Are Limited-Service Real Estate Agents Worth It?

Trevor Wallis

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Trevor Wallis

August 20th, 2021
Updated August 20th, 2021

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What do limited-service agents do? | Pros and cons | Minimum service requirements | How much do limited-service agents cost? | How much can I save? | Budget-friendly alternatives

If you're selling your house, and don't need the support of a full-service agent, working with a limited-service real estate agent could save you money. These agents let you purchase just the services you need — like a MLS listing — without overpaying for tasks you can handle yourself.

However, selling a home is a lot more work than many people realize. You may end up purchasing more assistance from your limited-service agent than you expected, and the costs add up quickly when you're paying for those services a la carte.

After adding up the total cost of working with a limited-service agent, you may actually save more by listing with a discount real estate brokerage. The top low commission companies, like Clever Real Estate, offer full service for a fraction of the price most agents charge.

Clever negotiates $3,000 or 1% listing fees with top-rated agents from trusted brokerages like Keller Williams and RE/MAX. On a $400,000 home sale, finding your agent through Clever would save you $8,000!

» SAVE: Sell with a top full-service realtor for just $3,000 or 1%!

Read on to learn more about what you can expect working with a limited-service agent, how much they cost, and more!

What does a limited-service agent do for a seller?

✅ Limited-service agents are good for…

  • Experienced sellers who only need an agent for a few tasks
  • Confident sellers who want to DIY their home sale with a little agent assistance
🚫 Limited-service agents are bad for…

  • First-time home sellers
  • People in complicated selling situations or with homes that are difficult to sell
  • Sellers in markets where there aren't a lot of buyers looking for homes

Limited-service agents offer a few key services and minimal support for sellers. But figuring out exactly which services a limited-service agent will provide can be tricky — there's no formula or standard practices across the industry. Instead, the services offered vary by company, agent, and even state.

At a minimum, they'll list your home in your local multiple listing service (MLS), but they could also offer more options, like:

  • Contract reviews
  • Negotiation assistance
  • Advertising products (like yard signs and key lockboxes)

📌 Editor's Note

Limited-service real estate agents are a mixed bag with few of them offering the same options. You won't know exactly what services are available for you until you talk to an agent directly. If you're thinking about hiring a limited-service agent, you should compare multiple companies or agents first before making a final decision.

A traditional real estate agent handles everything from gathering comps to negotiating offers and coordinating the closing process.

But a limited-service agent may only do a fraction of what a full-service agent would do, leaving you to take care of everything else.

Many limited-service agents use an a la carte pricing structure. This gives you a TON of flexibility and control over how much the agent is involved in the transaction and how much you'll ultimately pay to sell your home.

In many states, however, limited-service agents have to contend with state minimum service requirements. These regulations limit how "limited" these agents' services can be by requiring them to perform certain duties for their clients — even if the client doesn't want or need them.

💰 Save big on realtor fees — no DIY required

Selling your home is difficult, even with a limited-service agent to handle your listing. Add in hidden fees and premium service tiers, and you'll save a lot less than you planned, but still be stuck with most of the work!

There's a better option. Clever negotiates cheaper listing fees with the top agents in your area. Clever sellers:

 ✅ Get full-service support for a fraction of the standard price

 ✅ List for a flat $3,000 listing fee or 1% for homes over $350,000

 ✅ Save an average of $9,000 AND get offers 2.8x faster than the national average.

Ready fo find real estate agents who can save you thousands on your sale? Enter your zip code below to get started!

What doesn't a limited-service agent do for a seller?

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) defines a limited-service real estate agent as an agent who does NOT offer one or more of these essential agent services:

  • Arrange listing appointments with other brokers
  • Accept and present offers
  • Advise the seller on the merits of an offer
  • Assist the seller with counter-offers
  • Negotiate on the seller's behalf[1]

Limited-service agents could also leave out non-essentials that full-service agents usually help with, like:

  • Comparative market analysis
  • Professional photography
  • Hosting open houses
  • Preparing and filing paperwork

Ultimately, sellers have to take on more responsibility for selling their home when they list with a limited-service agent.

» MORE: What's the difference between discount and full-service realtors?

