The Truth About Flat Fee Realtors


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The times they are a-changin’. Gone are the days of needing a real estate agent for everything from marketing to listing to closing. Technology has dramatically changed the real estate market. Today, buyers have access to nearly everything they need online. Similarly, if you’re looking to sell your home, you have a range of online options to meet your needs.

For decades, sellers were accustomed to a traditional realtor model, where you hire an agent to take care of the entire selling process from start to finish, and at the end of the process, you paid a 6% commission fee that was totaled from the final selling price of your home. Depending on the cost of your home, this fee can be quite steep.

Brokerages decided to shake this traditional model up and generated creative new ways to satisfy customers. The 6% fee became 2%, then 1%, and the latest buzz is the flat fee. So what does this mean for you as a seller? Which option is right for you?

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The Flat Fee Realtor Business Model

 

Flat fee realtors, or discount realtors, are what you think—agents who charge a fixed rate or flat fee, instead of a percentage commission, for their services.

Choosing a flat fee realtor will save you money. Traditional realtors charge a commission on the final sale price of your home. Typically, 3% goes to the buyer’s agents, and 3% goes to the listing agent, so it is important to know the differences between them. If your home is expensive and sells at a high price, both agents can earn quite a hefty amount. Consider your home sells for $350,000. You will pay $21,000 in commission fees.

With a flat fee realtor, you know what your costs will be before you even begin your home selling process. Typically, the flat fee is a few thousand dollars, depending on the real estate market in the area you live. Some realtors will offer different flat rate fees that include different service bundles so you can pick and choose the options that you need.

Are they the same as traditional agents?

Flat fee agents that offer full services are exactly the same as traditional agents, without the added commission. They offer the same assistance and work with you through the entire process of selling your home. If your agent offers full services from start to finish that includes:

  • Listing your home on the MLS
  • Listing your home on online sites like Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com, and more
  • Marketing services, including professional photography of your home
  • Assistance and competitive market analysis to help you choose a correct listing price
  • Open houses
  • Scheduled home showings
  • Lockbox
  • For Sale yard sign
  • Price negotiations
  • Scheduling home inspections and repairs
  • Closing paperwork and sales contract assistance

Why do they work for a flat fee?

You might be wondering what’s the catch? Why would any agent choose to work for a flat fee if the cost is significantly lower than a traditional agent would make?

Oftentimes, flat fee realtors work through referral networks. They can save time and effort in finding new clients. Marketing themselves and finding new clients is often the only operational costs a realtor might have. A referral network allows flat fee realtors the opportunity to acquire many leads fast and close quickly. So while each sale might bring in less money, they make up for it in quantity.

As technology has placed more power in the hands of the seller, it is likely that flat fee realtors are truly the realtors of the future. Good agents see the growing need for this type of service and are embracing the wants and needs of their clientele.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the digital age has changed everything about real estate. Over half of all home buyers found their homes online. Buyers can search hundreds of listings on their own and then present a few options for their agent to show them.

You should also note that there are not large operating costs involved in the service of selling homes. Marketing is easily done online or through social media accounts. Your agent will make some profit regardless of how much they charge.

We Already Negotiated Discounts With Agents For You. Find One In Your Area.

Should You Use a Flat Fee Real Estate Agent?

 

Remember that not all agents are created equal, and you should always read reviews before making any decisions. However, if you feel comfortable with your knowledge of the real estate market and are looking to save money, choosing a flat fee real estate agent might be your best plan when selling your home.

Pros

  • Cost: You will save money. The flat fee is a reduced price and likely not nearly as much as the percent based commission fee of a traditional realtor. You also know upfront what all the costs are, regardless of the final sale price of your home.
  • Commitment: There is less commitment when you work with a flat fee real estate agent. Often traditional brokers force you to sign a contract, and if you decide you no longer want their services, it can be challenging to get out of the contract.
  • Control: You don’t have to wait for your agent to be available. You can ask for control over the selling process, including scheduling showings, changing your listing price, etc. You will have your own access to the MLS, which can offer you a wealth of information that you would not have on your own.

Cons

  • Services: Make sure you know exactly what services you are being offered. Is your agent willing to help answer your questions? Do you like to do business in person, and your flat fee agent is used to working behind the scenes? If you decide to make changes to your listing, will they allow this?
  • Time: A traditional agent working on commission offers you a variety of services to justify the commission percentage. They will work as your partner and will offer to do all of the leg work. They will print flyers and distribute them. They will help stage your home and may even bake cookies for your open house. Ask your flat fee agent how much time they are willing to devote to you.
  • Control: If the idea of searching for your next home online makes you nervous, and you want to hand over control to an agent and have the entire selling and buying process taken care of seamlessly, you might feel more comfortable with a traditional realtor.
We Already Negotiated Discounts With Agents For You. Find One In Your Area.

How to Find a Flat Fee Realtor

 

There is a range of options available to help you find the best flat fee agent. The easiest place to begin is to ask for recommendations. Talk to neighbors, coworkers, and friends about their realtors. Most people are eager to offer their opinions and thoughts on how their real estate experience played out.

Keep in mind that working with a realtor that you already know (such as a family member or best friend) isn’t always the wisest choice and can make selling your home uncomfortable. Do you want this person privy to all of your financial information? If the process doesn’t go according to your plan, you might feel unwanted tension for years.

If you aren’t pressed for time, consider visiting open houses in your neighborhood and surrounding area. You can talk to other homeowners and meet the realtors working in your area up close and personal.

Trust Google to help you out. If you do a quick search, you will likely find a ton of good agents near you. You can also choose an online referral service designed to help you find the right agent for you in your area.

