MLS Access for Investors: What You Need to Know

Real estate investing can be a profitable industry. Buying and holding rental properties, purchasing raw land in areas with predicted growth, and flipping run-down properties in popular neighborhoods are all excellent business avenues. In fact, despite rising prices and high levels of competition, flippers saw a gross profit of 27.5% in Q2 2023. But seeing that high ROI is completely dependent on having the right strategies for securing properties, fixing them up, and selling them to buyers.

MLS access for investors plays a pivotal role in every stage of buying, improving, and selling a property, but access often comes at a high price. Investors who have deeper knowledge of what the MLS is and different strategies for accessing it can operate more efficiently.

Why MLS Access for Investors Is Important

The MLS gives investors more than just a place to list their properties. It provides them with invaluable historical data that sheds light on the best areas and homes that are more likely to provide a higher rate of return. The MLS is a game-changer.

What Is the MLS?

The MLS, or Multiple Listing Services, is a network of databases that house real-time and historical data about properties. There are 580–600 MLS databases in the real estate market, and each one focuses on a different region or type of real estate (such as residential versus commercial). Real estate agents and brokers with a license can access the MLS to:

  • List properties: If a client’s property is going to be for sale, the agent will upload photos, property descriptions, and supporting documentation so buyers can find it. They will maintain this listing, updating the status of the property, changing the price as needed, and communicating with buyers or their agents.
  • Search for properties: Agents representing buyers can use their MLS to search through for-sale property records. Not only can they look up specific addresses, but they can generate customized search reports, compare active properties to sales in the recent past, and otherwise comb through the data to help clients.

Why Every Investor Needs Access

Whether you’re an experienced investor or new to the real estate industry, you may already see several benefits of accessing the MLS for your region and focus. Alternatives, such as third-party sites like Zillow or Trulia, often have delays and incomplete information. Operating purely off of networking leads and for-sale signs causes severe delays and gives you incomplete insight into the market. 

Related: When Investors Should Use a Flat Fee Listing Service

Unfortunately, most investors can’t directly access the MLS—not on their own. Access is reserved for real estate agents and brokers with active licenses and membership in the NAR. So a crucial step for many investors is to choose a strategy for accessing the MLS with as few limitations and extra expenses as possible.

4 Approaches to Gain MLS Access for Investors

The primary issue with the MLS is that it isn’t free for investors. Only licensed real estate agents and brokers have access to their local MLS because they are the only people who can add or remove properties as part of their license. Investors who want to mine the MLS data to inform their investment decisions and want their for-sale properties listed on the MLS have four choices:

  • Get a real estate license.
  • Pay a real estate agent or broker to list your properties for you.
  • Pay for an MLS listing service to gain access yourself.
  • Pay per day to list and manage properties, with optional agent support.

Get A Real Estate License

Serious investors, those who buy and sell many properties a year, sometimes feel it’s worth their time and effort to obtain their real estate license. The required classes are not free and take around 100 hours of instruction. In addition, an investor must maintain their license, adding additional ongoing education costs.

Despite the time and costs, if an investor sells enough properties, they can end up saving money in the long run with their own license. They can also avoid relying on other agents. For those investors who don’t have the time or desire to obtain their license, there are other options, many of which are relatively inexpensive.

Hire a Real Estate Agent or Broker

A licensed real estate agent and broker can get investors access to the MLS, but it will shave off around three percent of the purchase price in commission. If the purpose of the investment is to earn income, losing this much should be weighed against the benefits. You can go with a discount broker and save money on the listing agent side, but you’ll still have to pay the buyer’s agent their commission.

A real estate agent/broker’s services can help investors take a more hands-off approach in the sale of their properties. Investors give up some control, which many dislike, but others appreciate the fact that they can focus on other projects, knowing the agent is taking care of all of the transactional tasks.

If you go this route, be sure you know what you’re paying for. Will your agent show your home to every potential buyer? Will they get to the property before a showing to turn on lights and ensure the property is looking its best? Will they follow up with the buyer’s agent or buyer to get feedback after the showing? Will they distribute marketing flyers, post properties on social media platforms, and meet with the appraiser? Consider the benefits you’re getting in return if you’re sacrificing that much profit in commissions.

