The time has come to sell your home and so many questions are running through your head.
- Should you hire a Real Estate Agent or sell on our own?
- How much is your house worth?
- How much do you need to purchase a new home?
- Should you hire a real estate agent or sell FSBO?
- Does your house need to be listed on the MLS and how can it help you sell?
- How can you get your home on sites like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com?
If you have the extra time and effort, using a Flat Fee MLS Listing Service can save you a lot of money— money that can then go towards your new house, movers, some new furniture, anything that you want or need.
But where do you even start? And what are all the steps?
To better understand selling your house with a Flat Fee MLS Listing Service, let’s take a look James and Mary’s story….
How James and Mary Sold Their House With a Flat Fee MLS Listing
As James’s was driving home from work, his mind wasn’t on the traffic in front of him; it was back in the office.
“It’s a great opportunity for you” his manager had said.
He wasn’t wrong: the promotion was everything James had been working towards in his career.
He just hadn’t expected the caveat. “It’s not that far to the new office…they could really use you over there…”
James paused as he parked the car in his driveway and looked up at his current home. They had been there for several years now and he sure didn’t miss the hassle of selling their last home.
Was it all worth it?
A lot of questions and ways to answer tangled together in his mind, as got out of his car and told his wife Mary about his promotion at the new office.
“James, that’s wonderful! You’re getting a promotion?”
“They offered one, yes. But there’s a catch. The opening is at the new office and we would have to move there. Which means, we would need to sell our house. Again. And pay a huge commission. Again!”
Mary said “We’ll find an even better house. Besides, I hear selling a home is much easier now. We don’t necessarily have to use a listing agent to sell this time, we can do a “For Sale By Owner.”
“Won’t that be more difficult?” said James.
“A little bit. But I’m not against putting in a little more effort, especially if it means we save on commissions and put that money towards a better place.”
“True enough,” James laughed. “But what about where to list? I guess we could post on Craigslist and Zillow…”
“Oh, there is an even better option than that! We can still list on that MLS site the Realtors use. Listing there automatically gets us on sites like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. We can use what is called a flat fee MLS service to list our house. We still would have to offer a commission to any potential buyers’ agents, BUT we wouldn’t have to pay a listing agents commission — and if we sell directly to a buyer, we wouldn’t have to pay a buyer’s agent commission either!”
James grinned. “All right. I guess you got it all figured out, lets do it!”
James had accepted the offer the next day at work.
Next, they had to navigate the waters of selling their home without a real estate agent.
So, they needed a plan.
“Most MLS services charge a base of $199-$399,” Mary had told him the night before.
“But we’ll need to consider additional costs. Packing, for one. We probably want to use a moving service. Oh! And a professional real estate photographer.”
“A photographer?” That one caught James by surprise.
“For the listing pictures! You have to have at least one photo for an MLS listing, but a lot of buyers judge based on the quality of the photos before looking at the details or setting up a showing. Remember how many days we spent pouring over picture online when trying to find this place? And you know I’m terrible with a camera, and your hands are too shaky for good pictures of a room.”
“I looked online into real estate brokers who offer flat fee MLS listing today and found Get LISTED Realty” Mary told him.
“How’s their service?”
“Well, I ran a Google search and checked the BBB. They have really good online reviews and a lot of the reviews mentioned excellent service. They seem to do everything online to make it easy on us.”
“What happens if we need to change something after?”
“We just contact their customer service through their website. These guys offer unlimited revisions for no additional fee.”
James nodded. “Sounds like we’ve found our flat fee mls company, then. I guess that leaves the photographer?”
“And setting the list price, the yard sign, and the lockbox for the door.”
James laughed. “This isn’t as hard as I had imagined and its pretty fun!”
The next few days were a flurry of activities, errands and getting the house ready.
James picked up a For Sale By Owner sign at the store while Mary did some research to determine the value of their home.
She looked at how to calculate a price based on the value and what other homes were selling for in their neighborhood.
Once everything was ready, Mary and James purchased their listing online with Get LISTED Realty and filled out paperwork online to list their home.
A day after their MLS information was submitted and photographs uploaded, their listing went live on hundreds of real estate listing sites and was available to every Realtor in their area on the MLS.
While James stayed focused on his work to not get distracted, Mary took phone calls and replied to emails from interested buyers and their agents.
Soon, they had a steady schedule of showings booked.
She could take the kids to the library or out on errands while their house was being shown to potential buyers that were with their agents.
But they also showed their home directly to a few buyers that were not working with an agent.
