What is a flat fee MLS Service?
Flat fee MLS services typically offer sellers the ability to list their home on the “Multiple Listing Service,” which is what real estate agents use to list their properties and share them with other agents that also belong to the local MLS.
This is also sometimes call an “entry only” listing. This designation signals to buyers agents that the agent entering the listing into the MLS is not performing any other tasks for the seller–so they know not to contact that agent to arrange a showing, for example.
The benefit of getting your house listed on the local MLS is that MLS systems are typically syndicated with many other websites. When a listing goes live on the MLS, it automatically gets listed on sites like Realtor.com, Zillow and many others.
The only way to get on Realtor.com is through an MLS, and you probably want to be on Realtor.com as it is one of the most visited real estate websites in the world.
When should I use a flat fee MLS service
People that are selling their home for sale by owner should definitely consider a flat-fee MLS service to get their home more exposure online and to other buyer’s agents. You should keep in mind that in order to get in the MLS, you’ll have to offer some commission to the buyer’s agent if they deliver you a buyer.
Typically you’ll want to offer 2.5% to the buyer agent.
This might seem like it defeats the purpose of selling a house by yourself, but you have to keep in mind that you are still saving the 3.5% you would have paid to a listing agent.
You are still coming out way ahead if you use the flat-fee MLS method–and you get the added benefit of a huge pool of agents with buyers.
Keep in mind that getting your listing on the MLS and offering a commission does not mean you can’t still sell your house to an unaffiliated buyer and keep that 3.5% for yourself. It’s a way to play both side of the fence.
How much should I expect to spend on a flat fee MLS service
Prices vary depending on what services are offered in addition to getting the listing on the MLS. Some companies offer tools and other services that will cost you more money.
For the most basic MLS listing service, you’re looking at just under $299-$399 for most companies.
There are some that offer products all the way up to $1,000. It all depends on the level of service you want from the company.
What are my responsibilities as the seller when using a flat fee mls
The basic flat fee MLS packages will simply list your house on your local MLS. Showings, paperwork, escrow management, and closing are all things you’ll have to tackle.
Buyers agents will get your contact information in the “Showing Instructions” portion of the MLS listing. They will contact you directly if they want to show your house.
On customer-facing websites like Zillow and Realtor, the phone number of your listing broker will be displayed. Those queries will generally get forwarded from the broker directly to you.
Depending on the provider, you may get some help from the “flat-fee” MLS company if you buy one of their extra packages. Based on my research, the top providers will offer upgrades so you can get help with the paperwork if you need it.
Make sure, when you choose a listing service, that it sends your listing out to Realtor and Zillow when you submit the MLS listing (Most do, but double check). Those are the consumer-facing sites where your house is mostly likely to be discovered by a buyer–and that buyer might not be attached to a real estate agent at that point.
As the seller you will want to keep in mind that once you sign up with a service and get hooked up with a brokerage–you will be asked to sign an “Exclusive Agency” agreement. The MLS has a rule that one property can not be listed in the MLS as the same time by two different companies. That’s fine. You only need one listing.
If you accept an offer, you must inform the listing company right away– within 1 day. The same MLS rule applies when you officially close on house. Now you’re seeing why optimal customer service is going to be key. There are a lot of rules to follow.
Make sure you’re ready with the photos before attempting to put the listing up on the MLS. The MLS requires at least one photo to be included in the listing before it goes up. Launching the listing with subpar photography is a terrible idea.
Make sure you get your photos squared away ahead of time.
What to look out for when picking a Flat Fee MLS Company
You’ll want to make sure the listing service offers unlimited revisions to the listing for no additional charge. You will have to change the listing. Trust me. Make sure you can make all the changes you need to make.
Make sure there is ample customer support in case you get stuck on something or have a question. They all claim to have good customer support, but if they aren’t offering up a phone number or they are making you really dig to find one, chances are good their support is terrible.
