If you’ve been working in the real estate industry for long, you’re probably quite familiar with your local MLS (Multiple Listing Service). An MLS is a data feed of property listings in a particular area, generally managed by a real estate association. It’s a way for real estate brokers to share information about available properties so that selling and buying agents can both benefit from selling a property. The National Association of Realtors explains it perfectly:
“Today, through more than 800 MLSs, brokers share information on properties they have listed and invite other brokers to cooperate in their sale in exchange for compensation if they produce the buyer. Sellers benefit by increased exposure to their property. Buyers benefit because they can obtain information about all MLS-listed properties while working with only one broker.”
Utilizing the MLS in your real estate website is a great tool that can help you sell more homes and connect with more buyers. There are a few options when it comes to how you integrate it, and some pros and cons to using it, mainly for more niche types of real estate.
Drawing from more than 8 years of experience building websites for real estate and development industry clients, we’ve put together everything you need to know about integrating the MLS into your real estate website.
Benefits of Using MLS Data
Integrating the MLS into real estate websites has become an industry standard for most. It’s the easiest way to gather and present information about properties to prospective buyers, especially as most real estate transactions now start with an internet search of some sort. Here’s what our clients love about it.
An MLS is a feed that is constantly updating as seller’s agents change the status, price and other information regarding properties. By using an MLS, these updates are automated and you don’t have to do anything manually. And with a custom MLS on your website, you can set listings to update as frequently as you want – whether that’s every day or every 15 minutes.
As a selling agent, this means you can update your for-sale property listing within the MLS at any time and it will automatically update on your website, as well as any other website that’s showing that listing. This way, your property is being represented accurately across the board with minimal effort on your part.
Reduces Room for Legal Error
There are federal laws, as well as association standards, that real estate agents must adhere to regarding their listings. For example, you can be in violation of standards if the status of one of your properties changes from “for sale” to “pending” and you don’t update the listing within 24 hours. Because the MLS allows you to update listings everywhere at one time, it helps reduce any chance of violating standards just because you’re not 100% on top of it one day.
When you integrate the MLS into your website, you can customize it, making it exactly how you want it to look and work. For example, the MLS can provide hundreds of fields of data for each property, and you have the power to choose which fields you want to include in listings that appear on your website. Using the longitude and latitude field, you can embed a map to show the locations of properties. Plus, you can filter by different categories to create pages of interest. For example, you can filter by properties with a recent price reduction and create a page with just those listings.
And it’s not all about property listings. Some MLSs also list open showings and other data that can be helpful to your potential buyers. Depending on which MLS you’re working with, there can be a variety of innovative ways to make it work to your advantage.
Things to Consider
Integrating an MLS into your website can be super helpful, but there are some things to consider before you do it.
Every MLS is Different
Every real estate association sets up its MLS a bit differently. Some use different programs and have varying numbers of fields for information. So, it’s important to know that you can be limited by the data provided and the system your association uses. Not to mention, each association has a different fee associated with accessing the MLS data. For some, it’s free or a small one-time fee. For others, it can cost you more hefty annual dues. You’ll want to look into the cost and limitation of your local MLS before making any decisions about how you’ll use it.
It Doesn’t Always Work for Niche Markets
Certain markets, such as farms and ranches, aren’t always easily accommodated in the MLS. They may not have the right fields and categories you need to accurately represent your property, so you’ll want to understand how your MLS works to decide how beneficial it will be to you.
You Don’t Have to Use the MLS (But You Should Consider It)
For some specific situations, like the one listed above, it may not make as much sense to use MLS integration on your website. There is always the option to create listings manually on your website. But because of the benefits it often provides, we would highly recommend at least exploring the option.
How to Start Using the MLS
So, you’ve decided you want to take advantage of using the MLS on your website. The first step is making sure you have the credentials, meaning you need a real estate license and join your local realtor association. You’ll then request access to the MLS data feed, which may require filling out some paperwork and paying a fee.
The next step is deciding how you want to integrate the data into your site. There are three primary ways to integrate the MLS into your site.
Use a Standard Widget Plug-In
Many associations offer the option to use a standard plug-in for your website. It’s usually free or cheap, and there’s a reason for that. It generally looks pretty clunky, is hard to customize and isn’t very mobile-friendly. For these reasons, we don’t recommend this option.
Use a Third-Party Platform
Another option is to use a third-party software such as iHomefinder to pull in and present the MLS data on your website for you. Plug-ins like this are compatible with most website builders like WordPress and Wix, and they’re generally pretty user-friendly to run on your own. They also offer other CRM and marketing tools that are tailored to the real estate industry. These plug-ins range from $50 to $200 per month. Because they’re set tools and technologies, they do have limitations to how much you can customize the way they look on your website.
Create a Custom MLS Feed
If you’re looking for a fully customizable MLS feed that you can tailor to your website and needs, then creating a custom MLS feed is the way to go. A custom MLS feed allows viewers to stay on your website to view all properties, and there’s no limit to the ways you can customize and present listings. This generally requires a higher cost upfront, but can grow with you at a lower cost in the long-run. And, you can hire an experienced web developer like PRIME to do it all for you.
Work With PRIME
At PRIME, we’ve helped dozens of real estate agents, brokerage groups and developers achieve their marketing goals with websites that work for them. We’ve worked with all of the above options for MLS integration and can help you decide what’s best for your business. Whether you’re just getting started in the real estate game or you’re simply looking for a digital upgrade to give you a leg up against the competition, reach out to us and we’ll help you find your next move.
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