9 Things For Sale By Owners Need To Know About Flat Fee MLS Listings

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

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  • 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 list your propery on internet real estate 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 be used towards your new house, paying for movers, paying off debt, perhaps college education for your kids, really anything that you want or need, after all, it’s your hard-earned home equity!

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

Flat Fee MLS Listings Explained

We put together the video below for you to watch that shows you everything you need to know about how to use flat fee MLS to list your house without a Realtor.

YouTube video


Check out how to start your flat fee MLS listing NOW


If the above video did not answer all your questions, we did a deep dive on all “9 Things FSBOs Need To Know About Flat Fee MLS Listings” below!

1) What Is a Flat Fee MLS Listing?
2) How Can I List My House With This Service?
3) How Much Money Can I Save?
4) Is Selling FSBO Right for Me?
5) How Much Does It Cost to Use a FSBO MLS Service?
6) What Tasks Does a Seller Have To Do In Order To Sell Their House?
7) Do I Have To Sign a Listing Contract To List My Home?
8) Will a Buyer’s Agent Avoid Showing My House?
9) How Do I Get the Information About My Home Into the MLS?


1) What is a Flat Fee MLS Listing?

Here is the bottom line, using a flat fee MLS listing service works (when used correctly) and can save you a lot of money. At least 50% off the commission you would typically pay, more on that topic later.

This is because you are selling your house as a for sale by owner (or FSBO) and the major advantage is that you still gain maximum exposure to active buyers that are working with real estate agents. These agents use the MLS as their primary source for listings currently on the market for their clients.

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 buyer’s agent commission (2.5%-3%) for a total of 5%-6%, and higher in some cases!

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 multiple listing service, 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.

We put together the below table to help break down these differences between real estate services.

“Full-Service Listing” vs “Flat Fee MLS Listing”

Real Estate Service Full-Service Listing Flat Fee MLS Listing
Market to buyers agents by listing property for sale in local MLS Yes Yes
Schedule showings for the seller with buyers and buyers agents Yes No
Present and explain offers to the sellers from buyer and buyers agents Yes No
Advise the sellers as to the merits of an offer to purchase their home Yes No
Assist the seller in negotiations such as counter-offers and offer acceptance Yes No
Save the seller THOUSANDS with a low flat fee instead of high commission No Yes

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,” “a la cart” 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 provided, the term “a la carte” is often preferred, as the service is not limited but driven by more choices on the consumer’s end. Some flat fee MLS listings are just entering your home in the multiple listing service, others will include a few other services such as purchase contract review or pricing advice, most are just the “Entry Only” type though.

There is also some confusion caused by other non-traditional 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, this would more likely be referred to as a flat fee REALTOR®.

We know this is confusing, which is why we are trying to break it down and explain it to you. So when you are researching the use of this service, be aware of this shifting terminology and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

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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

  1. Find the Best Flat Fee MLS Broker That Services Your Area
  2. Purchase Your MLS Listing for a Flat Fee
  3. Provide the Property Information
  4. Upload the Photographs
  5. Sign a Listing Agreement
  6. 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 Listing 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 property in the appropriate local MLS. There is not just 1 multiple listing service and most states have multiple MLS databases, often grouped and split by counties. So the best flat fee MLS listing service 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?

Please Note: We are a flat fee MLS listing company that meets all the above criteria and we would love for you to choose to work with us as your listing provider. If you are interested in learning more about our program check out our “How It Works” page.

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 to you any leads from buyers’ agents or buyers that inquire about your listing.

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 home’s 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 chosen 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 its best. You will want to ensure the photographs you submit to your flat fee MLS service 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 flat fee listing plan that you purchased allows for and if you have more photos than the MLS allows, be 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 they will follow to list your home and what amount of commission you offer to buyer’s agents on the MLS.

Most real estate brokers and multiple listing services 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 not working with a buyer’s agent.

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 using a flat fee listing service.

picture of thinking emojiWant To Learn More About Selling a House With Us?

Every state and even county is different and it’s important to work with a company that will navigate you through the correct options in your local market. We are a nationwide network of the best real estate brokers that offer flat fee MLS listing services.

