When buying or selling real estate in Arizona, one cannot get anywhere without a multiple listing service (MLS). The MLS is a database of homes for sale and an offer among brokers to compensate each other if they represent a buyer who buys their listed property. It is the best marketing tool available to sellers. For buyers, it's the best way to find homes by hiring a real estate agent with multilateral access or browsing MLS listings on a website. Buyers can select several buying options without having to drive all day looking for "for sale" signs. Both buyers and sellers can use MLS sales data to identify similar sold properties ("comps"), a very useful step in determining how a property is priced or what it offers.
While MLS is a very useful tool, how to set it up is a mystery to most homeowners. While MLS systems are usually designated as a separate company, each MLS is associated with local associations of realtors. In some cases, multiple associations will unite to form or own their own MLM. For example, in northwestern Arizona, three separate broker associations in Mojave County, Bullhead City, Lake Havasu City, and Kingman have assembled their systems to form a single system called WARDEX (West Arizona Regional Data Exchange). In the Phoenix area, five separate associations share the same system as ARMLS (a multiple regional listing service in Arizona).
Multiple listing services vary greatly in size. The Phoenix System, ARMLS, is the fifth largest system in the country with nearly 40,000 members. Tucson also has a very large MLS. Payson, a famous mountain town for second home buyers, on the other hand, has its own system with fewer than 1,000 members. La Paz County MLS which primarily serves Parker, Arizona, has MLS with only a handful of member brokers. One MLS in the eastern part of the state is nothing more than a small site with a short list of properties.
It is extremely important to be placed in the correct MLS. The property in Prescott, Arizona, must be listed in Prescott MLS to be visible to local Prescott brokers working with their clients. Even if a realtor Prescott also works in Sun Valley and ARMLS membership contract, he will not log into ARMLS to locate real estate in Prescott. They use Prescott MLS when searching for or listing Prescott properties; they will use ARMLS for Maricopa and Pinal county (Phoenix) properties. Some buyers and sellers mistakenly believe that ARMLS is a statewide MLS, allowing a Phoenix area broker to list state properties and allow them full access to MLS data on all properties in the state. This is not the case. Each region has its own system, its own membership requirements, its own policies, etc. In Southern Arizona, for example, some brokers have joined 3 different companies from MLS: Tucson, Green Valley, and Southeast Arizona in order to benefit from more communities.
Putting you in the right MLS system is critical for residential property sellers. Taking a minute to understand the different systems in Arizona is beneficial to all homeowners.