By Bruce Cathcart

In America most people today know that MLS stands for the “Multiple Listing Service” which is basically just a data base where participating brokers can publish information about their properties for sale (listings) and offer compensation to other participating brokers for selling these properties. Most of these data bases are organized and operated by local “Board of Realtor” organizations for the benefit of their members.

Over 31 years ago when I first started selling real estate here in the Coachella Valley MLS could have stood for “My Little Secret”. At the time I was a member of the now defunct Indio Board of Realtors and each time we got a new listing we had to fill out an information form and deliver it plus one picture of the front of the house to the Board office. Every two weeks we would receive our MLS “book” which was printed in black and white and in the beginning was about the size of a CV Weekly with only about 30 pages! As our Valley grew so did our MLS book until it was the size of the small yellow pages. I refer to it as a secret because if you were a buyer back in those days the only way you could get information about what was for sale on the market was to either drive around and look at “for sale” signs, check the classified ads in the local newspaper, or talk with an agent who had access to an MLS book. This “proprietary knowledge” dictated the way most real estate transactions came together before the computer age.

Today I am a member of the Desert Area MLS. The Desert Area MLS is managed by the California Desert Association of Realtors. Now when I obtain a listing, within 24 hours I input all of the property information and submit 25 color digital photos, a virtual tour, additional documents and links via my computer and instantly all of that information is available to all of the other participating brokers and their agents. Since our board is a member of the California Real Estate Technology Services (CARETS) that means that this information is now available to 93,000 participating MLS members who are licensed real estate professionals in California. In addition, the Desert Area MLS is also available to the public via direct access to their website at The information available to the public does not include agent only remarks or sensitive non-public information regarding the owners, security, or access, but it does include everything that a buyer needs to know about a home before deciding to set up a showing with their trusted agent. The information streaming does not stop there. Through agreements for IDX (Internet Data Exchange) this information can be found on Brokerage and individual agent websites and with permission from the agents their listing information is streamed instantly to hundreds of real estate search sites around the world. Some of the more popular real estate search sites include,,,,, Yahoo and Google. I belong to two listing syndication companies (Point2 and ListHub) that distribute my listings to over two hundred sites that even include Craig’s List and EBay! What was once considered proprietary knowledge and a closely held secret among real estate agents is now openly broadcast around the world via the Internet.


The availability of all of this information has resulted in more knowledgeable buyers and sellers, and yes, even smarter and better real estate agents. With the help of your agent learning to apply this information will aid and enhance your search for the perfect home.

This week’s real estate tip: Buyers are encouraged to shop for homes using their favorite real estate search site like Zillow or Redfin, but before getting all excited about a particular home that shows up as available on any of these sites it is a good idea to check and see if it shows up as “active” on the MLS website In the case of a short sale a home can have a contract on it and the status will be changed to “back up offers”. This will still show as an active listing on most search sites when in fact it is not really available. When in doubt always check with your trusted real estate professional!

Bruce Cathcart is the Broker/Co-Owner of La Quinta Palms Realty, “Your Friendly Professionals” and can be reached by email at or visit his website at