One of the rarely discussed topics in Real Estate School is the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS. The MLS is software that Agents and Brokerages can participate in that encourages cooperation between real estate brokerages and outlines how fees will be shared. All other services the MLS provides are secondary to these. In short, when you represent a buyer in a real estate transaction that is listed by another member of the same MLS, there is an written arrangement you will get paid a commission of the amount specified in the listing documentation.
In some instances the MLS provides additional resources, such as data on past real estate transactions that can be used for comparative market analyses. It is also not uncommon for them to provide showing services, lockboxes, forms, listing syndication and other integrations. While offered as a service an agent is not required to use the products. Each MLS provides their own offerings as directed by the members.
The MLS is not actually a single entity nationwide, but each geographic region typically has their own. For example, Las Vegas, Nevada has their own MLS and in some instances, a real estate agent may participate and be a member in several, or none at all. Many real estate companies do not participate in an MLS at all, including commercial real estate brokerages and boutique shops.
Being a member of a multiple listing service does have a cost. Depending on the area, you should expect the MLS itself to cost between $50 and $200 per month. In some markets, the MLS fees are incorporated into the local board of realtor fees.