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If you’re considering selling your home without the help of a real estate agent, you may want to use a flat fee MLS service to reach potential buyers. A flat fee MLS company helps “for sale by owner” (FSBO) sellers to list their homes in the local multiple listing service (MLS) without the assistance of a Realtor®.
In this article, we explain the pros and cons of using a flat fee MLS service, how they work, and what you might pay. We’ll also give you an overview of some flat fee MLS listing services that are available throughout the U.S. To help you decide whether a listing service is the right choice for you, we spoke with HomeLight Elite real estate agent, Brett Keyser, who sells homes 60% faster than the average agent in Sarasota, Florida.
“The number one reason people go with flat fee MLS service is that they’re looking to save money,” says Keyser.
Disclaimer: This post is meant to be used for educational purposes. Mentions of flat fee MLS companies and links in this post do not constitute an endorsement.
What is a flat fee MLS listing service?
A flat fee MLS is a limited service that helps sellers get their FSBO homes on the local multiple listing service (MLS). The MLS is a private directory of for-sale homes that real estate professionals use to share home details with each other.
Because the local MLS is one of the best ways to market your home to potential buyers and get maximum exposure, it’s vital to list your home on the local MLS.
Although typically only licensed real estate agents can access and post listings on a local MLS, there are a number of different services that provide MLS services for a flat fee. These flat fee MLS companies enable FSBO sellers to bypass the traditional agent and get their home included on the MLS.
How much does a flat fee MLS service cost?
You have many local and national choices regarding flat fee MLS services. Fees range from $89 to $1,299, depending on your service level. Some listing services offer more options at better rates, and some options are only available if you pay an add-on fee or upgrade your service level. Limited agent assistance may also be available at an additional cost.
As you consider your options, you will want to weigh the different services and fees against the possible benefits and drawbacks.
Flat fee MLS listing companies
Let’s take a look at some examples of flat fee MLS listing companies in the U.S.
Note: Individual program details can change — please visit a provider’s website for the most current information on rate packages, fees, service areas, and more. HomeLight always recommends doing your own research to determine which selling option is best for your situation.
Established in 1997 in Atlanta, Georgia, FSBO.com covers major MLS in the U.S. except North Dakota. Their MLS package includes an FSBO listing on their website and an MLS listing with syndication for six months. All other options vary by state or may be available at an added cost. Once you order the MLS package, FSBO.com refers your request to an agent who will contact you to complete your listing.
Because FSBO.com is a nationwide flat fee MLS company, you’ll be paired with a third-party broker in the market where you are selling your home. As such, the company does not appear to have a Google business or Yelp profile for unbiased companywide reviews, and service may vary from state to state. FSBO.com holds a 4 out of 5-star rating on the Better Business Bureau website, but it is averaged from only two reviews.
Unreal Estate gives sellers the opportunity to reach millions of buyers by listing on the MLS, Realtor.com, Trulia, and Zillow without working with a real estate agent. The company, formerly USRealty, offers a variety of plans and pricing options, including a free starter plan where homeowners only pay if they sell their home.
Service areas: Serves 49 states (all except South Dakota) and Washington D.C.
Unreal estate received an average of 4.2 out of five stars on Trustpilot. Reviewers mentioned how fast and affordable the service is, with one reviewer reporting that they “saved a ton.”
Established in 2017 in New York, New York, Houzeo covers all major MLS in Florida. They charge more than most flat fee listing services but offer a wide range of helpful add-ons that are priced a la carte. They offer four levels of service ranging from Bronze to Platinum.
Service areas: Throughout the U.S. (limited coverage in South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming)
Houzeo holds a 4.9-star rating with Google customer reviews. Positive reviews speak of the service clients received from their assigned reps, such as expert knowledge, responsiveness, professionalism, and prompt problem-solving. A few negative reviews speak of errors on the MLS, a refund complaint, and confusion with the website interface.