They also hosted a Open House but that seemed to be mostly nosey neighbors and window shopping buyers.
As the offers began to come in, Mary and James spent time pouring over each and meeting with their attorney to get her opinion on the various contracts from potential buyers.
Finally, all of their hard work paid off.
They accepted an offer from a young couple who was pre-approved for a mortgage and had 20% to put as a down payment.
Then could tell that they had fallen in love with their home and really wanted it.
The buyers were working with a buyers agent, so they would have to pay them 2.5% of the selling price but they were happy to do so because that agent was so very helpful and represented her clients well.
James and Mary made sure they deposited the buyers deposit check into their attorneys escrow account until the closing.
The young couple had an home inspection right away and found a few minor items but nothing that couldn’t be fixed.
After a few more weeks the mortgage was fully approved, the closing was scheduled and everyone met at the buyers attorneys office to successfully complete the sale!
As Mary anticipated, selling your own home takes a lot of work— but the pay off is worth the effort.
Using a flat fee MLS listing service instead of a listing agent can save you thousands of your hard-earned equity.
In fact, James and Mary end up saving a total of $9,450!
Want to learn more?
Click one of the questions below to jump to that question we will answer in detail! Or just keep reading.
- What is a Flat Fee MLS Listing?
- How Do I Get a Flat Fee MLS Listing?
- How Much Money Can I Save Using a Flat Fee MLS Service?
- Is a Flat Fee MLS Listing Right for Me?
- How Much Does It Cost to Use a Flat Fee MLS Service?
- What Is the Home Seller Responsible for When Using a Flat Fee MLS Service?
- Will a Buyer’s Agent Avoid Showing My Flat Fee MLS Listed House?
- How Does a Flat Fee MLS Service Get the Information About My Home?
Get LISTED Realty is a Direct Flat Fee MLS Real Estate Broker in the Following States. Click to Check Out State Specific Information!
What is a Flat Fee MLS Listing?
In our example above, Mary explained to James that using a flat fee mls listing service can save them a lot of money.
This is because while they are selling by owner, they are still gaining maximum exposure to active buyers that are working with real estate agents who use the MLS as their primary source for listings currently on the market.
But just what is an MLS listing?
MLS stands for “Multiple Listing Service,” although some people will call it the “Multiple Listing System”; regardless of local nomenclature, the MLS is a database of available homes for sale that licensed realtors can access to find homes for their buyers and to list for their sellers.
It also automatically posts the listing to hundreds of real estate websites— some of which will only pull from the MLS.
Most Realtors are considered ‘Full Service’ and will list your house in the MLS, only if you pay them a listing commission (2.5%-3%) and a buyers agent commission (2.5%-3%).
A Flat Fee MLS Listing Service, is a state licensed real estate broker that provides an ‘Entry Only’ service instead of ‘Full Service’.
You pay a pre-set sum of money, and they place your listing on the MLS, schedule your open houses and make changes to your listing as you move through the sale process.
Unlike a full-service listing, you won’t be assigned an agent to handle all of your showing requests, negotiations and any other activity associated with the sale of your home.
Instead, your personal contact information will be listed on the MLS entry, and you’ll handle everything yourself.
Differences between a ‘Full Service’ and ‘Flat Fee MLS Service’
|Real Estate Service||Full Service Listing||Flat Fee MLS Listing|
|Market to buyers agents by listing property for sale in local MLS||✓||✓|
|Schedule showings for the seller with buyers and buyers agents||✓||☓|
|Present and explain offers to the sellers from buyer and buyers agents||✓||☓|
|Advise the sellers as to the merits of an offer to purchase their home||✓||☓|
|Assist the seller in negotiations such as counter-offers and offer acceptance||✓||☓|
|Save the seller THOUSANDS with a low flat fee instead of high commission||☓||✓|
It is important to note that there are numerous terms used to describe a flat fee MLS listing service, in addition, to other discounted real estate services.
The Department of Justice often describes these as “nontraditional,” “fee-for-service,” and “menu driven,” as they contrast the traditional services offered by a licensed real estate broker when selling a property.
When it comes to flat fee MLS listing services, the term “a la carte” is often preferred, as the service is not limited but driven by more choices on the consumer’s end.
There is also some confusion caused by other nontraditional services from real estate brokerages that charge a flat fee of a couple or few thousand dollars to sell your home instead of a commission, but is not the same as a flat fee MLS listing.
When discussing the use of a flat fee MLS service, be aware of this shifting terminology and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
How Do I Get a Flat Fee MLS Listing?
First, you’ll need to find a state licensed real estate broker that offers this service.
