How To List Your House On The MLS For Sale By Owner (Without A Real Estate Agent)
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So you want to sell your house. It’s time to move up, downsize, move to another town, unload your investment property, or possibly sell your fixer-upper that you just finished fixing up.
Whatever the reason, you’ve decided that now is the time sell your house and move on to greener pastures. Having gone through the buying process before, you know what it’s like to use a real estate agent.
Whether or not you’ve ever sold a house in the past, you do know that a commission will need to be paid if you leverage the expertise of a real estate agent to list the house for sale, market your property, and represent you and your home to buyers (aka the listing agent).
Real Estate agents are useful and might be the appropriate choice for those less educated on the process.
But for a savvy homeowner like yourself you can sell your house by owner as a “For Sale By Owner” or “FSBO”. Especially if saving money on Realtor commissions is an important aspect of deciding how to sell your home.
But if you decide to sell your house by owner, there is a catch. Your home will not be listed in the MLS.
That presents a problem for you and your home sale.
If you don’t have a real estate agent to list on the MLS and market your home, how the heck are you supposed to find interested parties to make offers? How are you going to make sure that qualified buyers actually see that your home is for sale?
While traditional advertising like old school signage and flyers are one way to go, tech-savvy sellers might also look to leverage online marketing on Zillow or social media platforms to get the job done.
Word of mouth and networking can also be an effective strategy to employ, ranging from simply talking it up with your friends and neighbors, to putting up for sale by owner signs in your front yard.
Yet with all these tools at your disposal, one key (and critical) option is still out of your reach; the MLS or Multiple Listing Service.
The MLS is arguably the best place, of all places, to get both local & national exposure for your property for sale.
This opens up getting the best form of marketing exposure for your home, by targeting active buyers who are working with a buyers real estate agent.
So is there a way to list your house on the MLS without a Realtor?
Let me explain, in order to list a home on the MLS and still be able to sell as a for sale by owner, the only tool available is what is called a flat fee MLS listing.
This MLS listing by owner service is the preferred method for selling your house by both home sellers and local real estate agents working with most of the buyers in your market.
How To Do It? With A Flat Fee MLS Listing By Owner, That’s How!
First, a quick review about an MLS Listing.
MLS is a property listing database used by licensed real estate agents and brokers to list their sellers’ home and properties, and to alternatively find homes for their buyers that have been posted by other real estate agents.
Here’s the best part of the MLS, every listing is automatically posted to hundreds of real estate websites, including the big ones – Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com as well as all the real estate brokers websites.
Some of those sites get their listings exclusively from the MLS. This means that unless you have access to the MLS yourself, you can’t list your home on these sites.
Not fair right? But there is hope yet.
Now, back to the Flat Fee MLS Listings.
A “flat fee MLS Listing” is a service offered by a state licensed real estate broker. This real estate broker will work with you to set up an “Entry Only” service on the local MLS platform.
You list your house with the real estate broker BUT they only provide you with a listing in the MLS and don’t provide any other services. You still retain the right to sell your house for sale by owner.
This service is a lot less expensive (only a couple hundred dollars) than what you would have to pay in commission to a full service listing agent. Keep in mind, you still have to offer a commission to a buyers agent, more on that later in this article.
So, if you want to list for sale by owner on MLS, a flat fee MLS listing is your best and only option.
Follow These Steps to List Your House On the MLS For Sale By Owner:
- Research to Find the Best Flat Fee MLS Broker In Your Area
- Purchase a MLS Listing for a Flat Fee
- Provide Your Homes Property Information
- Upload the Exterior & Interior Photographs
- Sign an Exclusive Agency Listing Agreement
- Your House Will Then Get Posted to the MLS
What Comes With A Flat Fee MLS Listing Service?
While listing your house on the MLS sounds like a no-brainer, it’s also good to know what you can expect from the flat fee MLS listing service.
First, understand that the real estate broker offering this service will be acting as your “listing agent” (without the commission, of course). They will be your access point to the MLS, and will be the one officially managing the listing on your behalf. You can view the broker as your lead generator – with the lead being a potential buyer.
At the beginning of the process, you’ll be given forms to fill out, usually done online and not a paper form. Remember, this is a real estate listing service, so all of the relevant details about your house will be needed to make sure the listing is complete and accurate.
The listing service broker will enter the information provided into the MLS and they will be shown as the listing agent. But they will put the homeowners contact information into the listing for buyers agents to setup showings, negotiations or for any additional information.
The length of time your house will stay active in the MLS is usually around 6 months or 12 months, but this is something you can verify with the listing service you hire.
Once listed in the MLS, you’ll be the one who stages and shows the house, plans and carries out additional marketing, holds open houses, handles negotiations with buyers, and more.
Remember, you are the seller. The flat fee MLS listing service is acting as a lead generator for you – sending potential buyers agents to you so you can follow up and set up appointments to show these potential buyers your house. Everything else is on you.