Pay a Listing Service

With an MLS listing service, investors pay a flat fee to gain access to the MLS. While this fee is actually going to a broker, the access does not come with any real estate agent services. It’s strictly to gain access to the MLS.

Most services offer MLS access for a specific period of time. The cheaper options give investors access for a shorter time, while ones that charge more may offer unlimited access. This fee is paid upfront and is typically non-negotiable.

Pay Per Day to List and Manage Properties, With Optional Agent Support

Another option growing in popularity is more of a hybrid approach to real estate investing. All investors want to make a big profit. All want to sell properties quickly and as easily as possible. Most, however, want the option to get a little help along the way if they need it.

5 Benefits of Using a Flat-Fee Listing Service to Get MLS Access

MLS access is a crucial tool for everyone in the real estate market. Buyers can get real-time insight into currently active properties and those that are coming soon. Sellers can ensure as many eyes as possible are on their property, which often translates to more showings, more offers, and a higher final sales price. Real estate investors, who frequently act as both buyers and sellers, benefit even more from access to the database.

Related: Top Real Estate Software for Investors to Improve Operations and Sales

Flat-fee listing services are one of the most hands-on methods for accessing the MLS. You can control which details and documents are available about your property, and you can have any inquiries directed to your email or phone number. Short of being a registered member with your own login, it’s the clearest route to listing your properties on MLS without any outside interference or extra costs. Consider these unique benefits of easy MLS access for investors. 

Benefit #1: Reduce the Closing Costs for Selling Properties

One of the biggest costs of selling an investment property is paying agent commissions. If you have a listing agent, their commission will be 3% of the sales price. This hefty price tag is because agents provide a lot of services: marketing, pricing strategies, negotiations, and posting your property listing on the MLS. However, many investors prefer to manage these aspects of the deal on their own. The only sticking point is MLS access—and with your own access through a flat-fee service, you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars for that one exclusive service.

Benefit #2: Get Clear, Repeatable Expenses That Become Part of Standard Business Operations

While reducing unnecessary expenses is important for growing your business, it’s almost as important to standardize your expenses—that is, have predictable expenses and fees at known points throughout your processes. This protects your cash flow, allows you to forecast operations across a quarter or annual period, and helps you build repeatable processes to fuel business expansion. Through flat fees, you can build a price sheet of MLS access costs, supplemental marketing and management fees, and technology costs to guide your operations.

Benefit #3: Control Every Aspect of the Sale on Your Terms

A listing agent can be tremendously useful for first-time sellers who don’t want to learn the details of managing real estate. But as an investor, it’s important to have eyes on every part of the process, from how your property is depicted to negotiating directly with buyers. When you choose a flat-fee MLS listing service instead of hiring an agent, you retain complete control over all aspects of the sale. There are no middlemen, communication delays, or people who have their own ideas about how to do business. It’s just you and your team.

Benefit #4: Use Supplemental Services As Needed

Many MLS listing services simply stop at providing property uploading services. However, some companies offer a wide array of a la carte options that you can choose from to suit your schedule, the needs of the property, and how you want to run your business. Opt for MLS listing services that also provide these services at transparent rates:

  • Property photography
  • Marketing services
  • Transaction management tools
  • Access to trusted title companies
  • AI-powered pricing tools for real-time market insights

When these tools are on the table, you can use them when you want and ignore them when you don’t. Because these types of services are often offered or curated by a listing agent, having flat-fee alternatives can reduce your expenses and make selling costs more predictable.

Benefit #5: Get All the Benefits of MLS Access for Investors

Ultimately, the key benefit of using an MLS flat-fee listing service is that you gain MLS access you might otherwise be denied. If you aren’t a real estate agent with an active NAR membership, you can’t directly access the platform. Some investors make do by selling to a network of friends and associates or by marketing their properties through non-MLS channels. But this creates spotty results. Because your property is less visible, you’ll miss out on buyers who might offer a better price or increased competition for your property. 

Get More Effective, Efficient MLS Access for Investors

When you want full access to the array of active properties in your market, MLS access is non-negotiable. At ListingSpark, we provide flat-fee listing services so you can list your properties, manage transactions, and do business your own way. Along with convenient property listing services, we provide supplemental services that can help you market the property and stay on top of real estate trends. Reach out today to get services and MLS access built for investors.

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