You can check locally, but you can mostly find online services.
You will purchase a flat fee mls listing on their website and then start the listing process from there.
Perhaps the most important part is you will want to be sure the companies online site lists with your local MLS; it won’t do much good if they advertise in the wrong location!
Many states have multiple MLS databases, often split by counties.
Be sure to investigate any company thoroughly before moving forward.
You can follow Mary’s example by searching the internet for reviews and checking to see if they are listed with the Better Business Bureau.
Other sellers also check with the Attorney General’s office to ensure no complaints have been filed against a business.
Some companies offer cheaper rates, but they tend to be notorious for poor customer service.
Don’t be afraid to compare more than one service before making your decision!
You need a responsive broker; MLS can and will impose fines if any status updates aren’t made within 24 hours or if any of the information is incorrect.
When you put your house on the market as a “For Sale By Owner” listing, you are responsible for those fines.
You also want to know that the broker will forward you any buyer leads from online forms they receive.
Any good MLS Listing Service will offer terms for instant cancellation should you decide not to use their service further.
You can find these online real estate brokers through direct contact or a referral service.
If you use a referral service, including big name companies such as forsalebyowner.com and fsbo.com, you will end up paying additional fees, so it is cheaper to use the direct approach.
The referral companies just typically take your payment and then refer you to a local real estate broker that offers this service.
So you really don’t know who or what you are getting until it possibly is too late and cost you more than it had to if you went directly to the local broker.
Once you’ve purchased your listing, you will have some paperwork to fill out.
This paperwork includes your homes listing information and a listing agreement.
A good online flat fee broker will have all of this paperwork online also.
If you find one that is still using fax or even mail for this paperwork then that is a very bad sign.
The agreement will state the limited terms from the broker and what amount of commission you offer buyer’s agents.
Most real estate brokers and MLS systems offer two types of listing agreements for a flat fee MLS listing— some areas offer more, so make sure to check your local information.
The first is an “Exclusive Right to Sell.”
With this, you pay the listing broker a specified amount regardless of whether you find a buyer through their services or on your own.
In contrast, and “Exclusive Agency” agreement allows the seller to market their house outside of the broker and not pay a commission if they find their own buyer.
It simply restricts the seller from listing through other agencies.
The Exclusive Agency agreement is what you want to sign and should be very cautious of an Exclusive Right to Sell listing agreement as a for sale by owner.
Get LISTED Realty is a Direct Flat Fee MLS Real Estate Broker in the Following States. Click to Check Out State Specific Information!
How Much Money Can I Save Using a Flat Fee MLS Service?
For starters, you’ll save what would have been paid to a full-service listing agent as commission.
They take a percentage of the final selling price as their commission.
But when your list your home on the MLS and an agent brings a buyer to you, then you will still have to pay the buyers agents commission that you agreed to in the listing agreement you signed.
You also have the option of working directly with a buyer, avoiding the need to pay a commission to a buyer’s agent.
If that happens, this can save you many thousands of dollars!
The exact amount will always vary based on the value of your home and the standard commission rate in your area, that is why we built the calculator below for you to figure out your exact savings.
Is a Flat Fee MLS Listing Right for Me?
This one is a little trickier to answer, as it takes some personal reflection about yourself and current situation.
Do you have the time to take on all of the tasks a listing agent would typically perform?
Can you get your house’s value correct to calculate a price, create a budget, hire a photographer, find a real estate attorney, and negotiate directly with real estate agents or buyers directly?
This isn’t to discourage you in any way and all of those items above are not overly complicated provided you have some experience you could apply to the sale of your home.
But if you do decide to take on the task of selling by owner the rewards are plentiful!
Do you need the money you can save from the lack of commission, perhaps to hire a moving company or to afford a larger down payment on your new home?
Maybe you need a vacation or need to pay down some other personal debt?
Are you a savvy DIY-er who loves to take on these types of projects?
If yes, then a Flat Fee MLS is the perfect option for you.
If no, then you may want to consider finding a full-service listing agent, instead.
How Much Does It Cost to Use a Flat Fee MLS Service?
If you go with the direct approach, it is easier to find reasonable rates among various brokers.
A typical rate is $200-400, depending on the level of service and listing features such as the number of photographs, length, and whether or not they include free updates.
Some brokers can charge as high as $1,000, but they tend to offer additional services that vary by company.
Make sure you understand the pricing before you select which company to use.
Some companies will list your house on the MLS for FREE or for as low as $99.
Be cautious of this approach, it is just a way to get your business and then run up the charges on you with hidden fees or lots of other charges, once you sign up with them!