Established in 1997 in Marlborough, Massachusetts, ISoldMyHouse.com covers major MLS in the U.S. except for North Dakota. Their two packages are limited to six months of basic MLS services that vary only by the number of photos you can list and include syndication. Depending on your location, your listing may be referred to an agent who will contact you to complete your listing. Their website includes informational videos and blogs to assist your FSBO efforts.
ISoldMyHouse.com has a 4.7 out of 5-star customer rating on Google reviews. Happy customers praised the easy online process, responsiveness of staff, and were satisfied with the money they saved. Unsatisfied reviewers expressed concerns about a lack of professionalism or poor communication with their company representative.
List With Freedom
Established in 2005 in Boynton Beach, Florida, List With Freedom covers all MLS in the U.S. except Alaska, Hawaii, and Kansas. Their Silver package offers basic listing services with one photo. They offer four levels of service ranging from Silver to Platinum+.
List with Freedom holds a 3.9-star Google customer rating. Happy customers praised the simple process and the money they saved. One reviewer added that they were pleased with the “tools and contacts to make our home look beautiful.” Unhappy customers expressed concerns over the response they received from their listing, communication issues, or a lack of customer service.
Comparison of flat fee MLS companies for FSBOs
|Services||FSBO.com||Unreal Estate||Houzeo||ISoldMyHouse.com||List With Freedom|
|Turnaround||Varies||48 hours||36 hours||Varies||24-48 hours|
|Listing Term||6 months||6-12 months||3-12 months||6 months||6-12 months|
|Updates||Unknown||Unlimited for paid plans||$25 each||Unknown||Unlimited|
|Forms||Unknown||State sales agreement – Premium plan||Disclosures with upgrade||Unknown||Disclosures|
|Number of Photos||20 to Max||15-Max||6-Max||6-10 or 25||1-Max|
|Yard Sign||Add-on||Upgrade||Add-on or upgrade||No||No|
|Marketing Assist*||Print on Demand||Upgrade||No||No||No|
|Showing Assist*||No||No||Upgrade||No||Add-on or upgrade|
|Pricing Assist/Market Analysis*||Add on||No||Upgrade||No||No|
|Open House*||Limited||No||Upgrade||No||Add-on or upgrade|
|Money-Back Guarantee||Cancel anytime||Yes||Cancel anytime||Yes||Cancel anytime|
* Limited assistance through the platform.
What sellers might benefit from a flat fee MLS service?
A flat fee MLS service might be the right choice for you if:
You’re looking to save on the cost of a real estate commission.
Homesellers who hire a listing agent typically pay a 5% to 6% real estate commission, which is split between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent. A listing service can help you eliminate the cost of a listing agent (2.5% to 3%). Instead, you’ll pay a flat fee of $89 to $1,299, depending on the company and level of service you choose. But, you’ll still pay the buyer’s commission in addition to the cost of any other services you use to help you sell your home.
You have a desirable home and it’s a hot market.
A desirable home in a hot market may sell itself. Listing your home in the MLS may bring multiple buyers and competitive offers your way. However, you’ll still be responsible for all aspects of your home sale.
You want to be very involved in your home sale.
If you have previous home selling experience, and you’re craving a challenge, you may want to take full control of your home sale. A FSBO sale may be your chance to shine. A flat fee MLS is the first step in your home-selling journey.
You don’t want to work with a listing agent.
Not all agents are the same. That said, for whatever reason you choose not to work with an agent, a flat fee MLS company allows you to forgo the services of a licensed agent and still get your home listed on the MLS.
You have the time and energy to invest in the home-selling process.
Depending on the level of service you purchase from a flat fee company, you may need to take on a variety of tasks normally handled by a real estate agent.
“Until they sell their own house, a lot of people don’t realize what goes into listing, marketing, selling a property, and overseeing the transaction,” says Keyser.
Even with a flat fee listing service, you’ll typically need the time, energy and know-how to:
- Use market data to set the best selling price for your home.
- Write a listing description that appeals to buyers and their agents.
- Take professional photos of your property.
- Market and advertise your home.
- Make the state and federal required disclosures.
- Coordinate showings and open houses.
