MLS Listings: What to Look for When Shopping for a Property on MLS

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 26 Jul 2023

MLS Listings

Are you looking for a home? There’s no better place to look for one than on the MLS. MLS is short of Multiple Listing Service. It’s the place you go to see homes listed for sale. You can visit to see homes on the MLS.

If you’re new to real estate and you’ve never looked at an MLS listing before, it can be a little intimidating. That’s why we’ve listed the top things to look for when shopping for a property on MLS. You can get the basic gist of a property from the safety and comfort of your smartphone or desktop computer.

MLS listings’ prices

List price is perhaps the first thing you want to look at. Before you look at a home and fall in love with it, you want to make sure you can afford it. From there you can calculate your potential mortgage.

The list price is the price the seller’s realtor, the listing agent, is putting the home up for sale for at. If the list price is way above what you can realistically afford, then there’s really no point in seeing it. For example, if you’ve been pre-approved to spend up to $800k on a property, but a home is listed for $2.5M, there’s no point in seeing it. It’s priced way above your maximum purchase price and mortgage approval amount.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that a property’s list price is often different than its final selling price. Sometimes the list price is close to what the home is worth and it will sell for around that price. However, other times a home has a low list price in order to cause a bidding war.

To the untrained eye of a homebuyer, you may not be able to tell. That is why you need an experienced realtor. A  realtor can let you know how much the home is really expected to sell for.

It doesn’t hurt to make a lower offer on a property listed slightly above your max price range. However, listen to your realtor. If they are certain many prospective homebuyers will bid and they expec it to sell above your pre-approval limit, you need to reconsider. There is no point in wasting your time or anyone else’s.

Property photos on MLS

Property photos are another important item. You want to see what a property looks like before scheduling a showing with your realtor. A property’s photos show you what condition the property is in, as well as the features and amenities of the home.

You shouldn’t just rely on a property’s photos. A property’s photos are a good way to screen out potential properties. However, if you like a property, you’ll want to take the time to view it in person. That’s because photos don’t tell the whole story.

Beware of photos. A good photo editing software makes a property look better than it actually is. You wouldn’t want to buy a property sight unseen that you thought was in decent shape, only to find out that it needs a lot more work than you originally thought.

You’ll want to have an open mind when it comes to property photos. Sure, everyone loves a turnkey property where you barely have to do anything to the place when you move in. However, by having a closed mind, you can really limit yourself and you may pass over good properties that only need a few simple fixes like a fresh coat of paint.

Even if a property’s photos aren’t perfect, you might still want to see the property. That’s because photos don’t tell the same story. While a property may show worse in person, the complete opposite is true. A property could show a lot better in person than the photos. By keeping an open mind, you’ll open yourself up to homes that you otherwise might have passed over and missed out on.

MLS listings’ property types

When reviewing the MLS listing, you’ll want to find out what the property type is as well. Although the property type should be pretty obvious when looking at the photos in the MLS listing, again, looks can be deceiving. You may think that a property is a townhouse, when it’s really a condo. You wouldn’t have known that unless you took the time to read the MLS listing.

Finding out the property type should be pretty easy. It should be clearly spelled out in the MLS listing. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, if it’s a condo, is it a high rise or low rise? How many floors does it have exactly? Where is the condo unit listed for sale located? These are all answers you’ll want to have before deciding to make an offer on a property.

Likewise, the term townhouse can cover a variety of properties. Some townhouses are very similar to houses. A townhouse could come with a spacious yard, similar to a detached house.

Other times, a townhouse can be similar to a condo and not come with a yard at all. You’ll want to know all those details ahead of time, so you don’t end up viewing a property that doesn’t have what you’re looking for. For example, if a yard is a dealbreaker for you, you wouldn’t want to waste everyone’s time by viewing a townhouse without one.

MLS listings’ addresses and neighbourhoods

They say the three most important rules in real estate are “location, location, location.” Of course, as we’ve discussed earlier other things matter, but this is just to underscore the importance of a property’s location. You can change many things about a property. Give it a fresh coat of paint. You could renovate it. You can change everything and anything except its location.

Sure, you can try to get involved in the neighbourhood by making it a safer place and influencing what goes in, but there are some things you just can’t control. For example, if your home is close to the airport, no matter how many times you email your member of parliament, the chances of the airport relocating because of your request is next to zero. Likewise, if your home is located across the city from the city dump, unless the city plans to close it down, you’re pretty much stuck with it as your neighbour for the coming years.

Homebuyers tend to have some favourite neighbourhoods that they’d prefer to buy a home in. When you first view an MLS listing, you can see if the home is located in one of your desired neighbourhoods. However, it’s important not to dismiss a home outright. A home that’s located outside your desired neighbourhood can still be worth visiting, if it’s still located nearby.

Before you take the time to view a property in person, a helpful exercise is the view the property on Google Maps. You could punch in the property’s address in Google Maps and go to street view. When you go to street view, you can see what is located nearby the home. This can give you a good feel for the neighbourhood and whether this is somewhere that you’d want to live.

MLS listings’ home descriptions

Although the home description in the MLS listing is mainly used as a marketing piece, a lot of helpful information can still be found in it. Realtors generally use the home description to let interested home buyers know what stands out about the property. For example, the realtor could let prospective homebuyers know that the property is located in a good school district, close to shopping and amenities.

This can be very helpful if you’re not familiar with the area. However, you don’t want to take the home description at face value. You’ll want to do your own independent investigation to make sure it’s true.

You’ll want to look for stuff in the MLS listing that really stands out and excites you. The MLS listing has important details about the home like its square footage, but it can be a bit bland. The home description section is where it can really come to life.

You’ll also want to look for things you don’t want in the home description. For example, if you’re not handy around the house and don’t want a fixer upper, a home that describes itself as a “handyman’s dream” it one you may want to pass on. A home being sold “as is” is also a home you may want to pass on if you’re looking for one that’s turnkey.

Since when was it listed on MLS?

You’ll want to see when a home was listed and how many days it has been on the market. Your realtor can help tell you this information. This is quite valuable information. It can give you helpful information on how much to offer.

For example, if a home has been listed for 45 days and hasn’t sold, you could try offering less than the list price. The homeowner might be tired of waitingl. However, if a home is newly listed and priced to create a bidding war, making a low offer can get you eliminated from contention right away.

Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications