The most accurate, efficient way to search for homes is through the MLS.
When working with buyers, we often receive screenshots of properties they want to know about, saying something like, “We found this one on X website.” If you’re considering buying, it’s necessary to know how the MLS works and how it feeds other websites. The system that real estate agents here in the Metro use is called the Northstar MLS, and it covers the metro area and much of outstate Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. The MLS is the purest form of real estate data we have available.
Sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com are national sites that feed off our MLS, but not all of our area’s listings are on them. Those sites are run by private companies and don’t have a direct feed like our MLS does. When an agent sets up an MLS search for a buyer, they can weed out properties that are already under contract or otherwise not available. However, when we receive screenshots of properties from housing websites, those properties are usually already sold.
Contacting a Realtor and getting set up on a direct look using the MLS is the most efficient way to search for homes. The MLS’s search tools are far more robust than any of those other websites; it has hundreds of ways to search for exactly what you want and filter things out, whereas those sites may just have 20 or 30. The MLS is a database, so especially in a low-inventory market like this, the filters become even more crucial. We understand that when you’re not seeing many homes for sale, your instinct may be to go to a housing website and see what’s out there, but they aren’t always up to date and don’t show all the information.
Lastly, not all agents put their listings on those national websites because they’re optional and you must be a subscriber. However, agents are required to put their listings on the MLS unless the seller specifically opts out of that, which is rare in our real estate market.
If we can answer any questions or set up a home search for you, please reach out via phone or email. We would love to help you.