspective.
Though real estate agent websites can differ widely, many platforms will allow you to create custom searches, view pricing changes, learn vital info such as a property’s days-on-market, and “save” your favorite properties.
Of course, this may require you to do a bit of legwork to discover which real estate agent websites can help you reach your researching goals, and some agents may have different listing information than others, but learning which agents specialize in which particular areas of your market is not a bad way to spend your time, and can pay off big in the long run.
As we’ve detailed above, it is absolutely possible to get access to the MLS without a real estate license. If you’re willing to put a little sweat equity into it — and cultivate relationships with realtors in your local area — you may find your burgeoning relationships pay off in other ways, besides letting you look at a few property listings.
Have you had any luck trying to gain access to get MLS access with a different strategy? Better yet, where have you had the best luck in doing so? Feel free to share your favorite tactics in the comments below.