- Review offers and make counteroffers.
- Negotiate the sales price.
- Understand and negotiate the terms of your contract.
- Calculate your closing costs and your net proceeds.
- Navigate any issues that may come up with the appraisal or inspection.
- Handle any local real estate transfer taxes.
- Get the required documentation together.
Pros and cons of using a flat fee MLS listing service
The advantages of using a flat fee listing company in your FSBO sale include:
- Eliminate the listing agent commission (typically 2.5% to 3%).
- Represent yourself in your home sale.
- Control all aspects of the sale from start to finish.
- Pay known costs for the listing service, upfront.
- Get your home listed on the MLS and third-party websites and maximize your exposure.
- Expand your exposure to traditional buyers and their agents.
The disadvantages of using a flat fee listing company for your FSBO sale include:
- You’re required to offer a commission to the buyer’s agent.
- You’ll be responsible to handle any issues that may delay or kill the deal.
- It’s a self-serve process that you’ll navigate without the guidance of a local expert.
- You may be exposing yourself to liability claims and other legal risks.
- Your house will likely sell for less than it would with a real estate professional.
How do I list my home with a flat fee MLS service?
Once you’ve decided to list your home with a flat fee listing service, you’ll follow these steps to get your FSBO home on the MLS:
Step 1: Vet the flat fee MLS service
Research the local service you’d like to use, including packages and rates. Be sure to look up Google reviews and check out the company on the Better Business Bureau. Before you proceed, know how much information you’ll be able to list, how many photos you can post, what forms are available free of charge, and what add-ons come at an additional charge.
Step 2: Register and select a plan
Register on the flat fee MLS company website, select the package you want, and pay the upfront fee online.
Step 3: Enter your property information
Describe your property and upload photos. If your service offers it, fill out the disclosure form.
Step 4: Read and sign your listing agreement
Sign the listing agreement. Be sure to read your listing agreement thoroughly to ensure you can cancel without penalty and won’t owe a listing commission.
Step 5: Review your live listing
Once you complete your listing, the listing company will publish it to the local MLS, which means it will be visible to buyer agents. Depending on the company you choose, it will most likely be posted on real estate websites such as Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com. However, it can take a couple of days, or longer to populate. It’s a good idea to review how your listing is displaying on real estate sites to be certain it’s correct and complete.
Are flat fee MLS listings effective?
Almost all homebuyers use online tools when searching for a new home — and with few exceptions, these online tools are relying on the local MLS databases to populate the most up-to-date listings.
Buyers’ agents also rely on MLS data to find homes that fit their client’s needs, download detailed information and disclosures, and schedule showings. Because the local MLS is one of the best ways to market your home and get it in front of buyers, it’s crucial to list your FSBO home on the local MLS.
Alternatives to a flat fee MLS service
Option 1: Flat fee real estate agent
A flat fee real estate agent might be a good option if you want more control of your home sale but need the guidance of a professional. A flat fee agent will list and sell your home and provide limited services. The average cost for a flat fee agent is $3,000 to $5,000. However, some may charge an additional percentage at closing, so read your listing agreement carefully.
Option 2: Discount real estate brokers
You can seek out the services of a low-commission or discount real estate broker. These companies or agents typically charge more (1% to 2% of your home sale) than flat fee agents. However, they will accept a reduced commission and often still provide some of the basic services and support you might receive from a full-commission agent. With a discount broker, you will still be on the hook for the full buyer’s commission. If you’re considering this route, you may want to check with local agents to see if they would be willing to negotiate a discounted commission.
Option 3: For sale by owner (FSBO) platform
In addition to flat fee listings, online FSBO platforms may offer FSBO-only (non-MLS) listings, in-depth self-service FSBO platforms, and/or limited agent assistance for a flat fee or discounted commission.
Some of the flat fee MLS companies we’ve listed above have packages that fall in this platform option category. Others include:
Option 4: Full-service, experienced real estate agent
List with a top-performing local real estate agent, who will provide dedicated full services in addition to listing your home. An experienced local agent has the advantage of knowing current market trends for your area, leveraging local connections with contractors and sales contacts, and having the professional skills to sell your home faster with the best results.
