What is the MLS? | Why use the MLS? | Who has access? | What is a flat-fee MLS? | Why use a flat-fee MLS? | How to list on a flat-fee MLS | Flat-fee MLS alternatives
If you're selling your home for sale by owner and want to list on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), you'll need to work with an agent. They are the only ones who can list on the MLS.
You can work with an agent and still maintain control of your sale by using a flat-fee company that charges a one-time payment to list your home on the MLS.
Using a flat-fee service to list on the MLS is cheaper than paying a seller's agent commission, which is usually 3% of the sale price. But selling a property involves more than just listing on the MLS.
As a FSBO seller, you're responsible for choosing an accurate listing price, marketing your home, negotiating, and completing the necessary paperwork. A flat-fee MLS company may not offer those services or charge you more for them.
If you want to save money when selling your home but need more support, consider using a low-commission agent. Clever Real Estate pre-negotiates discount rates with top agents in your area.
You'll get an MLS listing, plus all the support of a full-service agent, for just 1.5%. The service is free, and you can walk away at any time.
» SAVE: Find top local agents and get a 1.5% listing fee!
What is the MLS?
The MLS is a private database created and maintained by real estate brokers to facilitate home buying and selling. There are more than 800 regional Multiple Listing Services through which participating realtors list homes for sale. Buyer's agents from different brokerages can then access the same pool of properties consolidated in one place.
Why use the MLS?
Listing on the MLS increases the likelihood of a successful sale because properties get a ton of exposure online. The internet is where 51% of buyersfound the homes they purchased.
A bonus of using the MLS is that listings automatically sync to popular real estate websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com. Listing on those sites is crucial because they are where most people begin searching for homes. More than 43% of buyers look at listings online before they take any other step in the home-buying journey.
The MLS is also a great tool for real estate agents. Most agents subscribe to their local MLS and receive notifications when new homes are listed. Realtors represented nearly 90% of buyers who purchased homes last year, so you'll want to get on their radar.
»LEARN: The Pros and Cons of a Multiple Listing Service in Real Estate
Can I list on the MLS without a Realtor?
No. Only licensed agents 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).
The NAR governs most local Multiple Listing Services and requires agents to pay dues for access. This helps protect the overall accuracy of the site. If agents misrepresent a home or fail to report a change in its status, they could face fines or restricted access.
|💡What is listing status?|
The status of a property shows buyers if a home is still available, under contract, or has been taken off the market for some reason.
MLS listings may also contain private information, such as times a home will be vacant for showings, that is best kept among professionals who are held to strict ethical standards.
If you don't have an agent, the next best option is to use a flat-fee MLS company.
What is a flat-fee MLS company?
A flat-fee MLS company charges a set rate to list your home on the MLS. It 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. They may include:
- Professional photography and additional listing photos
- Videos or a virtual tour
- A longer listing term
- Free changes to your listing
- A comparative market analysis and pricing assistance
- Negotiation support
- Downloadable contracts and disclosures
Why use a flat-fee MLS company?
A flat-fee service is the only way to list and advertise your home on the MLS without an agent. Remember, your flat-fee MLS listing will automatically syndicate to Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, and Realtor.com — enhancing your home's online presence.
A flat-fee MLS company is also cheaper than paying 3% commission to a listing agent. Flat-fee services can add up, but the Department of Justice foundthat clients can potentially save thousands of dollars on commission fees.
Although you'll save on seller's agent fees, you'll still have to pay full buyer's agent commission, which is usually around 2–3% of the sale price. Doing so is a requirement of many flat-fee MLS companies.
✅ 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
Selling your home is difficult, even with a flat-fee MLS company. Add expensive service packages, and you'll save less than you planned and still be stuck with most of the work.
There's a better option. Clever can connect you with an agent from a trusted brokerage who will provide full-service support for just 1.5%. The service is free, and there's no obligation.
How to list with a flat-fee MLS company
Step 1: Research the best flat-fee MLS companies in your area
There are hundreds of flat-fee services in operation. Some companies like Houzeo, Fizber, and FSBO.com are available nationwide. But some states might have more coverage than others.
A national company will likely hand you over to a local broker, who will list on the MLS in your region. That broker's name will be on your listing and will be your main point of contact. To avoid the middleman, it may be best to start with a local company that has more knowledge of your area.
