How to List on the MLS Without a Realtor in 2024

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By Steve Nicastro Updated February 2, 2024


Are you thinking about selling your home without a realtor but confused about how to get it listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)? There are two ways to get on the MLS: You can either partner with a real estate agent who handles the listing for you, or list with a flat fee MLS service. 

If you're leaning towards the DIY route to save on commissions, a flat-fee MLS service is your ticket in. For an upfront fee starting at a few hundred dollars, you can secure a spot on the MLS, making your home visible to a network of buyers.

However, selling a home is more than just securing an MLS listing. There's a lot to juggle from setting the right list price to marketing, negotiating deals, and handling inspections and paperwork.

Looking to cut costs without cutting corners on service? Clever Real Estate offers a middle path. With Clever, you get the visibility of an MLS listing plus expert guidance to closing – all for a low commission rate of just 1.5%. It's risk-free, with no upfront costs and the flexibility to change your mind anytime.

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What is the MLS and why do I need it?

Think of the MLS as a complete database of homes for sale, maintained by real estate professionals.

There are more than 800 regional MLSs through which participating realtors list homes for sale.[1] Buyer's agents from different brokerages can then access the same pool of properties consolidated in one place, making the process of buying and selling homes more efficient. 

The MLS is essentially the premier stage where potential buyers view most homes. It's known for its accuracy and up-to-the-minute updates. It's so effective that about 90% of sellers trust it to showcase their homes.[2]

Key benefits of listing on the MLS

Listing your home on the MLS does more than just put it in one place: it catapults it across the web. Your listing lands on popular real estate websites like Zillow, Trulia, and 

This is important because, in today's digital age, 100% of home buyers start their search online.[3] They're scouring the internet for their dream home, paying special attention to photos, detailed property info, floor plans, and how to get in touch with a realtor or seller. 

By leveraging the MLS, you significantly enhance the likelihood of your home catching the eye of its next owner. It's about getting eyeballs on your home's listing and presenting it in the best way to a targeted audience of buyers. 

So, by harnessing the power of the MLS, you should improve the chances of your home finding its next buyer.

Can I list on the MLS without a realtor?

Listing your home on the MLS doesn't always require a realtor. For those opting to sell a house without a realtor, a budget-friendly alternative exists: flat fee MLS listing services. 

These companies offer a path to the MLS, typically charging less than $1,000 – a significant saving compared to the standard 2.5–3% fee most listing agents charge.

Key things to consider: 

  • Flat fee services list your property on the MLS for a fixed, upfront cost — perfect for FSBO sellers who want exposure without high expenses.
  • The range of services offered by flat fee MLS companies can vary, from basic listings (you manage the sale) to full support (including pricing, showings, and contract advice).
  • Depending on the service level, costs range from $100 to $1,000. Choose a package that fits your budget and how hands-on you want to be in the sale.

» Need to list on MLS without a realtor? Our top picks for flat fee MLS services

Understanding MLS access: Who gets it? 

Access to the MLS is a privilege that comes with certain professional credentials. It's exclusively available to licensed real estate agents and brokers (including flat fee MLS companies).[4]

MLS systems are regionally operated, and each has its own set of rules and membership requirements. While many MLSs are affiliated with the National Association of Realtors and often grant access primarily to NAR members, some allow access to any licensed real estate agents, regardless of their NAR membership status.[5]

Why is MLS access limited?

There are a couple of key reasons why only agents and brokers can access the MLS: 

Protecting sensitive information. The MLS contains detailed property data, including the personal information of sellers and potential buyers. It also includes security details like access codes and schedules for property showings when homes are unoccupied. Restricting access to professional realtors helps safeguard this sensitive information.

Operational costs and maintenance. Running an MLS isn't just about keeping a website live. It involves ensuring the database is current, accurate, and high-quality. The fees collected from NAR members help cover these operational costs, supporting the maintenance and integrity of the MLS databases.

