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Not All MLS Data is Created Equal

Gavin Finch
Written by Gavin Finch 

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Property data informs virtually everything that happens in the real estate ecosystem. However, the data that many businesses rely on is underperforming relative to their expectations. The worst part is that many business leaders have no idea that their data is leading to partially informed decisions and consistent under- or over-valuations. In short, many real estate businesses are relying on data that isn’t what they think it is.

By far the worst offender is MLS data. At its best, MLS data leads the charge in value and business enablement. However, many data providers that claim to offer property information from the MLS actually offer something very different than the term implies. In fact, very few offer the accuracy, relevance, and depth of insights that investors and other real estate professionals are looking for.

What makes the difference? In this guide, we’ll break down what MLS data really is, why most providers don’t offer what you’re expecting, and how you can find true MLS insights that will fuel your decision making processes. 

What is MLS data?

The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a nationwide database of on-market properties. It contains a wealth of information about which properties are for sale, which have recently sold, and which listings have expired or been canceled. It also offers critical property and transactional information, most notably exact sales prices and real-time property statuses.

However, this database is limited to professionals who hold a real estate license, are part of the National Association of Realtors, and work under a real estate broker. However, the information on the MLS is essential to all real estate professionals, even if they don’t have a license. This is why many real estate lead generation platforms advertise their MLS data offering. Unfortunately, the data they offer rarely lives up to expectations. 

What does true MLS data look like?

Real estate businesses rely on information that’s accurate, relevant, in-depth, and updated in real time. These are all characteristics that real estate agents can expect from data on the MLS. Therefore, non-licensed professionals should receive the same standards of quality when they interface with a third party that provides MLS data. This means they’re only getting true MLS data if they have access to the following data points and characteristics:

  • Exact sales prices, not estimates (in disclosure states)
  • Listing statuses
  • Property photos where possible
  • Property history, including sales and property changes
  • Information updates in near-real time
  • Nationwide coverage

Unfortunately, most data providers do not provide complete MLS data. Typically, their data offering is limited to historical sales information and listing statuses. They rarely provide regular updates, property photos, adequate historical information, or reliable coverage. 

What can businesses do with complete MLS data?

Having some information is certainly better than having none, but irregular, lagging updates or missing data points cause businesses to miss out on increases in efficiency and profitability. However, there are other process improvements that true MLS data can create that you may not be aware of if your business hasn’t had access to comprehensive property information in the past. 

For starters, exact real estate transaction information will sharpen your comping process, allowing you to make more informed offers, weed out bad deals early, and buy at better prices. It will also streamline your comping process, as you’ll have all the tools you need to find relevant information and true comparables.

Comprehensive MLS data will also expand your comping abilities by giving you access to historical comping data. With this information, you can identify growth and potential on a market-scale level instead of simply evaluating properties in a vacuum. You can also pair this functionality with true nationwide coverage to track large-scale market trends, expand into new markets, and capitalize on deals in niche locations. 

Another often overlooked benefit of having access to the MLS database is property photos. Data can tell a large part of a property’s story, but pictures bring it to life. Pictures can tell you what a house looks like, what the surrounding area looks like, and whether it was remodeled recently or kept in its original condition. Pictures can also save you time by weeding out deals you aren’t interested in before you visit them in person.

However, by far the most important aspect of high-quality MLS data is the pace of updates. Real estate markets are constantly changing. A house that’s on the market today could sell for 40% over listing price tomorrow. Another property that’s active now may be on the verge of expiring or being canceled. 

Unfortunately, many providers only update their MLS transaction data every three weeks. With severely lagging updates, it’s impossible to confidently comp deals or make moves on properties since there’s no way of knowing if the data is current. However, when you and your team are equipped with data that you know is accurate and timely, there’s no limit to the ways you can use it to power your business.

Taking data to the next level: leveraging an MLS API

As you can see, true MLS data plays a powerful role in driving real estate business forward. However, some businesses need more than simple access to MLS systems. Many also need this data to be easily integrated into their existing workflows and software tools. This is where an MLS API comes into play.

An API (application programming interface) is essentially a set of rules that allows different software programs to communicate with each other and share information. An MLS API can take the MLS data that you need and make it available instantly within your software applications, such as your CRMs, lead generation tools, or even client-facing applications

Basically, an MLS API gives you all the benefits of MLS data without requiring a manual search or data import. Once an API is set up, you’ll gain access to regularly updated MLS data wherever you need it, whenever you need it. 

By leveraging an MLS API, businesses can streamline their data integration process and speed up their decision making. With a direct connection to a database that provides this information, businesses can get real-time updates on listings and transactions, ensuring that their operations are always up-to-date.


As you can see, not all MLS data is the same. In fact, MLS is a term that rarely means what it seems to. Many of the data providers that claim to offer MLS data actually offer a fragmented coverage map with only a fraction of the benefits you would receive from accessing the MLS as a real estate agent.

In order to bring your business the benefits of working with true MLS real estate data, you need a provider with multiple, layered sources and a data science team that verifies and enhances information instead of simply passing it through. There are many ways to access fragmented, low-quality data, but there’s only one source that provides the accuracy, relevance, depth, and coverage you expect from the MLS: BatchService.

Our suite of MLS-backed solutions will help your business access the data and tools it needs. If you’re looking for lead generation and evaluation, BatchLeads is equipped with search, comparison, and marketing tools that will help you capitalize on opportunities in your target market. If you’re looking for property data or an MLS API, we offer both on-demand and subscription services with BatchData.
But you don’t just have to take our word for it. Click to claim a free trial and experience for yourself what you can accomplish when your business is fueled by high-quality real estate data.

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