What Is A Flat Fee MLS Listing Service and Will it Hurt My Home Sale?

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You’re a weekend warrior who likes to dive into home projects to save money. Why should selling your home be any different? Using a flat fee MLS listing to potentially save thousands of dollars in real estate commissions could put that money directly in your pocket. But is selling the house yourself really worth your time and energy?

If you’re considering  going the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) route and enlisting the help of a flat fee MLS listing instead of a real estate agent, this guide will help you navigate all the pros and cons.

Unsure about selling FSBO?

If you don’t have the time or expertise to list your home FSBO, partner with a trusted, top agent in your market. We analyze over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to find you the best agent for your unique situation.

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.

Is a flat fee MLS listing service the right choice for me?

Saving the cost of a real estate commission can definitely sound enticing, but maybe you’re still not sure if you want to wear your real estate agent hat.

“If you have somebody who just wants MLS access and is very competent, understands the legal ramifications and process of selling a home, might understand some construction things, has the time to have showings, deal with the phone calls, and the back and forth that is part of that process, maybe have some sort of marketing background as well, you might not need the services of a real estate agent,” says Joe Bourland, a top-selling agent in Peoria, Arizona, with more than 20 years of experience.

Bourland explains that a flat fee service may be a good choice because you’re initially saving money, but in exchange for that upfront savings, you are also sacrificing work and potential knowledge you’ll need in order to really save money when negotiating later.

On the other hand, you might like being very involved and are confident that no one else fully understands all the features of your home. But doing the majority of the work yourself means you’re also directly responsible for the results. As you consider your options, here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of using a flat fee MLS listing service.

Pros and cons of using a flat fee MLS listing service


  • No listing agent real estate commission (typically 2.5%-3%).
  • Control of all aspects of the sale from start to finish.
  • Known costs are paid upfront for selling the property.


  • Flat fee + possible commission to buyer’s agent (2.5%-3%).
  • Responsibility for addressing any issues that arise to protect sale.
  • Mostly a self-service process that involves lots of time and energy.

How does a flat fee MLS listing service compare to a traditional real estate agent?

  • Personalized service is lacking vs. an agent who can immediately answer your questions.
  • Paying a flat fee mostly buys MLS access vs. a tailored marketing strategy plus MLS access.
  • You resolve setbacks during the process vs. relying on a professional who handles any issues.

Using a top real estate agent involves more than just getting your home listed on a MLS site. That’s the first step in a marketing strategy that specifically attracts a pool of buyers to your home compared to other homes that are available. A top-rated agent who has sold dozens or even hundreds of homes in your area has the advantage of knowing current market trends, and how to sell faster with the best results.

So, how do you find a top agent? HomeLight can connect you with agents in your market who fit your selling situation. Our research shows that the top 5% of real estate agents nationwide typically sell homes for as much as 10% more than average real estate agents.

Will I really save money selling FSBO with a flat fee MLS listing service?

While it’s possible to save a large commission when you initially list your home for sale, if you add in the cost of your time, it might not be as big of a savings. It will depend on how effective you are in finding the right buyer, and this will ultimately determine if listing your home as a FSBO was the most profitable option when the sale closes.

According to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), FSBO homes sold at a median price of $225,000 last year compared to agent-assisted homes that sold at a median price of $345,000 — up to a 35% difference.

Find a Top-Rated Real Estate Agent Near You

FSBO listings statistically sell for less than agent-assisted sales. HomeLight analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs.

How much does a flat fee MLS listing service cost?

Flat fees for MLS listing services can vary depending on the type of services you’ll need during the home selling process. It might only cost $300 to list your home on the MLS for a standard listing — or up to $5,000 dollars if you decide to purchase additional services such as an agent’s help with marketing, paperwork and the final negotiation. In addition to your fee, you’ll likely have to pay a buyer’s agent commission.

“Most flat fee services tell people to offer up 2.5%-3%, so the seller is still paying that to whoever represents the buyer as an incentive to bring a buyer to the property,” says Bourland.

What is the best flat fee MLS listing service?

Even though you’re paying a flat fee, MLS listing services generally offer different levels of service. Some will offer a bare bones listing of your home on the MLS, while others will give you tons of options for added costs. How do you find the perfect fit when not any MLS will do? Consider the following before signing on the dotted line to do a flat fee MLS listing:

Location, location, location

Since you’re selling your home locally, you want your listing to be local too. There are hundreds of MLS databases that cover different areas in each state, and listing locally will mean local agents will find your listing versus agents who won’t know your housing market.

Research and reviews

Research the company you are considering using for your listing.  Do they have a lot of positive or negative reviews? Are they a member of the Better Business Bureau? Do they have a professional website that is helpful for answering questions? Do they include an easy way to contact them or are they more elusive? A good reputation is important before you choose a particular company and will also be attractive to real estate agents who have potential buyers.

Solid Communication

Good communication is key, according to Bourland, who relayed a story of how one home seller had to terminate their listing agreement because their calls were never returned from their flat fee MLS company after listing the property. This lack of communication can be frustrating to the buyer, seller and agent when you’re trying to negotiate a deal and answers aren’t timely.

Well known and established, reputable flat fee MLS listing services:

Does using a flat fee listing service hurt a home sale?

What MLS company you use and how you market your property will often determine the success of your home sale. Here are some additional questions sellers have about how a flat fee MLS might impact a home sale:

As a FSBO seller, where else can I list my home?

If you’re not interested in paying for a flat fee MLS listing service but still want to list your house as a FSBO, there are other sites you can choose including:

Consider these 4 factors before you list with a flat fee MLS service

Whether you choose to use a flat fee MLS listing, agent or alternate site for selling your home, consider the following:

Involvement – the time and energy you want to devote to your home sale

Profitcalculate the potential profit you might get depending on the final sale price

Research – review the company and clarify what services you’ll get for your flat fee

Support – what resources will be available to answer your questions during the process

If you’d like to connect with a top real estate agent to learn more about what might be the best options in your market, HomeLight can help.

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