What is a flat-fee MLS company?

Flat fee MLS companies, also known as limited listing services, offer a straightforward way to list your home on the MLS. 

For a set fee, usually a few hundred dollars, these services include a property description, photos, and a listing duration of six to 12 months.

For additional costs, premium packages (ranging up to $1,000-2,000) provide extensive support. These can include professional photography, virtual tours, extended listing terms, free listing updates, market analysis, pricing assistance, negotiation support, and essential real estate documents.

While cost-effective, these services often demand more effort from you as the seller. You'll handle many aspects of the selling process, which requires time and knowledge of real estate transactions.

For those committed to a flat fee MLS path, consider a service like Unreal Estate. They offer flat fee MLS listings starting as low as $0-99, striking a balance between affordability and exposure.

Pros and cons of flat fee MLS companies

Pros Cons
✅ Using a flat-fee MLS is cheaper than paying agent commission ❌ You still have to pay buyer's agent commission
✅ Your home will receive maximum exposure online ❌ You can't leverage an agent's networking connections to find buyers
✅ You can choose what services you need ❌ Extra services will cost you more, and you won't get the support of a full-service agent
Show more

The biggest pro is the online reach you get for your home. A flat fee service isn't just limited to the MLS; it automatically extends to major real estate websites like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, and, significantly boosting your home's online visibility.

The services can also be pretty affordable. Remember that while you'll avoid the typically 2.5-3% listing agent commission, you'll still likely have to expect to pay the buyer's agent fee – which averages 2.66% nationwide, according to Clever's survey on average real estate commission rates. It's a common requirement among flat-fee MLS providers.

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How to list on the MLS without an agent

Step 1: Research the best flat-fee MLS companies in your area

With hundreds of flat-fee MLS services operating nationwide, finding the right one for your needs requires digging. National providers like Unreal Estate, Fizber, and offer wide coverage, but local market presence can vary significantly.

Opting for a national company often means your property will be listed by a local broker associated with that company, who will act as your primary contact. However, for a more direct approach and local expertise, consider starting with a local flat-fee MLS company familiar with your area's market dynamics.

When selecting a flat-fee MLS service, inquire about their network of brokers to ensure they offer strong coverage in your region and access to the specific MLS platforms necessary to target the right audience.

To make an informed decision, reading online reviews can provide valuable insights into past customers' experiences and satisfaction levels with their services.

»EXPLORE: Flat-Fee MLS Listings: Find the BEST Services Near You

Step 2: Choose a plan that's right for you

After identifying a suitable flat-fee MLS company, the next step is to select a service package that aligns with your needs and budget. It's essential to consider the trade-offs of each plan.

For example, choosing a basic plan that skips professional photography may appear cost-effective. Yet, compelling visuals are key to engaging online buyers. Indeed, a recent study highlighted that high-quality images are the top feature online buyers find very useful, with an impressive 85% rating it as such.[6]

A lack of quality photos could result in your property lingering on the market, potentially leading to a significant price reduction later on. 

Not sure what services you'll require? Ask whether the company allows you to add individual services à la carte as needed. This flexibility can provide a safety net, enabling you to enhance your listing based on how the market responds.

Step 3: Sign the listing agreement

After choosing your plan, the next step involves signing an exclusive listing agreement. This crucial document details what services are included in your package and who is responsible for providing them.

Review the fine print of this agreement carefully. Be wary of companies that advertise a simple flat fee but then tack on additional "closing fees" or "administration fees" later on. Any ambiguous or unclear terms should be a red flag. 

Should you encounter such provisions, consider it a sign to reassess your options and search for another company.

Step 4: Write an engaging property description

Creating a compelling property description is crucial for engaging potential buyers. Providing detailed information about your property is immensely valuable, ranking as the second most important feature for online buyers, with 80% considering it highly useful.[7]

This underscores the importance of including comprehensive details in your listing, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and any distinctive features that set your home apart.

