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You mentioned MRIS. Why do I keep hearing about it? Why is that watermark on practically every listing photo?
MRIS is the company that manages all the residential real estate listings that are public (things like off-market sales, sometimes called “pocket sales”, don’t count). All over the country there are companies like this and usually they have the acronym MLS for Multiple Listing Service, but for some reason the one for MD, VA, and DC is called the Metropolitan Regional Information Service. They have the second highest number of listings in the country (Northern California has the most) and there is usually anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000+ properties listed in their database at any one time.
As for what they do, basically they manage the listings and process the reams of data about each transaction. They make sure that the houses aren’t falsely advertised (like when people try to say a big closet is an extra bedroom) and they publish the sales data every month for the houses that have sold during the prior thirty days. All of their data is managed by a subsidiary group called Real Estate Business Intelligence (RBI) whose offices are in the same building as MRIS. The two groups work closely, but technically they’re not the same company.
Real estate agents upload their listings and photos to the database and the pictures get stamped with an MRIS watermark. So that is why you see MRIS on almost every photo, even if you find it on Zillow, Trulia, or any of the other places. MRIS has a public database called Homesdatabase.com that lets anyone search the listings in their database. It has a nifty lifestyle search too, so besides price and location you can look for properties that fit over a dozen criteria (like walk score, good schools, etc.). This is the only search engine that is linked directly to the original database of all the listings—so you will see price changes and new listings there almost immediately, but it can take awhile with the other search sites out there.