What the MLS Won't Tell You

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The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a great tool for getting an overview of what’s available in your area, but there are plenty of things and MLS Listing won’t tell you. The MLS Listing will rattle off all the positive features of the house: the number of bedrooms, the garage space and how much yard you have. If there’s a distinctive, attractive feature, like a pool, the MLS will be sure to highlight it. But

The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a great tool for getting an overview of what’s available in your area, but there are plenty of things and MLS Listing won’t tell you. The MLS Listing will rattle off all the positive features of the house: the number of bedrooms, the garage space and how much yard you have. If there’s a distinctive, attractive feature, like a pool, the MLS will be sure to highlight it. But the MLS won’t mention any house flaws.

Livability Factors

The MLS will be silent on all the little things that will decide whether this house will be pleasant to live in. The MLS won’t mention a drunken neighbor who plays Madonna at midnight. You won’t find an MLS listing that brags “mold in the basement makes it smell like your grandmother’s house.” See if you can find an MLS listing that says “the basement is great for hiding from the tornados this area always gets.”

Value

The MLS listing won’t say whether it’s a good buy. The MLS won’t clue you in to whether the house is too expensive. The MLS listing won’t compare prices in the neighborhood like a good agent will.

Repairs

The MLS won’t tell you all the things you’ll need to fix and the MLS listing won’t say how much it will all cost. Don’t look for the MLS listing to mention the weak roof or ancient furnace. That’s something you have to figure out; the MLS real estate listing won’t tell you.

Energy Costs

The MLS listing will not rate how energy inefficient this old house is. The MLS doesn’t brag about old windows and walls that were insulated with newspaper during the Depression. The MLS listing won’t say that you should investigate for yourself what it will cost each year to heat or air-condition your new home.

Missing Listings

The MLS listing isn’t as strong in some geographic areas. The MLS doesn’t really cover the country’s tightest real estate market, Manhattan. Sure, there is a tiny MLS listing for the coveted island, but most real estate listings are still kept by individual brokers. And if a broker selling a house isn’t part of an association, the house she’s selling might not be on the MLS.

Crazy History

In cartoons, people are always finding out that their property secretly once held something like an Indian burial ground. Odds are, your house didn’t. But what if it had been the site of a murder? Not going to show up on the MLS listing. What if there was once a gas station or shooting range there that potentially contaminated the soil? The MLS won’t say a thing. You’re going to have to do your own digging—and not rely on the MLS listing—to find out if there was a flood or fire.

FSBO Properties

The MLS won’t help you find most houses people are selling on their own. The Multiple Listing Service takes homes from multiple brokers. But FSBO homes are not on the MLS listings—unless a real estate broker offers ala carte services and one is an MLS listing.

Potential Conflict of Interest

The MLS will list who is selling the house. Pay attention to see if your broker is from the same outfit—and possibly steering you to the house so his company gets both sides to the commission. The MLS listing can tip you off to a potential reason your broker may want to show you a particular house.

Remember, the MLS is a salesman, not your friend. And the MLS listing is an ad, not a critical description.

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