House hunting? How to get MLS listings first

I have been working with several real estate agencies and brokers (such as Boston Realty News) to get them started blogging and using aggregators. Coincidentally, Ilyse and I have been looking for a house for a year. So I’ve become knowledgeable about how to get listings information.

The real estate market in Boston is becoming a buyer’s market but when a desireable property in a good location gets listed at the right price, it still sells very quickly. So it’s important to get new listings quickly.

The standard way to get notified of new listings that meet your criteria is to go to a broker’s web site, input your criteria (town, price, etc.) and sign up to receive daily emails. Of course I would rather receive listings by RSS but that is still hard to find. There are some brokers, like Ari Ben Harav who manually post their own listings on their blog, but no one that I can find is offering an RSS feed tied to MLS.

I did find a service through a local broker, Bradford Pratt, called MLS PropertyFinder, that consistently delivers listings information much sooner than the daily emails I get from other brokers. There are two ways to subscribe: a daily email and an application you install on your computer called PropertyMessenger.

PropertyMessengerThe PropertyMessenger application constantly scans MLS and instantly sends you anything that meets your search citeria. The notification pops up from a little pair of eyes that sits in your system tray.

PropertyMessenger is the fastest way to find out about new listings but I have also found that the daily email from PropertyFinder is the fastest if you don’t want to install an application or, like me, you sometimes turn it off to avoid the distraction.

Here’s a case in point. On December 14 a broker with Century 21 Adams in Arlington listed a house that is, in every way, exactly what we want. At 7:00 AM the next morning I got a PropertyMessenger email from Brad Pratt telling me about the new listing. I didn’t get notified about that listing from any other brokers until 2:30 AM on the 16th, nearly a day later.

The rest of the story is that when I had my broker call the listing broker, he was told there was already an offer that he expected the sellers to accept. Think about it. An offer was accepted on the same day the listing was posted to MLS. If I were selling a house and I got a decent offer the instant my house was listed, I think I would wait at least another day or two to see what other offers came in. Or perhaps the offer had already been made and esentially accepted before the listing was made. But the listing still had to go on MLS since as members of MLS, brokers are required to list their properties. Selling a property in one day sure looks good for a broker.

So I’ve learned the hard way that the best way to get listings first is to have a relationship with the broker who is likely to list the property you want. Then he or she will call you before the MLS listing is made. The listing broker keeps the 2.5% that would normally be paid to the buyer’s broker and the seller gets a quick sale.

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