Once you find a buyer and accept an offer, you’ll go through the closing process, pay the buyer’s agent their commission, submit the closing information to the MLS listing service and you’re done.
Want To Learn More About Flat Fee MLS Listings?
Check out our article – How a Flat Fee MLS Listing saved James & Mary $9,450!
For Sale By Owner MLS Listing Advantages
By now the advantage of using a flat fee MLS listing should be obvious. But in case you need a little refresher or haven’t yet had your morning coffee, here are the advantages of listing in the MLS without a real estate agent.
Benefits Of Listing For Sale By Owner On The MLS:
- It’s easy for buyers to find your house. When you get your house on the MLS, it is distributed to 100’s of websites that buyers look at first, including.
- Zillow – 160 million monthly visits
- Realtor.com – 64 million monthly visits
- Trulia – 58 million monthly visits
- And hundreds more
- More exposure means a larger buyers pool, which ultimately will mean you can get the best deal when selling your home.
- Real estate agents representing buyers will see your listing in the MLS. The buyer’s agent wants to find the most current, accurate information about a property and they go to the MLS for that information.
- You can save thousands on costly commission fees that otherwise would have been paid out to the listing agent.
- The buyer leads go to the seller (i.e. you). You’re listing your house to sell by owner. The MLS listing service is acting as your lead generator and will pass each buyer directly to you for handling as you see fit.
- The paperwork, contracts, and sales papers may be included in the listing package.
- You have the power. You will have control over what is in your listing on the MLS as long as what you provide doesn’t violate any MLS rules. You don’t have to worry about an agent misrepresenting your house.
- You will be in control of the images used to sell your house. Either because you’ve taken them yourself, or you’ve hired a photographer.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? It is, and it’s something you should definitely do if you want to sell your house on your own, yet still leverage the not so secret weapon used by real estate agents and brokers alike!
But how does this save you money? You have to pay a fee, right? Wasn’t the whole point of NOT hiring a real estate agent to cut out the middle man and keep all of that juicy commission for yourself?
Sure, you’ll pay a fee, but it’s a small fee, and you’ll need to offer the buyer’s agent a small commission as well.
So where is the savings?
First, you’re saving a lot on marketing expenses, time, effort, planning and stress…and secondly, you’re still cutting the commission rate at least by 50%, if not more depending on if you find a buyer who is not working directly with an agent.
Bottom line is, you’ll be more likely to sell your house much faster and at a potentially higher profit margin than if you go the traditional route of using a full service real estate listing agent.
Only Real Estate Agents Can List a House in the MLS
In order to answer why only Realtors can list a house in the MLS, we have to first understand the basics of how the MLS actually works. The MLS, at its core, is a database.
In this MLS database are all the real estate listings with brokers. Real estate agents pay a membership fee, or dues, so that they have access to post their listings and to find listings for their buyers.
Access is Limited
Access is limited to licensed agents and brokers who pay a membership fee because it is much more than just a listing that has details about the property. It has confidential agent to agent remarks about the property, specific showing instructions for buyers to look at the home in person.
The system also allows agents to upload and download documents involved with the selling and purchase of the home. Documents like Home Owner Association regulations, Disclosures about the home, and more.
The MLS is a real estate agents primary source for listing information for their buyers and they rely on the data to be accurate. Which is a big reason why access is limited, the MLS has data accuracy rules and enforces those rules on licensed Realtors with fines or even revoking access to the MLS!
A Listing Agreement is Mandatory
One thing you need to know is that the MLS does have a requirement that a listing agreement be in place that details the responsibilities of the real estate broker and the home seller. Also the agreement then binds the seller (you) to pay a commission to the buyers agent if they bring a buyer to you that you enter into a contract with. And in some MLS’s this document is uploaded into the system as well for verification.
Only Pay the Buyer’s Agent Commission
Perhaps the most important part of the MLS is the cooperation between real estate brokers. When a listing agent posts a house for sale in the MLS, they market what commission the home seller is willing to pay to a buyers agent. This is a mandatory requirement of being listed in the MLS.
After all, if the MLS is used by agents to do their job then allowing listings that are not going to pay anything to the buyers agent is not going to be a very useful tool.
Here comes the fun part – when you go with a flat fee MLS you will only pay a buyer’s agent commission usually around 2.5-3%. The listing agent takes a very small, flat fee upfront of only a couple hundred dollars.
Can you see how this saves you money?
Yes, you didn’t want to pay a real estate agent a commission, but consider this, the 2.5-3% commission you pay a buyer’s agent is more than half what you would pay in commission using a listing agent. Remember in a traditional listing, the listing agent and the buyer’s agent split the commission (or the listing agent keeps it all if they bring the buyer to you) so the commission you end up paying is 5-6 or even 7%.
So, you’re still saving a lot of money by using a flat fee MLS.
Are There Any Other Options?
