What is flat-fee real estate?
Flat-fee real estate agents, brokers, and companies help you sell your home for a set flat fee instead of the typical percentage-based commission.
Listing with a flat rate real estate agent could net you significant savings — particularly if you’re selling a more expensive home. For example, working with a $5,000 flat fee realtor for a $750,000 home sale could save you up to $17,500 on real estate commission.
But, with some flat-fee companies big discounts come with big tradeoffs. Flat-fee agents and brokers often swap savings for key services and support. This could negatively affect your sale outcome, potentially costing you more than you save.
A better option for most sellers is working with a traditional, full-service agent who charges discounted rates. For example, Clever pre-negotiates $3,000 listing fees (or just 1% above $350,000) with top-rated agents at brokerages like Keller Williams and RE/MAX. You'll get the savings of a flat-fee agent, without sacrificing on service.
Top 9 flat-fee real estate companies in 2021
If you want to sell your home with a flat-fee agent, find our top picks in the table below. Within these rankings, you'll find:
- Full-service companies that provide support on par with a traditional realtor
- Medium-service brokers that trade savings for reduced service and less personalized support
- Limited-service and MLS listing only options that offer the bare minimum level of services and support
Learn more about each of these companies by clicking the following links to read full reviews.
$3,000 or 1%
DC, FL, MD, NJ, PA, VA
$3,000-4,000 (varies by location)
AZ, CO, GA, MO, NC, SC, WA
AZ, CO, ID, NV, UT
1.5% (min. $5,000)
1% (min. $3,000)
MLS listing only
MLS listing only
MLS listing only
CA, FL, GA, NC, TN
Types of flat-fee real estate companies
In addition to how they offer savings, there are three types of companies that may allow you to pay a flat listing fee:
- Discount real estate brokers
- Agent matching services
- Flat-fee MLS services
Discount real estate brokers
Some discount real estate brokerages offer flat listing fees or hybrid pricing models. These companies, like Homie and Trelora, typically handle more clients per agent than traditional brokerages to offset their discounts. This creates risks for you as a seller — namely less dedicated service and support throughout your sale.
Agent matching services
Agent matching services help you find full-service real estate agents at top local brokerages. They match you with handpicked agents quickly and efficiently (usually for free!), so you can interview multiple options and choose the best fit for your unique needs and priorities.
The top companies, like Clever, take it a step further and pre-negotiate low rates with those agents on your behalf.
Since Clever helps agents find new business with zero upfront cost, your realtor can pass on the savings to you by charging a flat $3,000 or 1% commission fee. That means you get the full-service experience of listing with a top agent for a fraction of the cost.
Flat-fee MLS services and limited-service agents
Limited-service agents will often offer reduced services in exchange for discounted flat rates. Some may let you pick and choose which services to pay for upfront — known as a la carte or fee-for-service pricing.
Other companies called flat-fee MLS services charge a very low, flat fee to simply publish your listing on your local multiple listing service (MLS), and nothing more. The potential savings could be significant, but so are the risks!
How much can you save with a flat listing fee?
A flat listing fee can potentially save you thousands when you sell your home. But the actual amount you save will ultimately depend on three key factors:
- The agreed-upon flat fee
- Your home’s final selling price
- The average commission rate in your area (find rates in your area here!)
Generally speaking, the greater your home’s value, the more you stand to save compared to a percentage-based commission.
However, the inverse is also true.
If your home’s sale price falls below a certain threshold, you may end up paying MORE than you would with a discount or conventional broker that charges a percentage-based commission.
🔑 Key concepts: effective commission rate and break-even point
Two important concepts will help you evaluate if a flat-fee agent or broker makes sense for you.
1. Effective commission rate
“Effective commission rate” is the effective percentage rate you’re paying based on your listing fee vs. your final sale price.
⚡ How to calculate your effective commission rate
💲 How this formula works in practice
⚖️ How effective commission rates help you weigh your options
Calculating your effective commission rate allows you to determine how a flat-fee broker’s rates compare to the typical 2.5-3% that traditional brokers charge.
Sticking with the $5,000 flat-fee realtor example, here’s how the effective commission rates would break down at different price points.
Effective commission rates in action
Flat $5,000 listing fee
As you can see, if you were selling a $100,000 home, selling with a $5,000 flat-fee realtor would result in you paying nearly double the 2.5-3% rate traditional agents typically charge!
