To find a listing with an MLS number, visit Realtor.com. In the For Sale search box, click on Search by MLS ID, located under the price range boxes. Enter the MLS ID, and click Search.
The MLS, or multiple listing service, provides a centralized location to list properties that are for sale, according to Realtor.com. In the late 1800s, brokers met at local association offices to share information about properties for sale. Brokers agreed to share compensation with other brokers in exchange for assistance in selling a property. The MLS was founded on this concept of cooperation and shared compensation between brokers.
The MLS provides increased exposure of the available property and allows a buyer to find many available properties in one centralized location, according to Realtor.com. It is a private database that is funded by real estate professionals. Members of the public can access the MLS for free through select brokers. Some data, such as the seller's contact information and the vacancy schedule for the property, are always kept private for the protection of the seller.
In most cases, brokers and agents must be members of the National Association of Realtors to use the MLS. However, in Alabama, California, Georgia and Florida, non-member realtors are allowed to participate in the MLS, as stated by HowStuffWorks. There are some brokers and services that allow people directly selling their own homes to list their properties on the MLS.