Arizona MLS Systems

February 24, 2010

When buying or selling properties in Arizona, one could get virtually nowhere without the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The MLS is a database of homes for sale and an offer amongst brokers to compensate one another if they represent a buyer that purchases their listed property. It is the single best marketing tool available for sellers. For buyers, it is the single best means of finding homes. By hiring a real estate agent with MLS access or browsing MLS listings on a website, buyers can locate a multitude of purchase options without having to drive around all day looking for “For Sale” signs. Both buyers and sellers can use MLS sales data to identify similar sold properties (“comps”), an extremely useful step in deciding how to price a property or what to offer.
While the MLS is an extremely useful tool, how it is set up is a mystery to most homeowners. While MLS systems are typically set up as a separate corporation, each MLS is affiliated with local associations of Realtors. In some cases, multiple associations will combine to form or own their own an MLS. For instance, in Northwestern Arizona, three separate Mohave county-based Realtor associations, Bullhead City, Lake Havasu City, and Kingman, have combined their systems to form one system called WARDEX (Western Arizona Regional Data Exchange). In the Phoenix area, five separate associations share the same system called ARMLS (Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service).
Multiple Listing Services vary greatly in size. The Phoenix system, ARMLS, is the fifth largest in the nation with approximately 40,000 members. Tucson also has a very large MLS. Payson, a popular mountain town for second home buyers, on the other hand, has its own system with less than 1000 members. La Paz County MLS which primarily serves Parker, Arizona, has an MLS with only a handful of member-brokers. One MLS in the Eastern part of state is nothing more than a small website with a short list of properties.
It is extremely important to be placed in the correct MLS. A property in Prescott, Arizona, would need to be listed in the Prescott MLS to be visible to local Prescott Realtors working with their clients. Even if a particular Prescott Realtor also worked the Valley of the Sun and held an ARMLS membership, they would not log in to ARMLS to locate properties in Prescott. They utilize the Prescott MLS when looking for or listing Prescott properties; they would make use of ARMLS for Maricopa and Pinal county (Phoenix area) properties. Some buyers and sellers mistakenly believe that ARMLS is a statewide MLS, allowing a Phoenix-area Realtor to list properties statewide and allowing them full access to MLS data on all properties in the state. This is not the case. Each area has its own system, its own membership requirements and fees, its own policies, etc. In Southern Arizona, for instance, some Realtors have joined 3 different MLS’s: Tucson Area, Green Valley, and Southeast Arizona in order to tap into a larger number of communities.
Being placed in the correct MLS system is critical to sellers of residential real estate. Taking a minute to understand the different systems in Arizona is beneficial for all homeowners.


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