Check out the Better Business Bureau’s website and search for a real estate agent. You can filter to include only realtors that have worked to earn a BBB accreditation, and they also assign a letter grade rating to each real estate group.

Remember that not all agents are good agents. Read reviews! You want the process of selling your home to go as smoothly as possible. Learn from others and use their experiences to help guide you into finding the right flat fee realtor for you.

We Already Negotiated Discounts With Agents For You. Find One In Your Area.

Can You Negotiate a Flat Fee with a Traditional Broker?

 

Real estate fees are always negotiable. Just keep in mind that it could be a hard, uphill battle. If you desire a flat fee instead of a commission, it’s probably a good idea to just find a flat fee realtor from the start.

A report done by the Consumer Federation of America noted that 73% of real estate agents (almost 3 out of 4) claimed they would not lower their standard rate of commission.

Traditional brokers may not suddenly agree to a flat fee, but they might consider a lower commission percentage. This is often true if your home is valued at a high selling price, is in a highly desirable neighborhood, or perhaps you are choosing to list your house during the off-season. Similarly, they may offer to lower their rate if you continue to work with them to buy your next home.

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Flat Fee Realtors Are Not the Same as Flat Fee MLS

 

Certain realtors are known as a form of limited-service brokers that only provide entry only services called flat-fee MLS, where they only list your home into the local MLS. Keep in mind that a realtor offering a flat-fee MLS listing is not the same as a full-service flat-fee agent. These realtors are best for For Sale by Owner (FSBO) clients only.

Limited-service realtors charge fees that might vary based on the options you need. You might choose to pay for each day your house is listed on the MLS, or you might choose a 6-month plan or a larger fee for longer access on the MLS.

Flat-fee MLS listing costs you a one-time fee and includes:

  • Listing on the MLS (only licensed realtors can provide this)
  • Listing on Redfin, Trulia, Zillow, and other listing sites

That is all you get. You will not have any additional realtor services, such as open houses or showings, price negotiations, or even help with paperwork during closing. Some flat fee MLS agents won’t even offer professional photography for your online listing. If you aren’t handy with a camera, consider looking for a professional photographer.

We Already Negotiated Discounts With Agents For You. Find One In Your Area.

Alternatives to Flat Fee Realtors

 

Still not sure if the flat fee realtor is right for you? Are you overwhelmed by the different terminologies when you search online for a realtor? Read through these other options and explanations to help you weigh your final decision.

Low Commission Realtors

These are traditional realtors that charge a lower commission rate. They offer the same services as other realtors but offer a lower rate to gain a wider client base. Oftentimes, they recognize that buyers are looking at houses online themselves, which cuts down on the amount of leg work they have to do.

That being said, sometimes buyers will find out that your agent is working for a lower commission rate, and they might ask to reduce the final sale price. Another thing to think about is that buyer’s agents might ignore your listing if the commission is too low.

FSBO

For Sale by Owner or FSBO is not for everybody. You need to have a basic understanding of the real estate world in order to feel comfortable representing your own home. Keep in mind that oftentimes a buyer’s agent does everything they can to steer clear of FSBO homes and prefer dealing with a professional agent on the other side of the deal.

Remember that real estate agents work full-time jobs. It is a career and a time commitment. If you don’t have the time to spend offering yourself the same services that an agent would, you will be disappointed when buyers continue to overlook your home, and it sits on the market for months. However, if you already have a potential buyer in mind, this might be the best option for you.

Even if you think of yourself as a savvy business person with sales experience, you might not have what it takes to negotiate the price of a home, especially when up against an experienced agent. Also, selling your own home comes with a mix of emotions, and you might make rash decisions without the guidance of a third party.

Flat Fee MLS

As we discussed above, this is the cheapest option available to you, but it comes with little additional services. For a very low fee of usually a few hundred dollars, your home will be listed on the MLS and other online home buying sites like Zillow. Note that this is the only service you will receive. You will have to market, photograph, schedule showings, and negotiate everything on your own.

Do not confuse flat fee full-service realtors with an agent offering a flat fee MLS service. You will be disappointed when you realize that you are left on your own to figure out how to sell your house.

Traditional Percentage Commission Agents

If a 6% commission sounds high to you, remember that your listing agent only gets 3%, and the buyer’s agent gets the other 3%. Your full-service realtor understands that you need their help and they are willing to give it. They have experience and expertise to make the process as streamlined and fast as possible.

If you find the right agent, they will go the extra mile to get your home sold quickly and at the highest price possible. You can almost guarantee that your home will have an endless stream of potential buyers walking through the door. Plus, the free taco bar they might offer to throw in during every open house can’t hurt.

Buy My House Companies

Believe it or not, there are investment companies looking to buy your house (just think of all the reality TV shows focused on flipping houses.) It is relatively quick and easy, and you can avoid endless showings and letting your house sit on the market for months. It’s similar to trading in your used car to the dealership. They do all the hard work for you.

The benefit of choosing this option is if you are facing foreclosure or need to move out of town quickly and just want your house to be sold as fast as possible. You are also paid cash directly, which means you won’t have to wait for your money. The downside is you typically will receive a lower sale price.

This same business model holds true for the new form of home investment companies called iBuyers such as Opendoor or Zillow Instant Offers.

We Already Negotiated Discounts With Agents For You. Find One In Your Area.

Final Thoughts

Selling your home is a big deal, both emotionally and financially. If you feel savvy in regards to the real estate market and desire to have more control over the selling process of your home, choosing a flat-fee realtor is likely the best choice for you. For a little extra effort, you will save money in the end.

Flat fee realtors are not too good to be true. They are cutting edge, innovative agents willing to offer a lower fee to stay competitive and efficient in the changing real estate market.

 

 

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