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If you're selling your home for sale by owner (FSBO), hiring a flat-fee MLS service can help you increase your listing's visibility without breaking the bank.
Flat-fee MLS companies charge a set rate to list your home on the local multiple listing service (MLS), a database of homes for sale in your region.
MLS listings get posted to every major real estate website, including Zillow and Realtor.com. And real estate agents typically subscribe to the MLS and use it to find homes for their clients. So getting your home on the MLS is crucial.
You can save money by using a flat-fee MLS service instead of hiring a full-service agent who typically charges a 2-3% commission rate.
But keep in mind that selling a property involves a lot more than just listing it on the MLS. You'll also need to coordinate showings and open houses and navigate price and contract negotiations — not to mention wading through all the legal paperwork.
Unlike full-service agents, flat-fee MLS companies don't handle all of these details.
If you want to save money on your listing but aren't ready to DIY, a better alternative might be using a full-service agent who charges a discounted commission or a flat rate. Clever can match you with full-service agents who work for a low flat fee or 1%. Find a low fee agent near you.
Flat-fee MLS listing services by state
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of flat-fee MLS companies based throughout the United States. While there are big players such as Houzeo that offer services across the country, there are also many uber-local flat-fee MLS companies too.
The potential benefits of opting for a homegrown service include more local market knowledge, more control over your listing, and better communication.
It’s also worth mentioning that many of the national services simply refer you to a local realtor or brokerage. So you might as well skip the middleman and work directly with a company based in your area.
Find your state below to compare flat-fee MLS services near you.
What is a flat-fee MLS listing service?
A flat-fee MLS listing service is a company that charges a set rate to list your home on your regional multiple listing service (MLS) database.
The MLS is the main tool that real estate agents use to find properties for their home-buying clients. MLS listings also get posted to major real estate sites like Zillow and Realtor.com. So getting your house on the local MLS is one of the most powerful marketing moves you can make.
Unfortunately, FSBO sellers can't just submit their own listings to the MLS. Only real estate agents and brokers can list on these databases.
That's where flat-fee MLS services come in. These companies are licensed brokers that can put your property on the MLS for around a few hundred dollars.
What do you get with a flat-fee MLS listing service?
With a typical flat-fee package, you can expect to have your listing posted on your local MLS for 3-12 months with anywhere from 6-25 photos, along with a brief description of your property.
By using a flat-fee MLS company, you'll save on the typical 2-3% commission that listing agents charge. But as a tradeoff, you won't get the full-service selling experience that traditional realtors offer.
How much does an MLS listing service cost?
Typically, flat-fee MLS listing companies charge a flat rate in the range of $100-500 for a very basic package.
In addition to the basic flat-fee MLS listing, most companies offer multiple pricing tiers or charge more for additional or upgraded services. These can include more pictures of your home, longer contract lengths (the amount of time your listing is displayed on the MLS), help negotiating with potential buyers, for sale signs and lockboxes, and more.
It may be worth paying for a more expensive tier of service if you need your house sold quickly or if you're not comfortable with the home-selling process.
Why use a flat-fee MLS service?
An effective flat-fee MLS listing service will make sure that your home is posted on the specific MLS that is relevant to buyers in your region.
The MLS is one of the most powerful marketing tools you can use to sell your house. Some of the advantages of having your home listed on the MLS include:
Online exposure: Your house automatically appears across a number of local and national real estate websites, including Realtor.com, Trulia, and Zillow. More than 40% of buyers look at listings online before they take any other step in the home-buying journey. By getting your property onto a real estate site, you'll be on their radar.
Realtor access: Nearly 90% of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker, who likely subscribes to your local MLS. Realtors representing buyers near you will get notified when your listing is posted to your local MLS.
Getting your home on the MLS without agreeing to work with a full-service, traditional listing agent can ensure that you are effectively marketing your home, while saving on the 2-3% in commission you'd typically pay a full-service agent to list your home.
Who is a flat-fee MLS service best for?