2. Break-even point
The break-even point is the exact home sale price at which you’d pay the same effective rate as listing with another broker charging a percentage-based fee.
It’s a useful tool that helps you determine which brokerage offers better hard savings based on your target sale price.
⚡ How to calculate your break-even point
💲 How this formula works in practice
⚖️ How the break-even point helps you weigh your options
If your home sale price is equal to or greater than the break-even point, the flat-fee brokerage is offering good value — at least from a hard cost-savings perspective.
If your home sale price falls below the break-even threshold, it may make sense to go with the other option, assuming the service quality is comparable.
The tables below show how the break-even point can vary depending on whether you’re comparing a flat-fee broker to a conventional or discount brokerage.
Break-even point for a $5,000 flat-fee realtor vs. 3% conventional agent
3% listing fee
Break-even point for a $5,000 flat-fee realtor vs. 1% commission agent
1% listing fee
All other things being equal, if you were selling a house worth less than $500,000, it would make more sense for you to go with the broker charging the 1% listing fee.
But above that price point, the flat-fee broker would potentially net you significant savings.
How does flat-fee real estate work?
A flat-fee commission in real estate means you’ll pay a set price to list your home, regardless of its final sale price.
The flat-fee pricing structure differs from the typical percentage-based fees that most listing agents charge, which directly correlate to your home’s final sale price.
How percentage-based realtor commissions work
In a conventional transaction, the total commission is usually about 6% of the home’s final sale price.
This total fee is typically taken out of the seller’s proceeds at closing and split between the two agents involved in the sale:
- The listing fee (~3%) goes to the listing agent for helping market and sell the home
- The buyer’s agent fee (~3%) goes to the buyer’s agent for bringing in their client to purchase the home
📊 Example: 6% total commission breakdown for a $350,000 home sale
Buyer’s agent fee
*For a $350,000 home
When you sell with a traditional realtor who charges a percentage-based commission, you typically set a total commission rate upfront when you sign your listing agreement.
These percentage rates usually remain fixed. But since they're a percentage, the actual dollar amount you pay goes up or down alongside the sale price.
💰 How a 6% total commission changes based on the sale price
How flat-fee realtor commissions work
When you sell a house with a flat rate agent or broker, the listing fee isn’t calculated as a percentage of the final sale price.
Instead, you and your agent agree on a set dollar cost for their services at the outset. That fee will remain fixed, regardless of whether you end up selling higher or lower than the initial list price.
The table below illustrates what we’d call a “true” flat-fee pricing model — and how it differs from a typical 3% listing fee.
✅ Example: “True” flat-fee savings vs. 3% listing fee
Flat listing fee
*Compared to a 3% listing fee.
Tiered flat-fee pricing models
Some discount real estate brokerages offer flat listing fees — but those fees may be higher or lower depending on your home's sale price range.
📈 Example: Tiered flat-fee pricing model
Flat listing fee
Up to $200,000
Importantly, your hard cost savings (and overall value) will vary depending on whether you fall at the top or bottom of a given range.
For example, if your home sells for $300,001 you’ll pay a $4,995 fee, which translates to an effective commission rate of ~1.6%.
In contrast, if your home sells for $400,000 you’ll still owe a $4,995 fee — but you'll pay an effective commission rate of ~1.2%.
Hybrid flat-fee and percentage-based pricing models
A number of discount real estate companies use “hybrid” pricing models. Put simply, in certain price ranges you pay a flat fee, while in others you’ll pay a reduced percentage-based rate.
💰 Save on commission the easy way!
Some companies, including Clever Real Estate, advertise hybrid pricing structures that help you save big on commission, no matter what your house is worth (and with no minimum fees!).
Sell a home below $350,000, and you'll get full service from a top local agent for a flat $3,000 listing fee. Above $350,000, you'll pay a low 1% listing fee vs. the typical 2.5-3% rate.
» SAVE: Sell with a top local agent for just $3,000 or 1%
Other companies obscure their hybrid model by advertising specific percentage-based rates but stipulating “minimum listing fees” in the fine print.
For example, discount brokerage Reali Real Estate advertises a 1% listing fee — but also has a $5,000 minimum fee.
That means if you’re selling a house below the $500,000 mark, you’ll end up paying more than the advertised 1% rate.