“We live in a free market where you can sell your home online if you want,” says Keyser. “If it was easy to sell your home and for the most amount of money, we’d see more of it. But year over year, nine out of ten people are using an agent, because there’s a real benefit there.”
Some of the benefits of using a full-service, full-commission real estate agent or broker include:
- Accurate pricing to fit market conditions.
- Ability to sell your home at a higher price.
- Access to a network of skilled professionals.
- Home preparation recommendations and services.
- Appraisal expertise for the best valuation.
- Guidance through inspection issues.
- Elevated marketing and broader visibility.
- Takes pressure and workload off the sellers.
- Contract savviness to avoid delays.
- Professional negotiation skills.
The biggest benefit to using a flat fee service is saving the real estate commission. But even with a flat fee listing, you’re typically getting less money than you would paying a fee to a Realtor. And that’s directly tied to incorrectly pricing your property and not negotiating the best price.
- Brett Keyser Real Estate AgentCloseBrett Keyser Real Estate Agent at Re/Max Alliance Group Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience 15
- Transactions 696
- Average Price Point $274k
- Single Family Homes 485
Will I save money with a flat fee MLS listing service?
While it’s possible to save money on the listing agent commission fee, you may be losing money in the long run. Not only will you be sacrificing time and work, but you will also be proceeding without the expertise of a professional who could save or earn you money later when negotiating with a potential buyer.
If you’re considering using a flat fee listing service, know that the money you save in commission may be offset by the selling price of your home. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sellers who use an agent to sell a home typically make $105,000 more on their sale price than FSBO sellers.
“The biggest benefit to using a flat fee service is saving the real estate commission. But even with a flat fee listing, you’re [typically] getting less money than you would paying a fee to a Realtor®. And that’s directly tied to incorrectly pricing your property and not negotiating the best price,” cautions Keyser.
What if I need to sell my home fast?
One of the most convenient ways to sell your home fast is HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform. You can skip repairs, showings, and commissions and receive a no-obligation cash offer in as little as a week. If you accept the offer, you can close in as few as 10 days.
What else should I know about selling a house FSBO?
Depending on the state or region where you live, disclosure laws may be non-optional. For more information about required disclosures, search for the disclosure form from your state legislature or local real estate association.
In addition to making the required disclosures, some states require an attorney to sell your FSBO home. Even if your state does not require an attorney for your home sale, it’s highly recommended that you hire one to help you understand the terms of your contract, oversee your documentation, and reduce your risk of liability.
You’ll also want to make sure that deadlines and obligations are met when you enter into a contract. If your flat fee service doesn’t have a system to help with that, you’ll need to keep track.
“You can get yourself in trouble just by not knowing what you’re doing,” Keyser explains. “I worked with a seller who had tried to sell FSBO and entered a contingent contract, and the sale was going nowhere. The buyer never paid in their escrow, so the house was sitting in no man’s land for months with no closing date and no accountability. At the same time, the seller missed an opportunity on the buy side for a home they really loved. It was simple to get them out of the deal because the buyer hadn’t held up their end. We sold the property for $50,000 more than their FSBO contract.”
Ready to sell your home?
Listing a house by owner in your local MLS is the first step to getting the maximum exposure of your FSBO home. But doing so requires the assistance of a listing agent or the services of a flat fee MLS company.
With a flat fee listing service, you can avoid paying the listing agent commission and maintain complete control of your home sale. While you may save on the listing commission, know that FSBO listings tend to sell for less than agent-assisted sales. An experienced agent who knows the area can help you maximize your sale price and get a premium offer. This can help to offset or, in some cases, more than make up for the cost of commission.
If you choose to go FSBO, you should have a good idea now of what to expect from a flat fee MLS listing company.
If you choose to maximize your profit and save the time and potential headaches of a FSBO sale, HomeLight can connect you with some of the top-performing agents in your local market.
Header Image Source: (Trayan / Unsplash)