The time has come to sell your home and so many questions are running through your head.

picture of a woman thinking about selling her house

  • 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, after all it’s your home equity!

But where do you even start? And what are all the steps?

To better understand selling your house with this type of service, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide on listing your house with Flat Fee MLS.

picture of a for sale by owner sign

1) What is a Flat Fee MLS Listing?

 
 

Here is the bottom-line, using a flat fee mls listing service 100% works (when used correctly) and can save you a lot of money.

This is because you are selling for sale by owner AND you still gain 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 working with 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 listing, and you’ll handle everything yourself.

Differences between a ‘Full Service Listing’ and ‘Flat Fee MLS Listing’

Real Estate ServiceFull Service ListingFlat 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 these types of listings, in addition, to other discounted real estate services.

The Department of Justice often describes these as “non-traditional,” “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 listing your house on the MLS for a flat-fee and limiting the additional services provide, 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 this service, be aware of this shifting terminology and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

picture of questions marks

2) How Can I List My House With This Service?

 
There are a lot of options out there that are offering to list a home in the MLS for a low flat fee. You are going to want to find a company that has a reliable network of real estate brokers that offer this service.

Working with a larger company means you get the knowledge and experience that is needed to navigate through the in’s and out’s of the process. A larger company can also get better service from their real estate broker network because they send them a lot of business and the local brokers want to ensure they keep the customers happy.

Below Are The Steps To List Your House With Flat Fee MLS

  • Find the Best Flat Fee MLS Broker That Services Your Area
  • Purchase Your MLS Listing for a Flat Fee
  • Provide the Property Information
  • Upload the Photographs
  • Sign a Listing Agreement
  • House Will Then Get Posted to the MLS

Next we will take a look at each of these steps to get a clearer picture.

1) Find the Best Flat Fee MLS Broker That Services Your Area:

This is the first step and probably the most important for you to execute correctly. To start, you’ll need to work with a company that has a network of state licensed real estate brokers that offers this service.

Another very important point, is to make sure they will list your house in the appropriate local MLS. There is not just 1 MLS and most states have multiple MLS databases, often grouped and split by counties. So a good company will make sure they have coverage for all the MLS’s in a state.

A bad company will just post your home in whatever MLS they are a member of in your state to save themselves money. It will not do you any good if they advertise your home in the wrong MLS. So a little research can go a long way.

Be sure to investigate any company thoroughly before moving forward.

How To Verify a Flat Fee MLS Company Is Reputable
  • Do they have a page for your state that is current and updated?
  • Are they members of the appropriate MLS for your area?
  • Is their website user friendly and informative?
  • Search the internet to check out their online presence
  • Do they have positive flat fee MLS reviews?
  • Are they a member of the Better Business Bureau?
  • How long have they been active in the online real estate business?

In terms of price, some companies offer cheaper rates or are even offer to list your house for free, but they tend to be notorious for poor customer service or have lots of hidden fees. Don’t be afraid to compare more than one service before making your decision!

You will also 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 contacts or inquiries that they will they receive.

Any good MLS Listing Service will offer terms for instant cancellation should you decide not to use their service further.

2) Purchase Your MLS Listing for a Flat Fee:

Once you have identified a flat fee MLS company that you want to work with, you will need to purchase the listing. Most of them have this capability built right into their website. Before purchasing, you should understand if there is a refund policy after you make the purchase. Most will allow you can cancel and get a full refund if they have not begun working on your listing yet.

3) Provide the Property Information:

Once you’ve purchased your listing, you will have some paperwork to fill out. The first piece of paperwork is your homes property information for correct data entry into the MLS. A good online flat fee broker will have all of this done online with a form you can easily fill out.

If you find one that is still using fax, scanning or even mail for this paperwork, that is a sign you may have choosen the wrong company.

Most MLS’s have a lot of fields to fill out that describe your property and if you choose the right company to work with, their forms will have all these fields for you to fill out. The less reputable companies will not capture all the required information and either leave a lot of data out or worse they will take a guess.

Make sure you provide accurate information about your property in these forms. You don’t want to misrepresent any of the details about your home that will just leave buyers disappointed or worse you could be liable for misrepresentation if you covered up a material fact about your home.

Once your house is listed you should receive a pdf of the listing as it appears in the MLS. This gives you an opportunity to review it for accuracy and let the broker know if any changes need to be made.

4) Upload the Photographs:

Correctly marketing your home online requires photographs that showcase your home to look it’s best. You will want to make sure the photographs you submit to your flat fee MLS broker for your listing are either professional or if you take them yourself they are of the highest quality.

MLS’s don’t allow an unlimited amount of photos, most have a limit of 25-40. It really all depends on the MLS rules. Check what your listing plan that you purchased allows for and if you have more photos than the MLS allows, make sure you choose the best ones possible. Don’t leave it up to the broker to select which ones they think is the best.