So far we’ve covered: hiring an agent and get listed on MLS the old fashioned way, utilizing a flat fee MLS service, and sticking a sign in the yard and hoping for the best. But surely there are other options for someone who wants to sell their own home and not have to pay a large commission fee right?
And there are indeed other options you can explore but if you just want to unload your house as quick as possible and profiting as much as possible is not your main priority, check out the “We Buy Houses For Cash” companies. They will make you a cash offer and close as quick as possible so you can buy moving boxes and get out right away! But… they want to buy your house at a discount, just fair warning.
Alternative Option #1: Discount Real Estate Broker
A discount real estate broker is someone who is willing to do the work to sell your house for a smaller than usual fee. You may see them advertised as “1% Listing Agents” or “Flat Fee” Full-Service Agents.
1% Listing Agents
A 1% Listing Agent is just what it sounds like. These are agents that are willing to lower their commission on the listing side, but not on the buyer side.
The usual commission paid, in total, from the sale of the house is generally around 5 – 7% (depending on the state you are in). Each agent typically gets between 2.5 – 3.5% of that total. However, when you go with a “1% Listing Agent”, that agent will lower their fee to just 1%, which lowers the total commission you pay to between 4-4.5% on average.
Flat Fee Full-Service Agents
Some real estate agents, known as “flat fee” real estate agents offer the full spectrum of their services for a flat fee. Full service usually means professional photos of your home, listing on the MLS, hosting open houses and showing your house to buyers, and everything you will need to get to the closing of the sale of your house. Depending on teh broker offering this service the exact offering might change.
Both the 1% listing agent and the flat fee full-service agents are able to offer the reduced fees because they’re banking on volume. So this is something you need to consider. The agent will be moving quickly through the listing of your house because they will have many others that they are working on at the same time.
You might not get the same level of personal attention you would get from a full commission real estate agent, but that probably doesn’t matter because you’re more interested in saving money and don’t need the hand holding that some homeowners need when they sell their home.
Alternative Option #2: Get a Real Estate License
Study and pass the exam to be a licensed real estate agent in your state. It’s an option, and although it’s time-consuming and costly on the front end, it might open up future doors for you if you get bit with the “real estate” bug and want to pursue a career in the field (even part-time or as an investor).
Each state has their own real estate licensing requirements and official pre-licensing requirements. You’ll need to check your state government website for information about these requirements. Another valuable resource is typically your local community college, many of which host real estate licensing prep classes.
If you decide to pursue this option, the next steps are for you:
How To Become A Real Estate Agent:
- Take a real estate pre-licensing course: You can find courses offered at local real estate schools, technical schools, online real estate education sites, universities, and some realty firms.
- Apply to take the real estate salesperson exam: Your state outlines the application process and the dates available to take the test. Check with your state’s real estate regulatory authority for complete details.
- Pass the real estate salesperson exam: Not everyone passed the exam the first time and many take it two or three times. Usually, because they weren’t prepared. There are prep courses offered online and in person that offer practice exams.
- Find a real estate broker: When you pass the real estate salesperson exam you aren’t licensed yet. You are an agent and that means you are licensed to act on behalf of a broker, but not independently. Pass the exam, find a broker to work under, complete final paperwork with the state for your license.
Alternative Option #3: Be a True FSBO
FSBO, or For Sale By Owner, is a term in the industry that everyone is generally familiar with. We’ve all seen those “For Sale By Owner” signs in people’s front yards.
To be a true FSBO means you won’t use the traditional marketing available to real estate agents, and you won’t pay the flat fee MLS service. Instead, you will put the sign in the yard and market your house yourself.
Some marketing sites that FSBOs generally utilize include:
- Zillow: the leading real estate marketplace where people, including real estate agents, can list their house or property and be found online by those who are looking for a house to buy.
- Craigslist: a classified ads website with sections for jobs, housing, for sale, items wanted, services, community, gigs, resumes, and discussion forums. Be warned, though, that when using this site you will have to list your house on every state and in each “region” section for that state. Otherwise, your single ad for your local area will be seen only by those who know how to look for your local area.
- Facebook Marketplace: it’s where users can arrange to buy, sell, trade, rent items, and homes from other in their area. Again, like Craigslist, be aware of how the house will be listed so that it will appear in the search results correctly.
As you can see, there are many options available to you to sell your house without using a real estate agent and paying the high commission rates. Each option should be available in your state, but it’s always a good idea to check your state’s real estate regulatory requirements.
You want to sell your house. You want to save money by not using a real estate agent. You want the most exposure for your house at the least cost.
This is why you want your house listed on the MLS and why you should use a Flat Fee MLS Listing Service. Plain, simple, and effective!
Have you thought about listing your house this way, any follow-up questions, or do you have any experiences to share? Drop them in the comments below!
About the Author: Kris Lippi is the owner of ISoldMyHouse.com and the broker of Get LISTED Realty. He actively writes 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 other major websites. Read more about us here.