Flat-fee MLS services are best for home sellers who have the experience and confidence to go the for sale by owner (FSBO) route. In addition, it's really good only for FSBO sellers who don't already have a buyer lined up — in that case, it would be a waste of money, since you don't need to market your home!
Selling your home without the help of an agent can be extremely difficult and time-consuming. Although you'll save 2-3% in commission, it can feel like a full-time job. You'll have to handle everything from pricing your home to marketing it to negotiating the sale by yourself. Plus. you'll probably still be on the hook for the commission charged by the buyer's agent — probably another 2-3%.
If you know what you're doing, FSBO can be a rewarding experience. And using a flat-fee MLS service can help.
Flat-fee MLS listings vs. full-service agents
The biggest advantage of using a flat-fee MLS listing vs. hiring a full-service agent is the cost savings.
Assuming a typical 3% listing fee for an agent and a $299 flat rate for the MLS listing, here's how much you could save:
Home Sale Price
Typical full-service listing commission
Typical flat-fee MLS listing cost
However, it's worth pointing out that when you use a flat-fee MLS service, you'll probably still have to pay a commission to your buyer's agent — roughly 2-3%.
Apart from the cost, the other huge difference between working with a traditional full-service agent and listing your home through a flat-fee MLS company is in the quality and amount of services offered.
By choosing to sell your home FSBO using an MLS listing service, you miss out on the expertise and comprehensive service of a traditional realtor.
While some FSBO sellers find the experience rewarding, it's not easy to sell your house on your own. Roughly 10% of sellers who initially attempted a FSBO sale have eventually given up and hired a full-service agent.
3% of sales price
- Listed on MLS
- Accurate home pricing (CMA)
- Negotiating with potential buyers
- Professional photography of your home
- Home staging
- Help with legal paperwork
- Scheduling and hosting showings
~$250 flat fee
- Listed on MLS
- Limited pricing support
- Downloadable contracts and disclosures with no review or support
When you work with a full-service agent, you get access to a suite of services that can be incredibly valuable to someone trying to sell their home. Typical services often include:
Performing a comparative market analysis (CMA): Full-service realtors will analyze similar homes that have sold in your area to determine the proper listing price. Getting the right price has been shown to be the most difficult task for FSBO sellers, according to research by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Experienced realtors are well equipped to perform an accurate CMA — because of their knowledge of the local market — and can make sure you start with the optimal asking price.
Negotiating price and contingencies with potential buyers: Having experience negotiating offers when selling a home can be incredibly valuable. That's because it's likely you'll receive offers below your listed price. Knowing when to accept, reject, or counter an offer from a potential buyer is something a top realtor will be adept at.
Professional photography: Full-service listing agents will often cover the cost of professional photography (which can range from $100-500) for their clients. Quality pictures — taken with a professional DSLR camera, rather than a phone — can be a huge asset when selling your house.
Staging your home: It's not uncommon for full-service real estate agents to cover staging for their clients. Professional home staging involves decorating your home in a way that is most appealing to potential buyers and has shown to reduce the time it takes to sell a house and increase the sales price. However, hiring a staging company isn't cheap. The median dollar value spent on staging is around $400.
Help with the legal paperwork: Full-service real estate agents will be able to put the necessary paperwork together to ensure that the transaction goes smoothly, at no additional cost.
Scheduling and hosting showings: Having a dedicated realtor organize the logistics of showing your home can save you the time and headache of dealing with potential buyers. Making your home available for potential buyers is an essential component when selling your home. It can also be a time-consuming and potentially dangerous part of the process because you'll be inviting strangers into your home.
By choosing a flat-fee MLS listing service, you should be prepared to address or pay for these services yourself.
Things to consider when choosing a flat-fee MLS company
When comparing flat-fee MLS services, it’s important to consider your specific needs and goals, because they'll dictate which features matter most to you. We've broken down some of the most important factors when evaluating different companies:
Why it's important
Cost vs services
Comparing companies based on cost can help you avoid overpaying as many flat-fee MLS listing services offer similar services at drastically different price points. On the other hand, some services include a variety of support services for no additional cost — which could be particularly valuable if you're an inexperienced home seller.