A lot of flat fee MLS listing websites will have a photo upload form for you to submit your photos. Others will require you to email them or send a link to them to be downloaded. The most important part is that the photos look good, how they get to the flat fee company is more a matter of convenience.

5) Sign a Listing Agreement:

This listing agreement will state the limited terms from the broker and what amount of commission you offer to buyer’s agents on the MLS.

Most real estate brokers and MLS systems offer two types of listing agreements for listings described below.

  • Exclusive Right to Sell – With this agreement, you pay the listing broker a specified amount regardless of whether you find a buyer through their services or on your own.
  • Exclusive Agency – With this agreement, it allows the seller to market their house outside of the broker and not pay a commission if they find their own buyer.

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.

For more detailed information, I cover the listing agreement in the section below titled Do I Have To Sign a Contract To List My Home?

picture of stack of money saved after selling with flat fee

3) How Much Money Can I Save?

 
For starters, you’ll save AT LEAST 50% of the commissions, because of 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 you list your home on the MLS without a Realtor they are not working for a commission, they are providing a limited service of just entering your home in the MLS for a flat fee, everything else is your responsibility.

When a buyers 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.

HOWEVER, you also have the option of finding and working directly with a buyer who is not represented by a buyers real estate agent, avoiding the need to pay a commission at all!

If that happens, this can save you many, 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.

Flat Fee MLS Listing Savings Calculator

  •    

    Below is your total calculated savings!

picture of a woman thinking about listing her home

4) Is Selling FSBO Right for Me?

 
 
 
This one is a little trickier to answer, there are advantages but 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 selling your house this way is the perfect option for you.

If no, then you may want to consider finding a full-service listing agent, instead.

Here are the advantages of listing with flat fee MLS.

  • Exposure: A flat fee MLS listing will list your house on the local MLS that only Realtors have access to list homes in. Giving sellers maximum exposure to buyers who are working with real estate agents, as well as internet exposure to local and national websites real estate websites, including, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and all the others.
  • Save Money: When a home seller decides to purchase a flat fee MLS listing they typically only pay a few hundred dollars which saves them thousands in listing agents commissions. This is by choosing to handle the listing agents responsibilities on their own. A flat fee MLS listing plan is still a for sale by owner of FSBO. You do have to offer a buyers agent commission, we recommend 2.5% – 3%. But if you find a buyer who is not working with an agent you save that money too.
  • Control: Savvy home sellers who chose to list with a flat fee MLS real estate broker are in control of the sale of their house. This means that they are 100% responsible for listing, showing, setting the price and negotiating. Sometimes an owner can do a better job selling their home than a real estate agent. In this situation, it makes perfect sense for an owner to handle the sale of their home by themselves.
  • Cancel at any time: With a full service real estate broker they typically have you sign a contract that doesn’t allow you to cancel if you are unsatisfied for any reason. With a flat fee broker, you are allowed to cancel the contract and change your strategy at any point in time.

picture of cost of listing your home

5) How Much Does It Cost to Use a FSBO 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!

picture of home seller responsibilities

6) What Tasks Does a Seller Have To Do In Order To Sell Their House?

 

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 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’ll need to buy a key lock box for your door, display a For Sale By Owner sign in your front yard, and schedule any showings.

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 of these 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.

Be creative!

And most importantly, have fun throughout the process!

picture of a person signing a contract

7) Do I Have To Sign a Contract To List My Home?

 

Yes. When you choose to list your house on the MLS with a flat fee listing broker instead of a traditional full service agent, you still need to sign a contract with that broker.

This is typically done electronically and not with an actual “wet” signature.

You might be asking yourself “why do I need to sign a contract for a flat fee MLS?”, after all you purchased the listing plan already online and you are selling on your own.

Well the answer is because the listing broker has legal & compliance responsibilities that they need to maintain with both the local MLS’s and the associations of Realtors on the state and national level.

In order to ensure that this level of compliance is maintained, they are dependent on you for some of the most critical items.

The contract that is typically used is what’s called an “Exclusive Agency” contract.

An exclusive agency contract defines the agreement between the flat fee MLS broker and the home seller, including but not limited to the following items related to paying commission. (Source)

  • If the property is sold by the seller without any use of a buyers agent, the seller is not obligated to pay a buyers agent commission.
  • If the property is sold by a buyers agent, the seller is obligated to pay the agreed buyers agent commission.

This is otherwise known as an “Entry Only” contract because it further limits the scope of the agreement to only listing the house in the MLS.

A good flat fee MLS real estate broker will have additional items in their entry only contract.

