An MLS search is a vital part of the home buying process.
For one, it gives you access to all the local listings – new, old, recently closed and more – so you can begin finding the properties that meet your needs.
An MLS search also gives you detailed information on each of those properties individually … info like a home's age, builder, amenities, photos and other important data.
Armed with this information, you can determine which properties fit your budget, have the necessary requirements your family needs, and match your aesthetic preferences.
Doing an MLS Search
A full MLS search – one that reveals every single data point on the listing – can only be done by a licensed real estate agent. There are, however, other services that let you view snippets of MLS info, including KWBoerne.com.
Typically though, the best way to get MLS data is to work with your Realtor. Talk to them about your needs (size, location, etc.), as well as the budget you’re working with. Then, they’ll be able to do a customized MLS search based exactly on your unique situation.
After this, they’ll usually give you a list of all the properties that fit the bill. Most of the time, an agent will just give you the bigger details upfront – information such as the number of bedrooms/baths, pricing, age, and builder. If you like a property or plan to take a tour of it, they’ll print out the full MLS detail sheet on your behalf. This is called an MLS listing sheet.
Understanding the MLS Listing Sheet
To many buyers, the MLS listing sheet is a little overwhelming. And it’s no surprise: they contain lots and lots and lots of detailed information. Even Realtors get overwhelmed by them on occasion!
But don’t fret: this is a good thing. A detailed MLS listing sheet ensures transparency in the buying process, and it gives you all the data you need to make a smart buying decision for your family and your finances.
Are you just starting off in the buying process? Then you’ll probably see an MLS listing sheet in the near future. Already have a few listings in front of you? Here’s how to read and understand them:
- Look at the listing status. At the very top, you’ll see an area that says “listing status.” This refers to its status on the sales market. “Active” means a property is still available, on the market and available for purchase; “pending” means someone has put an offer on the home and it may be off-market soon; and “sold” means it’s no longer available. Active ones are always your best bet, though there’s always a chance a pending sale will fall through, so don’t count it out just yet. You can even put in a backup bid just in case the other buyer doesn’t work out.
- Know your abbreviations. On an MLS listing, there are a few abbreviations that can tell you a lot about a property. These include “FP” (number of fireplaces), “PL” (whether the home has a pool or not), “YB” (the year the home was built), “STO” (number of stories the property has), “APX SF” (approximate square footage of the home) and “APX LSZ” (approximate square footage of the lot). With just these few details, you can get a pretty clear picture of the home’s size and its amenities.
- Check out pricing history. Toward the bottom, you’ll see areas labeled “LP” and “OLP.” These stand for the current listing price and original listing price, and they give you insight on how the home’s price has changed since first hitting the market. Typically, if you see a drop in the current price and the original one, it means a seller is ready to get that home off the market – and fast. They may be more willing to negotiate on the price than other sellers would be – especially if the property’s been listed for a while. (Hint: to find out how long it’s been on the market for, check out the “DOM” area. This will tell you how many days the property has been listed.)
- Find out what type of sale it is. Want to specifically look for foreclosed properties or short sales? Check out the “sale type” area, which will tell you if the property’s a regular sale, a short sale, a foreclosure or any other type of sale. Remember, foreclosed sales may come at a lower price, but they typically have some inherent problems and could be in need of repair.
- Know the basics. For basics on the property, check out the “rooms,” “equip,” “air,” “floor,” and “park” sections. In “rooms,” you’ll see a full list of the rooms the property has to offer. This will include things like a breakfast nook, study, dining room, family room, patio, and more. Under “equip,” you’ll see data about the home’s appliances, including dishwasher, washer/dryer, garbage disposal, microwave, oven/range, etc. “Floor” will tell you the type of floor materials that are present in the home, like hardwood, carpet or tile, and under “park,” you’ll find details about the property’s parking options, such as an attached or detached garage, a carport, street parking or a covered lot.
- Get the full details. You’ll find full details from the seller’s listing agent in the “remarks” section. This should give you tons of info on the home itself – things like its history, any unique features, and other amenities and benefits. Keep in mind: this area is meant to entice buyers like you, so take it all with a grain of salt. Always look at pictures first, and schedule a tour in person to fully evaluate a property with your agent. Listings aren’t always what they seem!
You can also simply sit down with your realtor to review your MLS search results, and go through each potential listing with a fine-toothed comb. Talk to your agent about what stands out in each listing, what drawbacks you’re seeing, and start honing in on the properties that really work for you and your budget.
The best part about doing this? It gives your agent more data to move forward with. They can create an even more detailed, narrowed-down list based on this feedback and find you better-suited property listings as a result.
Once you’ve found a few properties that look good on MLS, it’s time to schedule some showings. Bring the MLS listing sheet with you as a checklist, and be sure to look at any of the elements on the sheet that you may be wary about (or that were particular selling points!) You want to make sure the home is exactly what you hoped it would be and more.
Getting Help with Your MLS Search
Ready to do an MLS search for the home of your dreams? Need help understanding and evaluating those MLS listing sheets, or want to schedule a showing of a potential property? Contact the team at Keller Williams today. Our expert agents are here to help every step of the way.