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Every industry has its own lexicon, and real estate is no exception. From the terms for different types of houses to the lingo associated with lending, there’s plenty of terminologies that can feel overwhelming for a buyer to keep up with.
One term you’ll likely hear often during the homebuying process is “MLS,” which stands for multiple listing service. The MLS is a real estate database of all the homes in your area that are currently for sale, pending sale, or have recently been sold, and so much more. There’s a wealth of information within the MLS, and your agent has access to all of these useful details.
Since most homes for sale are made available through the MLS — which syndicates to lots of different real estate websites and makes properties available to all agents within the region — it’s fair to wonder if a house with an offer on it will be removed from the MLS. The short answer is usually no, but it can depend on the type of transaction and the seller’s preference, and because there are several different status options for a home on the MLS, it’s worth exploring this question further.
With the help of Jason Cheperdak, a top agent in Alexandria, Virginia, and the greater Washington, DC, area, we’re digging into what it means when a house has offers, versus when it’s under contract and officially pending sale, and when it’s actually removed from the MLS.
Will a house with an offer on it be removed from the MLS?
When a potential buyer — whether that’s you or anyone else — makes an offer on a home, all this means is that the seller now has an opportunity to review the purchase agreement and respond before the offer expires.
A home will nearly always remain active on the MLS during this time because the seller hasn’t actually said “yes” to a sale yet. Removing the home from the MLS would minimize their chances of receiving multiple offers; it’s simply not ideal to jump the gun and pull the listing just because one agent has come forward with one offer.
If the first offer isn’t accepted — maybe the price is too low, or there are too many contingencies on the sale — the seller will surely want the opportunity for another offer to come in on their home.
“When [my team] lists properties, we actually encourage all of our clients to accept a backup offer,” says Cheperdak.
“Then, if the first offer falls through, we don’t have to go back on the market because the second offer is already ratified.”
How do I know where a home is in the sales process?
The different status options within the MLS provide reliable clues as to what’s going on with a given property. Though MLS terminology can vary by region, they’re all fairly similar.
- Active means that the house is indeed for sale and the owners are accepting offers. Your agent can help you put together and submit the perfect offer.
- Under Contract or Contingent means that an offer has been accepted — but you’re not necessarily out of luck just yet if you’ve had your eye on this particular home.
- “Under Contract” often comes with two further options: Show or No Show.
- If a home is “Under Contract – Show,” this means that the sellers have accepted an offer, but potential buyers can still view the home and submit their own offer. If a seller has reason to suspect that their deal may fall through, or if they just want to cover their bases with a backup offer, this status is a good option.
- “Under Contract – No Show” means what it sounds like: The home is under contract, and the sellers do not wish for the house to be shown any further. The existing offer is probably quite strong, or the seller may already have a backup offer in hand.
- “Contingent” is usually just another way of saying “Under Contract.” The sale isn’t yet finalized, which means the buyers are still in the process of ordering inspections and securing their mortgage. “Contingent” may also mean that a homebuyer has to sell their existing home before they can close on their new house.
- “Under Contract” often comes with two further options: Show or No Show.
- Pending can, for some MLS markets, mean the same thing as “Under Contract” or “Contingent.” In other cases, a “Pending” status means that the due diligence period has passed without issue and that the sale is moving forward.
- Sold is exactly that — the home has sold and successfully closed.
Your agent will be able to explain the specifics of any status on the home or homes you may be interested in, including whether it’s still possible to make an offer or if it’s best to move on.
“Sometimes the only way to know if a home has offers on it is to call the agent,” says Cheperdak.
This is especially true in a busy market where multiple offers are common and properties move quickly. An agent simply may not have the time to update the MLS with every change in activity. As ever, your real estate agent is your best resource when it comes to finding and making a competitive offer on the right home.
Who updates the status of a home on the MLS?
Real estate agents (or RealtorsⓇ) are the ones who actually go in and change the status of a listing.
More specifically, a home’s listing agent will handle this. The listing agent is, of course, the one working directly with the seller and they’re the most aware of what’s happening with a property and any incoming offers.
In some instances, the listing agent’s broker-in-charge or someone else on the office’s administrative support team may make the change in the MLS on behalf of a busy listing agent.
I saw a home on the MLS just the other day, and now it’s gone. What happened?
While it’s a less common scenario than updating the listing status, there are times when a property may suddenly vanish from the MLS.
This usually means that a seller has decided to delist the home. In other words, they’ve decided to withdraw their home from the MLS and take it off the market.
There is any number of reasons as to why this might happen, which can include but certainly are not limited to:
- A change in personal circumstances. Maybe the seller was planning to relocate for a new job and the offer fell through, or perhaps a family member took ill and their care takes precedence over selling the house. As the COVID-19 pandemic has collectively reminded us, life has a way of throwing curveballs.
- The decision to make repairs or renovations. Whether for financial reasons or time constraints, sometimes a homeowner will choose to list their home in less-than-perfect condition. If this results in unfavorable or too few offers, a seller may have a change of heart and opt to pull the property from the market to work on those important updates.
- Shifts in the economic climate. If the market takes a sharp downturn a week after listing their home for a sale, a homeowner may decide it’s better to wait and try to sell later.
- A change of heart. It’s possible that a homeowner thought they wanted to sell, then found they couldn’t stomach the idea of strangers walking through their home only to do who-knows-what with it after purchase. Instead, they decide to stay put and remove the home from the market.
“I think what people miss sometimes is that sellers are people, too, and everyone has lives and people’s lives are complicated,” Cheperdak notes, reminding buyers to have empathy and patience during the process of searching for a home.
Your agent should be able to see whether a now-missing house was withdrawn or not, but there won’t always be a clear explanation noted in the MLS. If you’re still deeply curious about a home that has been recently delisted, your agent can reach out to the former listing agent and determine if it may still be appropriate to make an offer.
What else should I know about the MLS?
Cheperdak notes that his DC-area clients often ask about coming-soon inventory, which is an important — but easily overlooked — MLS tool.
“There’s been a rising shift in the marketplace over the last 24 months, and anybody who doesn’t have an MLS search is missing a third or more of the inventory. There are days [on our local MLS] where the ‘coming soon’ inventory is more than 50% of the inventory on the market.”
He encourages buyers to work with experienced agents who will know to check for these upcoming properties and to not be shy about asking if your agent isn’t already checking on what’s coming up.
“The MLS is an unbelievable resource, and it’s updated on a monthly basis with new resources, data, and analytics,” says Cheperdak. “I don’t think that you can effectively buy a home with an agent who doesn’t have an in-depth understanding of the MLS and a strategy to leverage it properly.”
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