If the company you choose does not have the ability to list your home on the MLS specific to your location, you may not be reaching the most appropriate audience. To ensure your listing is most effective, make sure your listing will be posted to the most relevant regional MLS(s).
Number of photos
Having a comprehensive set of photos of your home's exterior and interior is a crucial part of marketing your home. In most cases, six pictures — which is standard for many flat-fee MLS companies — won't be enough to properly market your home.
If your house doesn't sell within your initial listing term, you'll end up having to pay more to keep your listing active on the MLS. The average time to sell a home was 68 days in 2019. However, this can vary drastically based on your home's location. Note that FSBO homes often take longer to sell, so having ample time on the MLS — at least six months — can be quite valuable.
Length of listing description
Some flat-fee MLS companies may limit your listing description to just a few lines of text — which is often not enough to properly convey the important details of your home. Be sure to inquire about the allowable length of your post before committing to a service if it’s not apparent upfront.
Help with valuations and home pricing
Some companies will help you set a competitive list price for your home, usually by performing a comparative market analysis. This is a key benefit to look for as proper pricing requires expertise and local market knowledge and is one of the biggest factors in determining how quickly your house sells (or if it sells at all).
Ability to make changes to your listing
Selling your home can be a learning experience, so if you're new to the process, it can be incredibly useful to have the ability to improve your posting without penalty as you learn the best ways to market your home.
Broker direct or referral service?
Some flat-fee MLS companies are just middlemen that connect you with a third-party local broker.
When working directly with the broker who lists your home on the MLS, it's more likely that the services you receive and the price you pay will be consistent with the terms listed when you chose the service.
Buyer inquiry forwarding
You can avoid paying a buyer's agent commission of 2-3% if you find an unrepresented buyer who isn't working with an agent. However, some flat-fee MLS agencies will offer to represent potential buyers in order to collect a buyer's agent commission instead of forwarding you those leads directly.
Some MLS listing companies will charge you a fee to take down your listing — which you would want to do if your home sells or if you decide to work with a full-service agent.
Built-in coaching and/or support*
Some services offer built-in services and support that can be incredibly valuable to inexperienced home sellers: they'll review contracts and help prepare counteroffers and required disclosures, as well as calculate closing costs.
* Note that in states with minimum service requirements, the real estate agent that lists your home on the MLS may be required to provide you with assistance without additional costs.
How minimum service laws affect flat-fee MLS
In areas where minimum service laws have been enacted, all licensed real estate agents and brokers — including those offering flat-fee MLS services — must provide a more complete set of services to their clients whether they pay for those services or not.
Twelve states and Washington, D.C. have banned real estate agents from offering only à-la-carte services, such as flat-fee MLS listings, to home sellers. The specific services required vary by state but often include negotiating and presenting offers, as well as answering questions and looking out for their clients’ best interests.
Option to waive requirements
To account for the additional services they’re required to provide, flat-fee MLS companies may charge an additional fee or a commission when your house sells. Agents offering flat-fee MLS services in these states without providing the mandated support or services may be in violation of minimum service laws.
Best flat-fee MLS listing services in 2020
Trying to decide on a flat-fee MLS service? To help you make the right choice, we’ve picked some of the top companies across the country and compiled some basic, key info like pricing tiers, service terms, and links to customer reviews.
Be sure to visit and/or reach out to the companies below for more info and answers to specific questions before making a final decision.
Sellers looking for a lot of a-la-carte options
- you can fill out, sign, and submit all your seller's paperwork on the Houzeo app.
- When you enter your address, Houzeo auto-fills publicly available data about your property.
- Houzeo lets you buy additional services like contract reviews, agent showings, and professional showings a la carte.
- You have to pay extra for pricing assistance — several local competitors offer this for free.
- You're limited to 10 free changes for price, status, and description in their two most popular packages. Most competitors offer unlimited free changes.