Your description should concisely convey key details about your home, including the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the total square footage, and any unique features that distinguish it from other listings.

Consider the unique benefits your home offers. Whether ideal for families, pet lovers, or outdoor enthusiasts, vivid and targeted language can capture the right audience's interest. Highlighting nearby amenities like quality school districts, convenience to shopping, or access to parks can further distinguish your property in the competitive market.

Remember to keep your description concise, aiming for 250 words or less to fit the typical space constraints of real estate websites and maintain buyer engagement.

Step 5: Upload photos and view your listing

Homes that feature more photos tend to sell quicker. According to Zillow's research, the optimal range is between 22 to 27 photos. This is often the maximum number allowed by MLS companies. Listings with fewer than nine photos are roughly 20% less likely to sell within 60 days than those with 22–27 photos.[8]

Considering that about 85% of buyers find professional photos extremely or somewhat important in their home-buying decision, investing in a professional photographer or videographer can significantly impact your listing’s attractiveness. 

Reviewing your listing 

Your listing will be live within 24–48 hours after submission. Reviewing it for accuracy immediately is crucial, as some plans may charge for subsequent changes.

Be prepared to handle calls and schedule showings, if your package does not cover these services.

Finally, you must inform your flat-fee MLS service within one business day of closing to update the listing status. Neglecting this step could lead to penalties.

Flat-fee MLS alternatives

Discount brokers

Discount real estate brokers provide a cost-effective alternative for selling your home, offering services at rates lower than the conventional 2.5–3% charged by most traditional realtors.

These brokers typically charge real estate commission fees similar to traditional agents but at reduced rates. For instance, agents affiliated with Clever Real Estate offer their services for a 1.5% listing fee at the closing, lower than the national average

While the market is flooded with various discount brokerage options, the quality of service, savings, and overall value can vary significantly. For sellers seeking a balance of experience, service quality, and affordability, Clever Real Estate is a top pick. 

Clever connects sellers with multiple seasoned, full-service agents, enabling them to select an agent that best meets their needs while maintaining a uniform low listing fee of 1.5% across the board.

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  • Get a pre-negotiated 1.5% listing fee (half the typical rate)
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  • You only pay your agent's low listing fee when your house sells

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Sell FSBO without the MLS

Another choice is to forego listing on the MLS, and instead, post your home listing on FSBO websites like Zillow, Trulia, and, separately, while also advertising locally with Facebook, puting up yard signs and posters, word of mouth, etc.

The benefit is it's a complete DIY method, and you'll likely save money compared to using a flat fee MLS service. 

While you can save money on this route potentially, it's not the recommended route for those who don't already have a buyer or interested parties lined up.

Related reading


Can I list on the MLS without a Realtor?

No. Only licensed agents and brokers can list on the MLS. Each regional MLS has its own rules, but in most cases, access is restricted to members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). If you don't have an agent, the next best option is to use a flat-fee company that charges a one-time payment to list on the MLS.

How do I list on the MLS without a Realtor?

  1. Research the best flat-fee MLS companies in your area.
  2. Choose a plan that's right for you.
  3. Write an engaging listing description.
  4. Upload photos.
  5. Sign the listing agreement.
  6. View your listing on the MLS.

How much is a flat-fee MLS company?

A flat-fee MLS listing usually costs a few hundred dollars and includes a property description, up to 25 photos, and a listing lasting no more than 12 months. Additional services are often bundled into premium packages, which are available for an extra fee. The most expensive packages cost up to $2,000, but you get more dedicated support. Flat-fee services can add up, but clients can potentially save thousands of dollars on seller's agent commission.

Article Sources

[1] National Association of Realtors – "Multiple Listing Service: What is It?".
[2] National Association of Realtors – "Quick Real Estate Statistics".
[3] National Association of Realtors – "2023 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers".
[6] National Association of Realtors – "2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report".
[7] National Association of Realtors – "2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report".

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