The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is basically a group of private databases that allow real estate agents that are representing a seller to cross promote and share information about homes for sale with other with real estate brokers and agents who may represent a possible buyer for that property. There are more than one MLS services throughout the country and the data contained in each multiple listing service will change in each area. Many of the local databases are controlled by associations of realtors (these associations will represent all brokers and the agents that work for their organization within a specific geographical area).
The purpose of the Orlando MLS is to enable the distribution of property information in an effective format so that, when a real estate agent is introduced to a potential buyer of a home, he or she may search the Orlando MLS system to retrieve information about all homes for sale in a set area or price range, and whether the listing is under a listing contract by that agent's broker/brokerage firm or by all participating brokers.
Here in Orlando the MLS is governed by private entities, and the rules are set by those entities with no state or federal oversight, beyond any individual state rules regarding real estate. The MLS authoritative body sets their own independent rules for membership and access, as well as sharing of information. These associations however are subject to nationwide rules laid down by NAR (National Association of Realtors). An MLS may be owned and operated by a real estate company, a county or regional real estate Board of Realtors or Association of Realtors, or by a trade association. Membership of the MLS is usually considered to be essential to the practice of most real estate brokerages. In fact, I only know of a small handfull of Orlando real estate brokerages that do not participate in the usage of the Orlando MLS.
The search functions that you see on this website are a result of the Orlando MLS. You are not actually utilizing the exact MLS system that real estate agents and brokers use - through my website you are using the information from the database to search the different homes for sale in Orlando. This is called an IDX or commonly referred to as an internet data exchange.