Sellers who want to work with a local broker with a national reputation
- You can set up a free FSBO web page along with your MLS listing.
- In most states it's easy to switch to a full-service agent if you decide FSBO isn't for you.
- Your package options and quality of service will vary based on the listing broker in your state.
- As of January 6, 2021, Flat Fee Group does not have brokers in Montana, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Sellers who want to attract people looking for a FSBO property
- Fizber will promote your listing for you on social media.
- If you change your mind before your listing goes live, you can get a full refund within 30 days of purchase.
- The basic MLS package only includes six photos. Other companies include up to 25.
- You'll have to pay extra if you want to make changes to your listing.
Sellers looking for a listing they can manage entirely online
- It's easy to share your listing on your social media accounts directly from the ISoldMyHouse listing platform.
- You'll have access to an extensive library of articles on selling a property without a Realtor.
- Your experience will depend a lot on the broker the company refers you to.
- While ISoldMyHouse.com is a national company, it isn't available for every county in every state.
Sellers on a shoestring budget
- Your listing will get a dedicate web page that you can share.
- You don't have to pay an extra fee if you decide to cancel your listing.
- While they advertise some of the lowest prices we've seen, you could pay more based on where you live.
- Listing packages aren't available in all locations even though it's a national company.
Sellers who also want to list on a large FSBO marketplace
- Your home will appear in your local MLS and on FSBO.com. A lot of people shop directly for FSBO properties on their site.
- FSBO.com refers you to a broker in your area instead of listing your property itself. Your experience could vary greatly dependin on the broker you're matched with.
- You have to pay for seller disclosures, for sale signs, and lock boxes separately.
Alternatives to flat-fee MLS
If you’re looking to save on realtor commission but are wary of the heavy lifting that typically comes with a FSBO listing, there are a number of alternative options worth considering.
Discount realtors and brokerages provide real estate services for a reduced commission or flat fee. Some will limit the scope of their services to offset their discounted rate, so it’s important to ask questions and do research upfront to know exactly what you’ll be getting in exchange for your fee.
If you want the savings without sacrificing service, you should look into a discount brokerage or referral service. Because these companies are able to send a high volume of new business to the agents they work with — typically at zero upfront cost (agents pay a referral fee after closing) — they’re able to negotiate significant discounts while ensuring the agents still provide full service and support.
This is exactly how Clever operates. When you sell with Clever, you’ll work with a top-rated, local agent and get full service, but you’ll pay a flat listing fee of $3,000 — or 1% if your home sells for more than $350,000. That’s one-third (or less) the typical rate listing agents charge for full service.
iBuyers are companies that pay cash outright for qualifying homes. iBuyers claim that their prices are near-market and you could have a preliminary offer within 24-48 hours.
The big downside to iBuyers is that these companies charge a built-in fee — typically 5-14% of the final offer price. So they're a good alternative only for sellers more concerned with convenience and speed than costs.
FAQs about flat-fee MLS services
Are flat-fee MLS services legal?
In the 12 states and the District of Columbia where there are minimum service laws, it’s not legal for companies to only list your house on the MLS without also providing the required minimum services. These required services vary by state, but often include negotiating offers and providing general counsel if their clients have questions.
States and territories with minimum service mandates include:
- District of Columbia
- West Virginia
Additionally, Delaware, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin have passed minimum service legislation, but give consumers the option to waive these requirements if they choose to work with a flat-fee MLS service.
Do you need to use a MLS service to get your home on Zillow?
No. You can post your home "For Sale By Owner" (FSBO) on Zillow for free without working with a real estate agent or paying an MLS listing service to list your home for you.
Do flat-fee MLS listings work?
Choosing a flat-fee MLS company ensures that your home is seen by the greatest number of interested buyers and is an effective way to save on commission costs. However, having your home seen by potential buyers is only part of the home selling process.
Unless you are willing to devote the substantial time and effort necessary to sell your home FSBO, you can expect mixed results using a flat-fee MLS listing company.