Is the MLS Free?
No, the MLS is not free because it is a private service offered by the local real estate board (or in some cases, privately owned). Typically, real estate agents pay between $20 and $50 a month to access the MLS, though it may cost more to add IDX or a RETS feed.
The multiple listings service (MLS) provides the venue and technology for local brokers to combine their individual listings into a single database. This benefits real estate agents by making it easier to search available listings and it benefits homebuyers by making it easier to match them with the right home.
This database costs money to maintain, so the MLS charges user fees. Some brokerages may cover some or all of the MLS fees as a perk to attract agents. But in general the agents pay.
What Is MLS Access?
MLS access is the username and password used to log into the MLS. This is typically granted to the agents and brokers who keep an active membership with the local real estate board and pay the required fees.
MLS access also includes a number of web tools agents can use to search, filter, and process listings to find matches for their clients. However, any login credentials necessary for IDX or RETS are provided separately.
Can Anyone Get MLS Access?
No, not anyone can get MLS access because it is a service created by brokers for use by brokers. As a result, most MLS require that you be a member of the local real estate board to access the data.
Still, sometimes exceptions are made for those who are working with a member agent. For the specific MLS access rules, you should contact your MLS.
Many MLS also now offer a limited public site where anyone can browse active listings. These do not provide the full range of listings available on the MLS (such as pending, and expired), and obviously you cannot list your home for sale there. But they do allow members of the general public to see what homes are for sale in their community. One example is brightmlshomes.com, which publishes listings from the Bright MLS system.