Updated August 14, 2019
Working with a flat fee MLS service is a pretty straightforward arrangement: you make a one-time payment, they publish your listing on the MLS.
Simply put, it’s a way for you to list your home on local MLSes, which have restricted access, without signing with a licensed realtor.
The idea is certainly appealing. Compared to the standard 3% listing fee, the potential savings are huge — or at least it seems that way on the surface.
If you actually want your home to sell, there are a number of additional costs you’ll need to cover: staging, landscaping, professional photos, legal fees, title fees, lockbox, showings, marketing — and don’t forget about the buyer’s agent commission.
The truth is that selling for sale by owner (FSBO) is an incredibly expensive, time-consuming, and difficult process.
If you want to save on realtor commission without sacrificing service, consider listing with a full-service, flat fee real estate agent.
Full-service, flat fee agents provide all the same services and support as a traditional agent, but for a fraction of the cost — saving you up to 50% on commission fees.
Read on to learn more about flat fee MLSes and the best alternatives: how they work, typical costs, pros and cons, and more.
What Information Is Included in a Flat-Fee MLS Listing?
When you list on the MLS, there are two sections: the portion that is syndicated to sites like Zillow and Trulia, and a section that’s only visible to licensed agents.
If you’re writing your own listing and description for a flat-fee MLS company to upload you will usually need to include:
- Listing Price
- Square footage
- Bedrooms and bathroom
- Heating and cooling information
- A well-written description that appeals to potential buyers, while being careful not to violate any federal housing, fair housing, or RESPA regulations. Simply put, your description needs to appeal to all parties, and not single out one race or nationality.
You will also need to include the amount of commission offered to a buyer’s agent, special remarks and showing instructions you only want agents to see, and the code for your lockbox (if you have one).
Most importantly, make sure to avoid language like “motivated seller” or any terms that ring with desperation. This will most likely get you plenty of offers, however, many of them will come in far below asking price.
It’s important to note that although all your relevant information is now visible in the MLS, all other efforts to sell your home rest solely on you.
The visibility and marketing of your listing are directly affected by your efforts, whether that be advertising on social media, hosting open houses, or reaching out to buyer's agents in the area.
Alternatively, Clever can connect you with an experienced real estate agent who will provide all of the above services for an affordable, flat rate — enter your zip code in the form below to find a Clever Partner Agent near you.
Do Flat-Fee MLS Listings Work?
Paying someone a flat fee to list your home on the MLS absolutely works in the sense that they'll simply enter in all the required fields online, take their fee, and leave the rest up to you (and chance).
While these services occasionally have other offerings such as advertising online or setting up a website for your home, for the most part, you are on your own.
That means that you will be required to do the rest, such as take your own photos of the property before listing, print out your own fliers, post your own signs, host your own open houses, negotiate the price, and see the home through to closing.
Potential buyers will also be able to see that you've used a flat-fee MLS listing, and will often lower their offer to account for the savings they know you're receiving on commission. Without a full-service agent, you might struggle to negotiate on price, as well as repair credits during the inspection.
If you're interested in getting additional services and benefits but still saving on commission, Clever can help. We'll connect you with a top-rated, full-service agent in your area who will list and sell your home for a fraction of their typical fee.
>>Learn More: Low-Commission, Full-Service Real Estate Agents
What Are the Benefits of a Flat-Fee MLS Service?
If you're an experienced seller that doesn't need representation and you're willing to do a little legwork to save on commissions, the benefits of a flat-fee MLS listing service can seem appealing.
Because most home buyers begin their search for a home online, paying for the opportunity to have yours included on most major home search sites means you don't have to work as hard to advertise for the sale of your home.
Your house will be included on most major home search sites to reach relevant audiences. Using an MLS listing service give you the opportunity to sell your home yourself while still being visible to millions.
When two agents assist with a sale — i.e., a listing and buyer's agent — the typical commission fee is 6%, which is split between the two.
When you use a flat-fee listing service, you save about 2-3% of that typical commission fee; however, you have to handle every aspect of the selling process on your own.
When you work with Clever, you'll save between 1-2%; however, you get the exact same quality and array of services that you would with a traditional, full-price listing agent.
>>Learn More: Full Service for a 1% Listing Fee
What Are the Risks with a Flat-Fee MLS?
When listing with a flat fee MLS, there are a few things you want to watch out for. The first is to make sure you work with a local MLS listing service. This is important, as there are separate MLS services for different locations.
You want to make sure that your MLS service places your home on the right MLS to be viewed by the people who are looking for a home in your area. You will not be visible to your relevant audience if you list with a service that does not work with your area.
One of the biggest risks of listing with an MLS-only service is the lack of representation. Homes that are listed with a real estate agent tend to sell for more and often have fewer problems getting to close.
A professional agent does nothing but sell homes, and the average homeowner only buys and sells once every seven years. Your home is one of the biggest assets you own, and working with a professional can net you more than selling by owner.
Another big risk is that potential buyers will identify the listing service you're using, and attempt to lowball you because they know that you're saving on commissions.
Buyers will also know you're working without an agent and might try and take advantage of you as you don't have an experienced agent on your side.
If you decide to move forward with a flat fee listing service, it's imperative that you work with a company that is known for its excellent customer service and has reviews to show it.
Excellent customer service means they will provide ways for you to get a hold of them when you have a question or concern about your home selling process —which, unless you've done this before, you will.
Beyond customer service, make sure your package offers unlimited revisions to your listing to ensure that your home is being presented in the best way possible online.
Is a Discount Broker a Better Alternative than a Flat-Fee MLS Listing?
Of course, it depends on your specific situation, but for most sellers, it's always better to work with a discount broker than a flat-fee MLS listing company.
Selling a home is an incredibly complex, high-stakes process. As such, it's always best to opt for as much assistance and support as you can afford.
>>Learn More: What is the Best Discount Broker in 2019?
If you're looking for the maximum cost vs value option, consider Clever Real Estate.
Clever will connect you with a top-rated, local real estate agent who has agreed to list and sell your home for a fraction of their typical rate — a flat fee of $3,000, or 1% if the home sells for more than $350,000.
All Clever Partner Agents are full-service realtors, meaning that in addition to helping you list and market your home, they'll guide you through every step of the home-selling process — from home valuations and pricing all the way through closing.
Want to learn more? Fill out our online form and a Clever representative will reach out to answer your questions and connect you with a top-rated, local agent for a no-obligation consultation.