Tag: real estate terms

How to read an MLS sheet

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.

How to read an MLS sheet


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.

A dictionary of real estate terms

Since I’ve been blogging now for a couple of years, I realize that I tend to just throw real estate terms around.  I was thinking that there’s probably readers out there who aren’t sure what specific terms mean.  I’ve done blogs regarding the differences between foreclosures and short sales, to give a better definition of those.   But I wanted to cover some more common terms you might hear if you’re in the market to sell or buy.  You might even hear these terms from a Realtor doing a listing presentation and are unsure of the meaning.  This will help you become more educated about the process.

The first term you might hear if you call an agent to list your house is a CMA. You might also hear about a BPO.  What do these acronyms mean?  CMA is a comparative market analysis.  This is just the formal name for going over recent sales and statistics of other homes in a similar geographical area with similar features of yours, to determine the best price to either list your home or to come in with an offer if you’re buying.  A BPO is a broker price opinion and usually is done by a Realtor giving information to a bank who owns a home as to what the home should sell for.

Earnest money is money you put down as a deposit when you’re writing an offer for property.  You will offer a specified amount for the brokerage to hold in a special account.  If something falls through with the contract, it’s likely you’ll receive this amount back.  If all goes well, this money gets applied toward the purchase price at closing.  Think of it as being similar to a security deposit on a lease.

If you’re writing an offer on a home, you’ve probably seen the term contingency.  This can apply to a mortgage or attorney review or home inspection.  It’s generally a condition that must be met before the contract is final.  So you’ll put in the contract that the contract is contingent upon you receiving a home inspection by a certain date.

Escrow can mean a couple of different things.  The first is in reference to your mortgage.  Sometimes you’ll give the mortgage holder money to pay your real estate taxes and homeowners insurance for you.  This is to prevent you having to pay a large amount of money each time these bills are due.  You pay extra each month toward your mortgage and the mortgage holder writes the check to the insurance company and the county.  That means you’re escrowing your payments.  Escrow is also used to mean that a third party oversees the transfer of the property and handles the paperwork.  You may hear the phrase “Closing in escrow.”  This is a lot more common in the western half of the United States.  Not all parties have to be in attendance during escrow.  When you close (typically common in the eastern half of the U.S.), it’s a lot more common that all the agents show up, the sellers and buyers, and attorneys.

What exactly is title?  It’s basically ownership of the property.  If title is clear, there are no liens that prevent you from transferring ownership from the seller to the buyer.  If there is a cloud on the title, it means that there is a lien against the home that needs to be cleared up.

If you have heard any more terms you’re unfamiliar with, I’d love to help you out.  Please leave me a comment or visit me online.

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