Benefits and risks of working with a limited-service agent

Benefits
Risks
You could save a lot of money on listing fees
The added liability of filling out all the required paperwork yourself
Flexibility and control over services and price
You miss out on the best possible price due to a lack of experience pricing and negotiating home sales

What are the benefits?

You're likely considering a limited-service agent because you want to save a lot of money on realtor commissions — and you certainly can!

While the price tag will vary depending on the specific agent and the services they provide, it will likely be a lot less than a full-service listing agent who charges 2.79% — the current national average commission rate for listing agents.

On top of the savings, you may like the flexibility that comes with a la carte pricing. If you're a go-getter who's ready to take on more of the work to sell your home, working with an agent who offers this pricing structure could be just what you need.

You'll be able to choose exactly what you need an agent's help with. It gives you more control over nearly every step of the transaction.

» LEARN: The best ways to save on realtor commission fees

What are the risks?

When you sell with a limited-service agent, you miss out on the experience and expertise that a full-service agent offers.

Real estate transactions are usually complicated and fast-moving. If you make just a few small mistakes, they could cost you even more money than you save by not paying to work with a full-service agent.

1. You have a higher chance of choosing the wrong listing price

A full-service agent will often have an expert-level understanding of the housing market in your area. They can look at comps and understand local trends to recommend the best price.

A limited-service agent may not offer any pricing guidance or have the local knowledge necessary to recommend the right price. Instead, you'll have to choose your own listing price, which could lead either to you selling your home for less than it’s worth or to it sitting on the market for a long time because it's priced too high.

2. You won't have much support during negotiations

When it's time to negotiate, a limited-service real estate agent usually won't offer much assistance. You may be able to purchase some of the agent's time to look over offers and give you some advice, but you'll likely have to negotiate with the buyer's agent yourself.

This could end up costing you a lot of money by either settling for a lower price, giving up more concessions, or offering the buyer more credits than what's necessary to get the sale to closing.

A full-service real estate agent negotiates deals for their clients all the time and most agents are really good at it. Unless you're a master negotiator, you might have trouble negotiating offers as well as an experienced agent could.

3. You may need more services than you originally planned

If you underestimate how much help you'll need to sell your home, you'll have to buy more support from your limited-service agent. This will drive up your total costs and lead to you paying MUCH more than you expected — especially compared to the level of service you'll receive.

You could even run into a situation where you need support that a limited-service agent doesn't offer. Depending on the terms of your listing agreement, it could be difficult to find that help from another agent without terminating your agreement and starting over from scratch.

📌 Editor's Note

A limited-service agent's listing agreement will detail all of the services they offer and the terms of working with that agent. You should review it carefully and treat it as your source of truth (instead of relying on a conversation alone) before making a final decision about whether you want to work with a particular agent.

Are limited-service agents and flat-fee MLS companies the same?

Flat-fee MLS companies are a type of limited-service real estate company that only lists your home in your local MLS for a low, flat fee.

According to NAR, listing-only companies won't provide ANY of the following services:

  • Arranging listing appointments with other agents
  • Accepting and presenting offers
  • Giving advice on how strong a particular offer is
  • Presenting counter-offers to the buyer
  • Negotiating with the buyer or their agent[2]

📌 Editor's note

You may notice that this is the same list that NAR uses to define limited-service agents. The major difference between the two is how many of these services the agent or company excludes for listing packages. A limited-service agent doesn't offer one or more of these services, while a flat-fee MLS company offers none of them.

But many companies that claim the "flat-fee MLS" title also offer add-on services and upgraded listing packages that could include things like offer reviews and negotiation assistance. Based on NAR's definition, these companies would technicallyqualify as limited-service real estate companies, but not flat-fee MLS services.

Just remember — companies call themselves all sorts of things that may not be technically accurate. When you're choosing a listing agent, you shouldn't worry so much about labels. Instead, focus on the price and the services you'll get in exchange for your money.

» MORE: Find the best flat-fee MLS services near you

State-level minimum service requirements

Several states have laws that require all real estate agents to provide certain services to every client. But the exact minimum service requirements will vary from state to state.

For example, Iowa requires agents to:

  • Accept and deliver offers
  • Assist the client with preparing, negotiating, and presenting offers and counter-offers
  • Answer their clients' questions about contracts and negotiations
  • Provide prospective buyers with access to a property[3]

Not every state's requirements are so stringent. Some may only require agents to answer their clients' questions and others either don't have any minimum service requirements or allow clients to opt out of the required services.

