Can you know something about buying a home before others find out if you get access to the multiple listing service information before others get that information?

Q: A friend of mine gave me some real estate advice and told me that my Realtor should be able to see listings before they are publicly posted on an MLS website. Therefore, she should be able to let me see a home that will be sold before every else does.

My friend’s point was that if my Realtor did not do this, then she wasn’t really looking for me. There is one listing in particular that I saw before my agent did, but ended up getting multiple bids and going above list price anyway.

I’m not heartbroken, but worry that something like this is preventable in the future. Is what my friend claims true?

A: There are certain rules that Multiple Listing Services (MLS) have for their members. Generally these rules attempt to level the playing field among all of the member agent companies. Your friend may have indicated that your real estate agent has the ability to view MLS listings before you might see them on the Internet, but that time lag is generally very small for most MLS systems.

Usually, when an MLS system takes a new listing, the listing broker posts all the relevant information about that new listing in the system. Once that information is posted in the system, all members of that MLS system have an equal opportunity to view new listings as they become available. Your broker or real estate agent would be able to view any listing at the same time as other agents in the system.

The real question that comes into play is at what point is the information that is posted on your MLS system released or can be viewed by others outside your MLS system. That question might vary from one MLS system to another. You may have some MLS systems tied to the Internet in such a way that they release that information to all other MLS systems and to the national Realtor system at the same time.

However, you may have certain MLS systems that hold onto that information and release their new listings on a daily or weekly basis. In your particular area, the MLS system may not participate in regional or national MLS systems. If they did participate in those other MLS systems, they would probably release any information to those systems immediately. And once that information is distributed, it generally flows to the many Internet sites that pick up or display listings throughout the Internet.

The only way you’d know if your MLS system participates in regional and national MLS systems is to ask the real estate agent or broker that you are working with. He or she may be able to give you more information about your local MLS system. You should know, however, that more and more MLS systems have come on board with regional and national systems and those systems generally display and propagate their information throughout the Internet rather quickly.

We’d welcome any input from those real estate agents that read our column on how their systems propagate or syndicate their listings, and will publish those comments we receive.