When choosing a flat-fee MLS company, ask about its network of brokers. Does it have strong coverage in your location? Do brokers have access to the specific MLS in your area? If not, you may not be reaching the most appropriate audience.
Finally, read reviews online to discover if customers were satisfied with their service.
»EXPLORE: Flat-Fee MLS Listings: Find the BEST Services Near You
Step 2: Choose a plan that's right for you
Once you've selected a company, determine what services you need and how much you're willing to spend. Weigh opportunity costs carefully.
For example, if you choose a plan without professional photography, you'll likely save a few hundred dollars in the short term. But if your home fails to attract buyers online, it may sit on the market longer, forcing you to lower your price by thousands.
If you're not sure what you need, ask if you can pay for additional services à la carte in the future.
Step 3: Sign the listing agreement
After choosing your plan, you'll be asked to sign an exclusive listing agreement. The agreement outlines what services are included in your package and who is responsible for providing them.
Make sure to read the fine print for any service. Some companies claim to charge only a flat fee but then impose "closing fees" or "administration fees." If you notice any suspicious language, drop that company and look for another.
Step 4: Write an engaging property description
A well-written listing description is one of the first opportunities you'll have to tell potential buyers about your home. It needs to include all the essential information, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and any special features.
Think about how buyers could benefit from your home. Is it a good fit for growing families? Pet owners? Lovers of the outdoors? Use creative language to target those buyers and pique their interest.
You'll also want to emphasize nearby amenities that give your home an edge over others on the market. Is your home located in a good school district? Are grocery stores and shopping centers nearby? Can you walk to a park? Describe those features in your listing.
Keep the description short — around 250 words or less. That's the space limitation on many real estate websites. Plus, buyers aren't likely to read a lengthy listing.
If you need inspiration, look at examples online.
»READ: 5 Great "House for Sale" Listing Description Examples
Step 5: Upload photos
Homes with more photos tend to sell faster. There is no magic number, but Zillow research found that the sweet spot is between 22–27. That's also the upload limit of most MLS companies.
Homes with fewer than nine photos are about 20% less likely to sell within 60 days than homes with 22–27 photos. Homes with more than 28 photos also sit on the market longer.
Consider hiring a professional photographer or videographer. About 77% of buyers said viewing professional photos was extremely or somewhat important in their decision to buy a home.
Patio or deck
Pool or hot tub
»MORE: Real Estate Photography Might Be the Most Important Part of Your Listing
Step 6: View your listing on the MLS
Your listing will go live about 24–48 hours after you submit its information. Review it carefully to make sure there are no mistakes. Depending on your plan, you may have to pay for changes.
Once your listing is posted, you're responsible for fielding calls and scheduling showings if those services aren't included in your package.
You must notify your flat-fee service within one business day after closing so it can update your listing. Failing to do so could result in a fine.
Consider a flat-fee MLS alternative
A flat-fee MLS company is the best way to market your home online without a realtor, but it isn't the only option. You can list your property for free on social media and some real estate websites.
Zillow and Trulia
Zillow and Trulia allow FSBO sellers to manually input their listings and upload unlimited photos. However, FSBO listings do not appear on the property map. Buyers will only see your home if they use the for sale by owner filter.
»LEARN: Zillow Listing Fees: Are They Worth the Cost?
Free FSBO websites
Some flat-fee companies, such as Fizber and ForSaleByOwner.com, offer free listings on their websites. Those listings will not appear on the MLS or populate onto other real estate websites unless you upgrade and pay for that service.
»MORE: 16 Best For Sale By Owner Websites: Read This BEFORE You Sell
Clever Real Estate
Foregoing a flat-fee MLS listing will save you money, but advertising on other platforms simply won't attract the same number of shoppers. That will make it more difficult for buyers and their agents to find your home.
Get the most visibility for your listing and still save money by using Clever. Our free service connects you with a full-service, low-commission agent who will list your home on the MLS and guide you through every step of the home-selling process. You can avoid the hassle of a FSBO sale without breaking the bank.
No. Only licensed agents 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.
- Research the best flat-fee MLS companies in your area.
- Choose a plan that's right for you.
- Write an engaging listing description.
- Upload photos.
- Sign the listing agreement.
- View your listing on the MLS.
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.