What Is the Home Seller Responsible for When Using a Flat Fee MLS Service?
Real Estate Brokerages traditionally deliver a bundled package of services, which includes assisting the seller in setting a list price, advertising and marketing the property for sale, listing the property, handling buyer inquiries and scheduling showings, hosting Open Houses, handling contracts and negotiating on the seller’s behalf, and managing the transaction and closing escrow.
You would then pay a commission to the broker after your sale has closed.
When you go the Flat Fee MLS Listing route, the broker is only responsible for creating the listing, scheduling open houses and making any updates.
Everything else is on you.
So it is important that you learn how to sell a house by owner.
You will also be responsible for negotiating the contract with a buyer or buyer’s agent and many homeowners elect to hire a Real Estate Attorney to review the deal and handle the legalities with the transaction.
Any paperwork, escrow management and next steps after you accept an offer will be your responsibility.
Many Flat Fee MLS Real Estate Brokers may offer additional help— at an additional cost.
If this fits in your budget, or if you need it, then don’t be afraid to take them up on the upgrade.
Be sure to have any photos you want on the listing ready to go before you purchase your listing.
You can hire a professional photographer like Mary decided, or you can ask a friend or take on the task of the real estate photography yourself.
MLS listings require at least one photo; the faster selling listings have several high-quality images.
Also, you will want to price your house appropriately in order for it to get the best results.
Actually, that’s sound advice for listing with or without a Realtor.
When it comes to writing the listing description, be careful with what language you use.
Avoid terms like “motivated seller”— because if you sound desperate, someone may try and low-ball you or scam you.
You will want to make sure that you are working with serious buyers only and try not to attract the wrong types of buyers.
Also you will want to avoid any discriminatory language that could discourage any groups of people from looking at your home.
If you’ve recently upgraded any of your appliances or features, be sure to use brand names.
Big-name appliance companies like Whirlpool, Kohler, Viking, and others spend millions every year on advertising.
You can take advantage of this by dropping their name in your listing to catch someone’s attention.
Consider what you look for when you are browsing real estate listings and transform your listing to match.
Don’t just say you have a pool and a patio for grilling, say that you have a backyard retreat perfect for summer barbecues and family get-togethers.
And most importantly, have fun throughout the process!
Will a Buyer’s Agent Avoid Showing My Flat Fee MLS Listed House?
The simple answer to this is “no,” but let’s break it down a little further.
Many buyers are taking a more active approach by researching houses on sites like Trulia, Zillow, and Realtor.com and bringing them to their Realtor to book a showing.
Also, offering a commission for the buyer’s agent that is typical for your market, usually 2.5% – 3% is typical practice across the board, so they still receive payment for their time and effort.
The agent also has to consider their reputation and their client’s best interest.
If they find a listing but don’t show it, their client may find the listing on their own and choose to proceed without their assistance.
If they don’t have an exclusive buyers agreement.
Finally, Realtors are bound by code of ethics rules and anti-trust laws that prevent them from discriminating against another real estate broker just because of their business model.
The buyer’s agent wants to find their client the perfect home and receive their commission and get a good review and referrals, they won’t avoid your listing simply because it’s listed with a flat fee MLS listing.
In fact, it can be argued that flat fee MLS listings are doing buyers agents a favor by securing a commission for them from a for sale by owner.
Otherwise, they would have to negotiate directly with the seller for a commission without any guarantee that they will be successful!
How Does a Flat Fee MLS Service Get the Information About My Home?
Simple: you provide it!
All MLS databases have different requirements for data entry, and your broker will have a form that you will fill out.
Many offer these forms through a website, making entry much easier and can help ensure accuracy.
Be sure to find a flat fee MLS listing service that has a solid website where everything can be done online.
This will no doubt make it easier on you and make sure there are not any unnecessary delays!
Wow, That Information Was Very Helpful!—So…What Now?
Now it’s time to get out there and sell that house!
You can follow James and Mary’s example, or you can blaze your own trail.
Everyone works differently, so don’t feel that you absolutely must use the same process.
This article is meant to be a helpful and informative guideline, not a strict how-to!
Once your house is listed, your flat fee real estate broker will be your go-to contact for anything regarding your listing, including updating once it sells.
Remember, you’ll only be newly listed once, so put your best foot (and best photos) forward from the start.
If you have any questions during the process, you can always refer to our FSBO Guide!
Thanks for taking the time to read this article, please drop a comment below and let us know if you need a referral for a local flat fee MLS broker… or if you have any further questions!