You’re a weekend warrior who likes to dive into home projects to save money. Why should selling your home be any different? Using a flat fee MLS listing to potentially save thousands of dollars in real estate commissions could put that money directly in your pocket. But is selling the house yourself really worth your time and energy?
Before you go the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) route, consider what real estate expert Joe Bourland says about being your own agent. Bourland has over 20 years of real estate experience and is currently ranked in the top 1% of agents in Peoria, Arizona. If you’re considering selling your home using a flat fee MLS listing instead of a real estate agent, let his expertise help you navigate all the pros and cons.
What is a flat fee MLS listing service?
Typically, when you hire a traditional real estate agent, they’ll have access to a multiple listing service (MLS) where they post your home for sale. Only licensed real estate agents have access to the MLS that puts your home in front of other agents who represent potential buyers. When you’re not using an agent, the alternative for adding your home onto an MLS database is by paying a flat fee to a MLS brokerage. In exchange for this set fee, they’ll list your home on an MLS site.
“If you have somebody who just wants MLS access and is very competent, understands the legal ramifications and process of selling a home, might understand some construction things, has the time to have showings, deal with the phone calls, and the back and forth that is part of that process, maybe have some sort of marketing background as well, you might not need the services of a real estate agent,” says Bourland.
Is a flat fee MLS listing service the right choice for me?
Saving the cost of a real estate commission can definitely sound enticing. But maybe you’re still not sure if you want to wear your real estate agent hat.
Bourland explains that a flat fee service may be a good choice because you’re initially saving money, but in exchange for that upfront savings you are also sacrificing work and potential knowledge you’ll need in order to really save money when negotiating later.
On the other hand, you might like being very involved and are confident that no one else fully understands all the features of your home. But by doing the majority of the work yourself, means you’re also directly responsible for the results. As you consider your options, here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of using a flat fee MLS listing service.
Pros and cons of using a flat fee MLS listing service
- No large real estate commission (typically 5%-6%)
- Control of all aspects of the sale from start to finish
- Known costs are paid upfront for selling the property
- Flat fee + possible commission to buyer’s agent (2.5%-3%)
- Responsibility for addressing any issues that arise to protect sale
- Mostly a self-service process that involves lots of time and energy
How does a flat fee MLS listing service compare to a traditional real estate agent?
- Personalized service is lacking vs. an agent who can immediately answer your questions
- Paying a flat fee mostly buys MLS access vs. a tailored marketing strategy plus MLS access
- You resolve setbacks during the process vs. relying on a professional who handles any issues
Using a top real estate agent involves more than just getting your home listed on a MLS site. That’s the first step in a marketing strategy that specifically attracts a pool of buyers to your home compared to other homes that are available. A top-rated agent who has sold dozens or even hundreds of homes in your area has the advantage of knowing current market trends, and how to sell faster with the best results.
How do you find a top agent? Consider using HomeLight’s Agent Match tool. Our research shows that the top 5% of real estate agents nationwide typically sell homes for as much as 10% more than average real estate agents.
Will I really save money selling FSBO with a flat fee MLS listing service?
While it’s possible to save a large commission when you initially list your home for sale, if you add in the cost of your time it might not be as big of a savings. It will depend on how effective you are in finding the right buyer, and this will ultimately determine if listing your home as a FSBO was the most profitable option when the sale closes.
For instance, according to the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) 2020 report, the median sale for a FSBO home was $260,000, which is 7% less on average than properties represented by an agent.
These differences are featured in the example scenario below:
Selling FSBO = $260,000
Selling with an average agent = $318,000
Selling with a top-rated agent = $349,800
In this typical example based on averages, even after deducting a 6% agent commission of $20,988, the selling price with a top agent is still $68,812 more than the FSBO selling price.
How much does a flat fee MLS listing service cost?
Flat fees for MLS listing services can vary depending on the type of services you’ll need during the home selling process. It might only cost $300 to list your home on the MLS for a standard listing or cost up to $5,000 dollars if you decide to purchase additional services such as an agent’s help with marketing, paperwork and the final negotiation. All the extras you choose will determine the final cost. In addition to your fee, it’s often helpful to offer a commission to the co-broker.
