How to read an MLS sheet

For those of you who are looking to buy a home, it’s most likely that your Realtor is providing you listings to view, either online or on paper, with information from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  On those listings, you’re able to see photos, address, bed and bath count, and numerous other information about the home.  But for those who haven’t done it before, it’s very common for Realtors to use abbreviations as well as the MLS is known to shorten information.  I thought this might be a good lesson in some of the more common uses on an MLS sheet.  I am going to use the information from the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois, now known as MRED (Midwest Real Estate Data).  This is the MLS for the region where I work.

The first thing most buyers will look at is the bedroom and bathroom count, also abbreviated as BR and BA.  Here’s the trick.  Let’s say you see a home that lists its bathrooms as 2.1.  You wonder why there’s two bathrooms and a tenth of another one.  How it works is that the number before the decimal point is the amount of full baths.  The number after the decimal is the amount of half baths (those without a shower or bath and just a toilet and sink).  So that home would really have 2 1/2 baths.  If you do see a listing as 2.5, it means there’s 2 full baths and 5 half baths, or someone made a mistake entering it.

HOA refers to the homeowners dues, where it will list an amount.  If an amount is filled in, you’ll find out there’s a frequency, usually seen as A, M, V, meaning annual, monthly, voluntary (it’s not required).  MAI stands for “Monthly assessment includes.”  Now, if the frequency is A, it means “Annual assessment includes.”  And what would be in this field are items like parking, water, etc.  Whatever is included in the dues you pay to the homeowners association.

A new required field for this MLS is the source of square footage.  You’ll most likely see a letter after the square footage is shown.  That shows what the source is for that number, whether it’s estimated, from a survey, or from an appraiser.  You can ask your Realtor what that specific letter refers to.

Now I’ll give you a few abbreviations the Realtors use when writing remarks.  They often have to shorten the description to fit everything in they want to say.

FP=fireplace
HW=hardwood
SS=stainless steel
MBR=master bedroom
SIP=screened-in porch
WIC=walk-in closet
WIP=walk-in pantry

When someone refers to a garage as 2.5 or 3.5, that does mean it fits 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 cars, or has the space for 2 cars plus room on both sides.

If you have more specific questions about how to read an MLS sheet or are ready to begin your home search, please visit me online.

Can you handle being a FSBO?

Everyone is trying to save money.  You’ve probably seen a lot of people offering their homes For Sale by Owner to avoid paying a Realtor’s commission.  While this tactic works for some, it doesn’t work for everyone.  The spokesperson for ForSalebyOwner.com even had this to say, “It’s more work to sell your home without a broker.”   AOL Real Estate posted a great article on questions to ask yourself before you attempt to sell FSBO. Before attempting this, you need to be able to answer yes. I wanted to go over some of the main ones.

1.  Can you price it competitively?  People will skip right past a showing of your home if the house is priced too high.  Even if you spent thousands of dollars renovating over the past couple years, it’s hard to recoup that in this market.  Make sure you’re priced competitively based on other comparable sales in the area with similar features to your home.  You might need to have a Realtor pull information for you from the Multiple Listing Service.

2. Can you market it?  How are you advertising your home?  Besides the red and white sign in the front yard, how will people know it’s for sale?  More than 90% of buyers search for their home on the Internet.  You need a licensed Realtor to have it listed in the Multiple Listing Service and Realtor.com.  So make sure your home is getting the exposure it needs for people to contact you.  You need to be comfortable getting out there and spreading the word.  It’s like being your home’s own salesperson.

3. Can you be available?  If you’re gone all day at work and aren’t available to handle showings very often, going FSBO is probably not the best solution.  Many buyers still view homes during the day.  You won’t want to throw on a lockbox and give out the combination to complete strangers.  When Realtors do this, they verify the agent is licensed prior to providing that information.  You’ll want to be there to let all potential buyers in.  If this doesn’t work for your schedule, definitely consider hiring a Realtor.

4. Can you negotiate the forms?  A real estate lawyer can definitely (and should) help you with this.  You’ll also want to learn about how the process works beforehand, especially if you’ve never sold a home before.  You need to know about the different contingency periods, home inspections, and how long a buyer has to secure financing.  Before signing anything, consult with an attorney.

These questions should help you determine whether you’re capable of handling this on your own.  If you have any questions on the process or need to speak to someone, please visit me online.