If you are in a state with these requirements, though, you can expect to pay more to work with a limited-service agent. Instead of paying for only the services you need, you'll also have to pay for the required services even if you don't want or need them. Depending on the laws in your state, you may find better overall value with a low commission realtor.

Does your state have minimum service requirements?

State
Code or regulation
Requires minimum service?
Alabama
Yes
Alaska
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Arizona
Yes
Arkansas
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
California
Yes
Colorado
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Connecticut
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Delaware
No required minimum service
District of Columbia
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Florida
No required minimum service
Georgia
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Hawaii
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Idaho
Yes
Illinois
Yes, in certain broker relationships
Indiana
Yes, in certain broker relationships
Iowa
Yes
Kansas
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Kentucky
Yes, but minimum service may be waived
Louisiana
No required minimum service
Maine
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Maryland
No required minimum service
Massachusetts
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Michigan
Yes, but minimum service may be waived
Minnesota
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Mississippi
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Missouri
Yes, in certain broker relationships
Montana
No required minimum service
Nebraska
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Nevada
No required minimum service
New Hampshire
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
New Jersey
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
New Mexico
No required minimum service
New York
No required minimum service
North Carolina
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
North Dakota
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Ohio
No required minimum service
Oklahoma
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Oregon
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Pennsylvania
No required minimum service
Rhode Island
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
South Carolina
Yes
South Dakota
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Tennessee
No required minimum service
Texas
Yes, in certain broker relationships
Utah
Yes, in certain broker relationships
Vermont
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Virginia
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Washington
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
West Virginia
Only required to present offers in a timely manner
Wisconsin
No required minimum service
Wyoming
Yes

How much do limited-service listings typically cost?

The cost of a limited-service listing will vary based on the individual company, how they offer their services (a la carte or packages), and how much help you need from your agent.

We've seen some agents offer a simple limited-service MLS listing for less than $100, but your costs could add up quickly when you tack on other services as well. For example, here's what Houzeo — a national limited-service real estate company — charges for its a la carte options.[4]

Service
Price
MLS listing
$199
Contract review
$499
Price assistance
$299
Real estate forms
$299
ShowingTime automated showing service
$50
Yard sign
$45
Professional photography
$179

If you were to sign up for their basic MLS listing plus all the company's add-ons, you'd end up paying $1,570 or more to work with this limited-service company.

How much can you save with a limited-service agent?

You can save quite a bit of money by working with a limited-service real estate agent instead of a traditional full-service realtor.

Sellers typically pay between 2.5-3% of their home's final sale price to their listing agent. Depending on your home's value and the average commission rate in your area, you could end up paying several thousand dollars just to your listing agent.

But you can often lower your listing fees by working with a limited-service agent — as long as you're willing to take on the extra risks.

Here's how much you could save by working with an agent who charges a $2,000 flat-fee compared to a traditional listing agent.

Final sale price
$100,000
$250,000
$500,000
Limited-service agent fee
$2,000
$2,000
$2,000
Traditional listing agent fee*
$3,000
$7,500
$15,000
Savings
$1,000
$5,000
$13,000
*Based on a 3% listing fee

Top budget-friendly alternatives to limited-service listings

Working with a limited-service agent or paying a flat-fee MLS company for a limited-service listing is one way to make your home sale more affordable. But, this approach isn't right for everyone.

If saving on realtor commission is your top priority, consider these budget friendly alternatives to find the best fit for you.

Sell with a low commission real estate company

One of the best ways to save on real estate commission is to sell your house with a low commission real estate company.

Unlike limited-service agents, the top discount brokerages offer huge savings without requiring you to do more of the work yourself. These companies have found ways to lower their rates while still providing service that's similar to working with a traditional agent.

Clever, for example, negotiates low commission rates with full-service realtors at traditional brokerages like Coldwell Banker and Century 21. Since Clever connects its partner agents with customers at zero upfront cost, they can spend less on marketing and share the savings with you!

👋 Find top agents, sell for $3,000 or 1%

Clever has saved thousands of happy customers over $50 million — we can help you keep more money in your pocket too!