“Most flat fee services tell people, you know, offer up 2.5%-3%, so the seller is still paying that, to whoever represents the buyer, as an incentive to bring a buyer to the property,” says Bourland.
What is the best flat fee MLS listing service?
Even though you’re paying a flat fee, MLS listing services generally offer different levels of service. Some will offer a bare bones listing of your home on the MLS, while others will give you lots of options for added costs. How do you find the perfect fit when not any MLS will do? Consider the following before signing on the dotted line to do a flat fee MLS listing:
Location, location, location
Since you’re selling your home locally, you want your listing to be local too. There are thousands of MLS databases that cover different areas in each state, and listing locally will mean local agents will find your listing versus agents who won’t know your housing market.
Research and reviews
Research the company you are considering using for your listing. Do they have lots of positive or negative reviews? Are they a member of the Better Business Bureau? Do they have a professional website that is helpful for answering questions? Do they include an easy way to contact them or are they more elusive? A good reputation is important before you choose a particular company and will also be attractive to real estate agents who have potential buyers.
Good communication is key, according to Bourland, who relayed a story of how one home seller had to terminate their listing agreement because they never got returned calls from their flat fee MLS company after listing the property. This lack of communication can be frustrating to the buyer, seller and agent when you’re trying to negotiate a deal and answers aren’t timely.
Well known and established, reputable flat fee MLS listing services:
Does using a flat fee listing service hurt a home sale?
Depending on what MLS company you use and how you market your property will often determine the success of your home sale. Here are some additional questions sellers have about how a flat fee MLS might impact a home sale:
As real estate agents and Realtors®, we have an obligation to have a fiduciary duty to our clients. So if there’s a listing that fits our client’s needs, based on the criteria we have been provided by the buyer, we’re obligated to show them the house regardless of who’s listed it.
- Joe Bourland
Real Estate Agent
Real Estate Agent at eXp Realty
Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience
- Average Price Point
- Single Family Homes
Do buyer’s agents avoid showing homes using a flat fee MLS services?
“As real estate agents and Realtors®, we have an obligation to have a fiduciary duty to our clients. So if there’s a listing that fits our client’s needs, based on the criteria we have been provided by the buyer, we’re obligated to show them the house regardless of who’s listed it,” says Bourland.
The obligation Bourland is referring to is part of the “Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice” agents agree to when they become members of the National Association of Realtors. Agents who are not members of the association have not specifically pledged to uphold these standards.
Will my home sell for less if I use a flat fee MLS service?
Typically, yes, because a top agent will do a comparative market analysis and price the house properly as opposed to the seller who may start too high, and not find interested buyers until the price is adjusted to match comparable homes. Industry experts agree that one of the most important steps when selling a house is to price it right — not too high, not too low.
How does marketing affect a home sale?
When listing your home, be sure to include the best features such as a large kitchen and backyard. Details such as gutter filters and high efficiency light bulbs are nice to have once you move into a house but won’t be the deciding factors for buyers who are more interested in where they are going to put their couch. Also, some MLS websites will limit the number of photos you can include with your listing. You always want to use high quality photos that aren’t dark or blurry and will showcase the best features of the home.
“The narrow phone picture that doesn’t show anything but a toilet, is not the best image that you want to display,” says Bourland.
As a FSBO seller, where else can I list my home?
If you’re not interested in paying for a flat fee MLS listing service but still want to list your house as a FSBO, there are other sites you can choose including:
Conclusion: Consider these 4 factors before you list with a flat fee MLS service
Whether you choose to use a flat fee MLS listing, agent or alternate site for selling your home, consider the following:
Involvement – the time and energy you want to devote to your home sale
Profit – calculate the potential profit you might get depending on the final sale price
Research – review the company and clarify what services you’ll get for your flat fee
Support – what resources will be available to answer your questions during the process
Ready to find out more about selling your home without a real estate agent? HomeLight has an article that explains the pros and cons of selling a home without a Realtor®.
If you’d like to reach out to a top real estate agent to learn more about what might be the best options in your market, try HomeLight’s Agent Match. The Agent Match service is 100% free, with no catch. Agents don’t pay us to be listed, so you get the best match.
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