Below Are The Typical Items A Home Seller Is Contractually Responsible For With Flat Fee MLS

  • Paying a Buyers Agents Commission
  • Accurately and timely updates to the status of the listing
  • Disclosure requirements
  • Not discriminating against any fair housing laws
  • Releasing the listing broker of any liability and damages

Next we will take a look at each of these items to get a clearer picture.

1) Paying a Buyers Agents Commission


When you list your house with a traditional real estate broker, you most likely will pay both a listing agents commission and buyers agents commission. The listing agent will enter your home into the MLS and offer a commission to any buyers agent that produces a ready, willing and able buyer for your home. When you list your house with a flat fee MLS listing broker, you save thousands by not having to pay the listing agents commission.

However, in order for your home to be listed in the MLS, you will still need to offer a buyers agents commission. This is a requirement of listing your house in the MLS. After all, a buyers agent would not show your house to their client without ensuring that they will getting paid. You do get to choose what you want to offer but we always recommend 2.5-3% to get the best possible results for the sale of your house.

2) Accurately and timely updates to the status of the listing


The MLS is a database of all the houses that are currently on the market with a real estate broker. In order to have this database valuable, the data needs to be accurate and dependable. The MLS will enforce this requirement with fines to ensure that real estate agents update their listings within 24 hours of status changes. So when you list with a flat fee MLS contract, this ensures that you notify the service of these status changes.

If you don’t the fines can be passed on to the homeowner if they didn’t follow the terms in the contract. Keep in mind, nobody wants to deal with fines (MLS officials included) but it is necessary to make sure everyone plays by the rules and the data is reliable.

3) Disclosure requirements


Home sellers have a responsibility to make disclosures about their property to prospective home buyers. There are federal lead based paint disclosure requirements as well as each state can have additional disclosure requirements.

A flat fee MLS listing broker will need to ensure that their customers know about these requirements and their obligations to disclose any material defects or facts about their home that a home buyer would want to know before buying their home. A good contract will both inform and enforce these disclosure requirements.

4) Not discriminating against any fair housing laws


Another federal requirement is ensuring both real estate agents and home sellers do not violate any federal laws by discriminating against any of the protected classes when selling a home by owner. Home sellers need to be aware of this requirement just like the disclosure requirements and this is also enforced and informed in a contract to list your home for sale in the MLS for a flat fee.

5) Releasing the listing broker of any liability and damages

When you are selling your house as a FSBO the listing agent will most likely want to ensure that they are not responsible for any liability or fines, fees or even judgements resulting from the sale of your home. This is standard practice and makes good business sense for them.

Sometimes when people hear the word contract they think it is a negative thing.

That’s why we like to call it an agreement instead, it spells out the terms of the relationship so that both sides understand what is required of them. In the end this leads to a productive business relationship.

picture of a buyers agent avoiding showing a house

8) Will a Buyer’s Agent Avoid Showing My 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.

If you offer a low commission, it could hinder the sale of your home and leave you wondering why isn’t my house selling???

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. (source)

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. (source)

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 these types 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!

picture of entering mls listing information

9) How Do Get the Information About My Home Into the MLS?

 
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 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!

picture of for sale sign mls listings for a flat fee

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 Home Selling Guide!

Thanks for taking the time to read this article, please drop a comment below or let us know if you have any further questions!

picture of Kris Lippi owner of ISoldMyHouse.com
About the Author: This article was written by Kris Lippi, the Owner of ISoldMyHouse.com and Broker of Get LISTED Realty. He enjoys writing about real estate related topics such as buying and selling homes, how-to guides for around the house and home product recommendations. He has been featured in Inman, Readers Digest, American Express, Fit Small Business, Policy Genius, Lending Tree, GoDaddy, Manta as well as others. Want to know more? Read more here.
 

 

Like This Article? Share it!

5
Leave a Reply

avatar
2 Comment threads
3 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
5 Comment authors
Kimberly JonesKris Lippi (Owner & Broker)CarolKris Lippi (Owner & Broker)Larry Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Larry
Guest
Larry

The beginning of the end for both listing and buyer brokers…finally. With a 3rd grade education most people can read and understand everything with ease. Within 5 years we will have “Open Source” listings wiping out even the MLS. Greed be gone. Sellers deserve the money they’ve earned…not the brokers.

Carol
Guest
Carol

I have had realtors come in and tell me if i want to sell, i have to enlist them to be able to sell on MLS. I have been skeptical of other things that were told to me so i will sell it myself without realtor involvement…….shame on them, get the listing and then they do virtually nothing to sell your house . I have to do all the work while they collect big commission, laws need to change FOR SURE!

Home » Flat Fee MLS
picture of shopping for moving supplies   300x250 Covered Home Repairs   U-Pack
picture of our home selling guide