With Clever:  

 ✅ Sellers pay only $3,000 or 1% in listing fees

 ✅ Buyers get up to 0.5% cash back on eligible purchases

 ✅ You'll work with a local realtor from top brokers, like RE/MAX and Keller Williams

Clever's service is 100% free, with zero obligation. You can interview as many agents as you like, or walk away at any time. Enter your zip code to find a top local agent today!

List your home for sale by owner (FSBO)

You can bypass a listing agent altogether by selling your home all on your own. If you're an experienced seller and confident in your ability to find a buyer without listing on the MLS, you can maximize your savings by selling FSBO.

But think carefully before choosing this route. You'll take on even more risk and responsibility since you won't have an agent in your corner to answer questions, advertise your home, or help you manage the closing process.

» READ: How to sell your home FSBO

Sell to a “We buy houses for cash” company

If your property is either distressed or tough to sell, you might consider selling to a "we buy houses for cash" company.

These companies make all-cash offers on nearly any property, regardless of its condition. Since they rely on repairing the property and reselling it for a profit, they'll usually offer well below your home's market value — sometimes as low as 50% of what it could sell for if it were fixed up and listed on the open market.

Still, if you need to sell fast or don't want to deal with getting your home ready to sell, a cash buyer could be a good way to sell your home, as long as you aren't too concerned about the sale price.

» LEARN: "We buy houses for cash" companies (the ultimate guide)

Sell to an iBuyer

iBuyers like Opendoor and Zillow Offers use technology to make all-cash offers on homes — often sight-unseen.

These companies could be a convenient way to sell your home. However, many homes don't qualify for an offer. iBuyers have strict criteria for the homes they'll purchase based on the property's location, age, condition, and other factors.

If you do qualify, most iBuyers offer a flexible closing period — usually between seven and 90 days. But the convenience of choosing your closing date and not listing on the open market comes with a price. Most pay less than you'd get on the open market and charge 5-15% service fees, so you'll likely end up with less money compared to a traditional home sale.

» READ: Everything you need to know about iBuyers

Next steps: talk to a licensed expert

👋 Get free advice from a licensed expert

If you're looking to buy or sell a house and weighing your options, Clever can help!

Our fully licensed Concierge Team is standing by to answer questions and provide free, objective advice on how to get the best outcome with your sale or purchase.

Ready to get started?

Give us a call at 1-833-2-CLEVER or enter your basic info below. Our Concierge Team will be in touch shortly to help.

Remember, this service is 100% free and there’s never any obligation.

FAQs about limited-service realtors

</p><p>If you want to sell your house <a href="https://listwithclever.com/real-estate-blog/how-to-sell-a-house-by-owner/">for sale by owner</a>, purchasing a limited-service listing will get your home on the MLS, where it will reach as many buyers as possible. <a href="https://listwithclever.com/flat-fee-mls-listing/">Flat-fee MLS companies</a> typically offer limited-service listings for as little as a few hundred dollars. However, you'll likely find better overall value by selling a discount brokerage instead of listing FSBO. The best low commission realtors provide service on par with traditional agents, but charge a fraction of the price. <a href="https://listwithclever.com/discount-real-estate-brokers/">Find the top discount real estate brokers near you!</a></p><p>
</p><p>Listing with a <a href="https://listwithclever.com/real-estate-blog/what-is-a-limited-service-real-estate-agent/#savings">limited-service realtor</a> could save you thousands on commission fees. However, if you don't know what you're doing, there's a huge risk you could end up losing money instead. Selling a house yourself is a lot of work, and many sellers end up needing more help from their agent than they expected. You can purchase additional assistance from your limited-service agent a la carte, but this will reduce your savings. In the long run, you'll likely find the best bang for your buck with a full-service realtor who charges discounted listing fees. <a href="https://listwithclever.com/real-estate-blog/which-real-estate-company-has-the-lowest-commission/">Find the best low commission real estate companies!</a></p><p>

Related links

ARTICLE SOURCES
[1]

National Association of REALTORS® Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy. "Current Listings, Section 8: Limited Service Listings (Policy Statement 7.83)." 

[2]

National Association of REALTORS® Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy. "Current Listings, Section 9: MLS Entry-only Listings (Policy Statement 7.84)." 

[3]

Iowa Legislature. "Iowa Code §543B.56A." 

[4]

Houzeo. "Houzeo pricing." 

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