MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is the system realtors use in your local market to list properties for their sellers. Your local MLS is the largest source for real estate transactions and therefore an important tool for real estate investors. The MLS in our local area is called MRIS (Metropolitan Regional Information System, Inc. or MRIS.com). There are many things you can do with the MLS besides just look for property. You can find out home pricing and days on market trends in your local market, get a list of absentee owners in your area of interest, and even get a list of cash buyers!
So how does one gain access to this valuable tool? Well if you have a real estate license you can gain access by paying for the subscription fee (currently $167 a quarter in our local market). Unfortunately they do not grant real estate investors access to this system, so as always we have to be creative. There are web sites online that offer free access and allow you to setup alerts using a limited version of the MLS. They are accessing the same data and allowing you to perform searches. Their data is good, but it is sometimes not as up to date or as complete as data from the MLS. The first site is ZipRealty.com, which will allow you to create searches and setup automated alerts when properties in your target areas come on the market. In addition they have a smartphone app that works pretty well and when you are out looking at properties you can access this app. It has a GPS feature that will scan the area where you are located and tell you what properties are for sale and for how much. Very similar to ZipRealty is Redfin.com. Redfin offers the same exact features and functions as ZipRealty, including a smartphone app. Redfin, however, is not available in all markets. There is another web site a lot of investors use called FranklyMLS.com. This site offers the search capabilities, however they do not have an app, and they are limited to the metro Washington DC market. With all of the technology out there, there is sure to be a company that services your local market.
So all of these web sites are good resources for obtaining limited access to the MLS. You may favor one over they other just as a matter of preference. Ultimately you want full access to the MLS if you are doing deals on a regular basis, therefore the best way to achieve this is to either become are realtor or find a realtor who is willing to make you their assistant. If you become an assistant to a realtor you can obtain full access to MRIS and there are no specific requirements or certifications for becoming an assistant. I personally have been an assistant to a realtor for over ten years. I also still use ZipRealty and Redfin on a regular basis including their phone apps. So try these out and see what works best for you and good luck with your investing!
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