What is the MLS and Bright MLS?

What is the MLS and Bright MLS?

  • 08/28/23
Question: I often hear people reference the MLS or Bright when referring to properties for sale. Can you explain what these are?
Answer: If you’re buying or selling a home anywhere in the US, you may hear the term “MLS” and if you’re buying in the Mid-Atlantic “Bright” is used a lot. The simplest way I describe it to people is that the MLS, short for Multiple Listing Service, is the real estate industry’s database(s) of record for property sales. Hundreds of regional and local MLSs across the country act as the aggregator of properties for sale/rent.
Bright (MLS) is the name of our regional MLS and, with just over 110,000 participating agents, it is the second largest MLS in the country behind the California Regional MLS. Before 2017 it was called MRIS (Metropolitan Regional Information Systems), but in 2017 it was rebranded to Bright after a merger with 8 other regional MLSs mostly from PA, NJ, and DE.
The map below shows the current Bright MLS footprint, meaning brokerages/agents in all of these areas input their listings into the same platform. It covers 40,000 square miles and 20 million people.

What is the MLS (Multiple Listing Service)?

The MLS is a real estate information exchange platform and database created by cooperating residential real estate brokerages to improve the efficiency of their real estate market.  As a privately created and managed organization, each MLS is primarily funded through the dues of the brokerages and agents within the market it serves. There are hundreds of MLSs across the country and each operates under its direction and rules & regulations.
The information you find on consumer-facing websites like Zillow comes from various MLSs and each MLS has the right to negotiate its relationship (syndication agreements) with these sites and determine what information is made available.
Without the MLS concept, we would have an extremely fragmented industry that would make it difficult for buyers to ensure they are seeing most/all of what is for sale within their sub-market and it would be much more difficult for sellers to get top-dollar because they would not have access to the entire buyer market.

What is Bright MLS?

Bright is the MLS that serves the mid-Atlantic region including all of, or most major markets in, Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Delaware.
The Executive Committee and Board of Directors are made up of representatives from the region’s major brokerages and direct the business of Bright, which has developed into a full-blown software, services, and technology company. Bright has adopted a strict set of rules & regulations to provide data uniformity and ensure fair play such as restrictions on marketing properties for sale that are not entered into the MLS, as discussed in this article.

MLS is a Net Benefit to Consumers and Agents

Your interaction with Bright MLS is likely to come from listings that your real estate agent sends you directly from the system, but you are also indirectly interacting with Bright whenever you search a 3rd party real estate site like Zillow because their data is pulled from Bright (and other MLS systems across the country).
While at times frustrating for brokerages, agents, and consumers (I think there’s so much more they can do with data and their consumer-facing tech), the MLS structure is a tremendous net benefit for the industry and consumers by combining home sale data into one database with a common set of requirements and rules of engagement. This allows the entire industry to function more efficiently than it did before the MLS concept, which has led to lower commission fees.
The biggest example for consumers (and I’d also argue to Realtors) is that since Zillow and other consumer-facing sites began aggregating listing information for public use, real estate agents are no longer the “gate-keepers” of listing information, and consumers have direct access to practically everything that is on the market (entered in an MLS) in nearly real-time.
If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].
If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.
Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Eli Residential channel.
Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH Real Estate, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. (703) 390-9460.


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