Our service has been helping people just like you save you thousands of dollars when you sell your home since 1997.

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 buyer’s agent brings a buyer to you, then you will still have to pay the buyer’s agent 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 buyer’s 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!


Check out how to start your flat fee MLS listing NOW

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 an agent would typically perform when listing a property for sale? 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 for sale by owner is the perfect option for you. If not, then you may want to consider finding a full-service listing agent to list your home instead.

Here are the advantages of listing with flat fee MLS.

  • Exposure: A flat fee MLS listing will list your propery 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 internet real estate 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 agent’s responsibilities on their own. A flat fee MLS listing plan is still a for sale by owner or FSBO. You do have to offer a buyer’s 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 listing 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 listing contract and change your strategy at any point in time.

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! This is a common complaint many for sale by owners make getting their home on the MLS for as cheap as possible.

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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 purchase 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, after all, you are trying to sell for sale by owner to save money by taking on tasks an agent would normally handle for you.

So it is important that you learn how to sell a house by owner.

You’ll need to buy a key lockbox 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 purchase 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 but 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 your home 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 validate 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. There are federal and state fair housing laws that you will need to be aware of.

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!

Check out how to start your flat fee MLS listing NOW

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

Yes. When you choose to list your property on the MLS with a flat fee listing broker instead of a traditional full-service agent, you still need to sign a listing 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 listing contract for a flat fee MLS?”, after all, you purchased the flat fee 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 listing contract that is typically used is what’s called an “Exclusive Agency” listing contract.

An exclusive agency listing 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 buyer’s agent commission.

This is otherwise known as an “Entry Only” listing contract because it further limits the scope of the agreement to only listing the house in the multiple listing service. The best for sale by owner MLS listing services will have additional items in their entry-only flat fee listing 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 agent’s commission and buyer’s agent 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 agent’s commission.

However, in order for your home to be listed in the MLS, you will still need to offer a buyer’s agent commission. This is a requirement of listing your house in the MLS, even though you are still a for sale by owner. After all, a buyer’s agent would not show your house to their client without ensuring that they will get 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 multiple listing service 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 listing 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 listing 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 listing 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 listing 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 judgments resulting from the sale of your home. This is standard practice and makes good business sense for them.

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

That’s why we like to call it a listing 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.

Ready To Get Listed? Start Here!

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 internet real estate 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 service.

In fact, it can be argued that these types of 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!

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

Simple, you provide it!

All multiple listing service 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.

However, once you provide all the information to the service, they will have to have their staff actually enter your listing into the MLS. This is because only the licensed Realtors or their staff can access the MLS directly.

Ideally, you will want to find an MLS listing service that has a solid website where everything can be done online. This will no doubt make it easier on you and reduce the chances for unnecessary delays! However, the MLS requires a lot of data, and keeping up with the requirements can be pretty cumbersome for a computer programmer. A lot of brokers use pdf forms too.

Once you signup for the service, you will be sent instructions on how to provide the data for your listing to be entered in your local MLS.

Check out how to start your flat fee MLS service NOW

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!

Ready To Get Listed? Start Here!

Want even more helpful information? This comprehensive infographic and guide below explain how to list your house with Flat Fee MLS with enough detail for even the most persnickety home sellers!

Don’t forget to use the coupon code at the end to save some money when you purchase a listing with us!

infographic that shows the 9 things fsbos need to know about flat fee mls listings


Check out how to start your flat fee MLS listing NOW


Please Note: this guide is for home sellers to understand flat fee MLS and how to find the best company to sell their house with this service. If you are a real estate agent interested in learning about the flat fee MLS service for your buyer clients, you can read this article. Or keep reading if you want to know what information we are giving to our sellers.

picture of Kris Lippi owner of ISoldMyHouse.comAbout the Author: This article was written by Kris Lippi, the Owner of ISoldMyHouse.com and Broker of Get LISTED Realty and is a member of the Forbes Real Estate Council. 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, American Express, Fox News, Manta as well as others. Want to know more? Read more here.


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