🔎 Example: Reali’s effective listing fee rate based on minimum fees
Always make sure you check for minimum listing fees — and completely understand the ins and outs of a brokerage’s pricing model — before signing with them.
Expect to still offer a full buyer’s agent commission
Flat fees in real estate are usually limited to the listing fee side of the total commission equation.
Most flat-fee agents and brokers will still encourage sellers to offer a competitive, percentage-based buyer’s agent commission. Rates vary, but 2.5-3% is typical nationwide.
📊 Example: Total commission breakdown with a flat listing fee
Buyer’s agent fee
$3,000 (+ 3%)
*For a $350,000 home
Why is it important to offer a competitive buyer’s agent commission?
Offering a competitive buyer’s agent commission rate incentivizes other local agents to show your home to their clients. Not offering a full buyer’s agent fee will limit your home’s exposure and ability to attract qualified buyers.
Why do listing agents and brokers offer discounted flat fees?
Real estate agents and brokers offer flat fees to attract more customers. Agents offer discounts to set themselves apart in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Some companies have figured out ways to offer flat-fee savings without skimping on service. But many make up for the reduced rates by handling more customers per agent. This can limit their ability to provide dedicated service and support and set you (and your sale) up for trouble.
🔎 Editor’s note
Don’t just sign with the company or agent who advertises the lowest price! A flat-fee agent might look like a good deal, but if they offset their cheap rates by gutting services and support, it could be a costly mistake in the long run.
Many great agents offer discounted commission rates. Always shop around and interview 2-3 options to find the best overall fit and value for your situation and goals.
» MORE: Compare top local agents, choose the best fit, save thousands
How to sell your house for a flat fee
If you want to list your house for a flat fee, these are the most common options:
- Try to negotiate a flat rate with a traditional agent
- Sell with a full-service flat-fee real estate company, as noted above
- Work with a limited-service real estate broker who performs a la carte work
- Hire a flat-fee MLS company to list your home
Can you negotiate a flat listing fee yourself?
Negotiating a flat rate with a traditional agent probably won't be easy. The best agents know what their time and services are worth and will likely be hesitant to lower their rates except for under special circumstances.
Negotiating a slight reduction in your percentage-based rate is probably more realistic (and smarter) than pushing for a flat fee.
If you’re willing to handle most of your sale DIY, some agents may accept flat rates in exchange for a limited number of specific, one-time services like:
- Determining a list price
- Listing your home on your local MLS
- Helping with paperwork prep
But without dedicated expert support and guidance throughout your sale, you’re putting yourself at serious risk — and a major competitive disadvantage.
» LEARN: How to negotiate realtor commissions
Should you sell with a flat-fee real estate agent or broker?
👍 Pros of using a flat-fee real estate agent:
👎 Cons of using a flat-fee real estate agent:
It’s certainly worth considering a flat-fee real estate agent or broker. But whether it ultimately makes sense for you will likely boil down to two key factors:
- Which option offers the best cost advantages based on your specific location and target sale price?
- What level of service and support do you need?
💵 Cost savings: Use effective commission rates to compare options
Let’s use discount brokerage Trelora as a case study in how you can use effective commission rates to calculate potential savings and weigh your options.
Here’s Trelora's effective listing commission rate at four different price points:
Trelora listing fee
- Around the $150,000 mark, you’re paying roughly the same rate most traditional, full-service agents charge
- In the $300,000 and $400,000 range, many other discount real estate services offer similar or better rates with more comprehensive service
- Once you get above the $500,000, that’s when the savings potential really starts to take off
BUT just because flat-fee brands like Trelora offer big potential savings at higher price points doesn’t necessarily mean they’re automatically the best choice if you have a more expensive home, as we'll discuss.
🤝 Service quality: Assess your situation and needs
Some flat-fee and discount real estate companies have figured out how to create legitimate savings with minimum risks for home sellers. Unfortunately, most skimp on service and support to make up for those discounted rates.
This isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker: less service and support could be okay if you’re a highly experienced seller or have a hot home in a hot market.
But for most home sellers, less service and support could lead to problems, including:
- More stress and frustration throughout the process
- A lower sale price and/or worse terms
In other words, discounted flat fees could mean you pay less in commission — BUT if your home sells for $15,000 below its fair market value because your discount agent priced it incorrectly, you’re losing a whole lot more than you’re saving.