Try searching for (company URL) + “Review” in Google search and see what other people have said about the company.
Above all else, make sure the company is local to your listing area.
It’s super important for this one reason: Your house will only be in front of relevant buyers if you are listed in the proper local MLS that covers your town / city / county.
You see, the MLS isn’t just one central database, there are MANY MLS’s throughout the country, all with different coverage areas. Some are large, some are smaller.
Before you buy a package from anybody, make sure you’ll be getting in the appropriate MLS for your area.
Will Buyers Agents Avoid Showing my House just because it’s flat fee?
Although you’re going to be more work for the buyers agent than a normal listing, most will not outright avoid showing your property to a prospective buyer. If your house is the perfect fit for their buyer, they are going to show that house. At the end of the day they want a happy buyer and a sale. If your property is most likely to accomplish that for them, they will show it.
It’s also not super obvious from the start that you’re working with a broker that only charged you a flat fee. Agents will see the commission % that you are offering, but they won’t see what you paid the listing broker.
Besides, these days buyers know to look on Zillow ( and others) and if they see a house is still for sale, they are going to demand to see it.
If a buyer’s agent doesn’t show it, they run the risk of the buyer finding the listing themselves and losing that customer altogether.
The bottom line is, It’s much better for them to do a bit more work and get a sale, a commission check and a happy customer, than to avoid showing your house because you are a flat fee person.
Remember that you have to cooperate with the buyer’s agent when you go down the route of FSBO. If you have a major beef with real estate agents in general, hire a lawyer to review the contract for you if you get an offer.
How to Write the Listing and Dealing with Pictures
Once you decide on a company that you are going to use, you need to be prepared to write the listing copy and put up pictures.
These two components are extremely important. Get this right and you’ll have a much easier time selling. Get this wrong and people will think they should lowball you.
The worst words to use in your FSBO listing are “motivated seller.” Anything that implies you are desperate to sell will attract people that make a living giving people low-ball offers.
Investors don’t need you to tell them that your house is a good investment property (if that’s your angle). Avoid turning a “retail” buyer into a bargain shopper.
If you’ve upgraded the house with new appliances and features, use the brand name in the description. Brand association is a real thing. Companies like Whirlpool, Viking, and Shaw Flooring spend millions of dollars a year convincing people that they sell quality products.
Grab some of that prestige by simply mentioning the brand names in the description.
Speak in terms of benefits and not in terms of features.
Having a “pool” is a feature. Having a backyard oasis that turns your house into the resort of your dreams is speaking in terms of benefits. Benefits sell more than features.
All that being said, even the most compelling copy in the world can’t overcome subpar pictures.
Think about how you look at real estate listings. Sure you might glance over the copy some, but you are likely qualifying the listing by looking at the pictures first. If the pictures grab your attention, you’ll read it–if not it’s on to the next one.
Welcome to the attention span of the average internet user.
This makes your photos literally the most important thing for getting more showings.
Taking the best listing photos could be the subject of an entire eBook, but the single biggest tip I can give you that you can implement right now is to remember the lighting is key for every single shot you take.
Do not put up any photos where the lighting was a little too dark. It will send all the wrong messages.
Since you are selling your house yourself, it’s almost always a good idea to hire a pro to come out and take the shots. Sure it might cost you a couple hundred bucks, but it’s really important to get that right.
Conclusion: There are a ton of choices out there when it comes to Flat Fee MLS companies and “entry only” joints on the internet.
Make sure to pay up if you have to for proper customer service. It’s always worth it and you will have questions and changes that will need to be made.
Also, please make sure the provider is local and you can talk to the actual listing broker before you pay anything.
Once you’ve made the decision, make sure you have the copy and photos ready to go. You only get to be “newly listed” once, so put your best foot forward and be ready before you put the listing online. Have the right photos with the proper lighting, and avoid the dreaded “value” keywords in the copy.
I wish you the best of luck in your home sale!