Beginners’ Guide to Understanding the MLS Ontario
January 7,2022
FYN Content Team

If this is your first experience with the real estate market in Ontario, you may encounter several unfamiliar terms. One of the terms you are likely to encounter is multiple listing service, which may be referred to as MLS Ontario. This guide will help you understand how MLS works and how it can help you find the home you are looking for.

What Is MLS Ontario?

MLS is an extensive database of real estate information created by real estate professionals. It helps connect brokers and other real estate professionals with listings and is only accessible to those who pay a membership fee. The MLS makes it easier for real estate professionals to share information and match buyers with sellers.

The MLS database began in the late 1800s as a way to make it easier for real estate professionals to exchange information about homes for sale. The original format was a paper guide, similar to a phone book, that contained a variety of information about properties:

  • Street address
  • Room dimensions
  • Asking price
  • Annual property tax
  • Lot size
  • Directions
  • Seller’s phone number
  • Broker’s phone number
  • Remarks

When the internet came into common usage, these databases moved online.

No one party has control of the MLS, and no one can trademark or brand the phrase. There are multiple regional and national databases. MLS Ontario refers to databases that deal with properties located in the Ontario region. The databases vary by region but typically follow guidelines established by organizations such as the Canadian Real Estate Association.

What Are the Reasons People Use MLS?

There are many real estate websites available that were not available when the MLS was first created. Some of these resources are free and available to the public. However, the MLS still has value.

Because the site is only used by real estate professionals, many listings include information that may not be accessible on websites that are open to the general public, such as preferred showing times, incentives being offered by sellers, or other information relevant to industry professionals. The MLS may also include useful documents, such as homeowners association agreements and seller disclosures.

MLS Ontario subscriptions make it easier for professionals to find listings that are a good fit for their buyer’s needs by using the database to filter for requirements such as the number of bedrooms, location and square footage. Additionally, properties listed on MLS get more exposure because they have a chance to appear in the searches of other real estate professionals who are using the database. Using the MLS prevents real estate professionals from having to search through multiple different websites to find information about properties for sale.

The MLS also helps smaller brokerages compete with larger ones because it provides access to listing information and commission sharing for all of the properties listed by the participating brokers. Without a similar system, small brokerages would only have access to their own listings, and buyers would have to work with many different relators to have access to all of the information in the MLS.

How Does the MLS Work?

Most MLS databases restrict access to real estate professionals, such as realtors and brokers. Homeowners or real estate investors can gain access to the information in the MLS Ontario database by working with a real estate professional.  Real estate professionals gather information from the property owners they are working with and then add listings for those properties to the database. Each listing is assigned an MLS number that makes it easier to search for that particular property.

Real estate professionals pay for access to the MLS databases in the regions that are relevant to their business. This means that a realtor in one region may not have access to the MLS system in another region. However, buyers who are shopping for property in Ontario who do not currently live in the Ontario area can gain access to the MLS Ontario by working with a realtor in the region or by having their local real estate professional work with a realtor in the area. 

What Kinds of Properties Are Listed on the MLS Ontario?

Most properties for sale are listed either on a regional or national MLS. However, homes that are being sold by the owner and pocket listings may not appear in the MLS.

For Sale by Owner Listings

Some people attempt to sell their homes without working with a real estate professional, usually because they want to avoid paying a commission. Because homeowners are unlikely to have a membership to the MLS, these listings usually are not included, though property owners can pay to have their homes listed in the MLS. 

Pocket Listings

Pocket listings are listings that involve property owned by sellers who are working with a realtor but do not want the property to be listed on MLS Ontario. Most sellers who choose not to have their property listed on the MLS are concerned about privacy and do not want their personal details listed in the database.

What Are the MLS Requirements?

The various MLS databases have their own rules. Generally, MLS listings must be current and contain correct information. New properties for sale must be listed within a specified amount of time. Listings are usually required to have high-quality images and may have a requirement for the number of images included. 

What Are the Alternatives to the MLS Ontario?

Some real estate professionals include information from MLS Ontario listings on their websites so that prospective buyers can view select listings without having access to the database. There are also online real estate sites, such as Trulia, Zillow, Redfin and FindYourNeighbourhood, that are geared toward the general market and resources, such as FlipScout, that cater to investors. 

How Can FindYourNeighbourhood Help?

We believe that finding the right home begins with finding the right neighbourhood. Our website helps buyers choose a neighbourhood in four easy steps. It will also help you connect with a real estate professional with access to MLS Ontario and other local resources to assist you with finding the perfect Ontario property for you.