Flat Fee MLS Services Explained
If you’re thinking about selling your home, you have many more options than the traditional way of paying 6% for a full service real estate agent. One of those options is a using a flat fee service to list your home in the MLS. But, how does a flat fee MLS service work?
First, let’s cover the basics.
What is the MLS?
MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service and it’s been around before the internet was born. We really shouldn’t refer to it is “it” because there are well over 600 MLSs across the US, and each MLS is regional. They were started by real estate brokers – members of REALTOR® associations – as a way to market listings to other brokers who might be working with buyers.
Originally, MLSs started as three-ring binders filled with every listing in a given area, along with commission payouts if another broker brought a buyer. Eventually, MLSs evolved to daily faxed lists, then emailed, and then… finally… the internet made it much easier for brokers and agents to share their listings and offer commissions.
This evolution to the online world in the late ’90s opened the door to online marketing, which is what most people recognize if for today. However, throughout this evolution of MLSs, three things still remain today:
- The primary purpose is to share listings – and commissions – among agents and brokers.
- They’re very regional – and operate independently of each other.
- They’re controlled by real estate brokerages and regional REALTOR® associations
How do you access the MLS?
Since each MLS is generally owned and operated by REALTORS®, you’ll need to hire one to have your home listed in the MLS. For Sale by Owners that access the MLS, technically are no longer selling by owner. Once you hire a service to list your home in the MLS, you are represented by a licensed REALTOR® in selling your home.
That said, it’s quite different from what you would traditionally consider when hiring an agent. Flat fee MLS listing services provide a limited number of services to keep your costs to a minimum. They also provide home sellers with flexibility of selling the home without paying additional commission, if a buyers agent isn’t involved.
You have to offer a commission.
Since the primary purpose of the MLS is to share listings and commissions among agents, you have to offer a buyers agent commission in the MLS. Most MLS listing services will offer you some freedom in what commission you offer. However, it’s wise to keep the amount attractive – after all, this is a sales process.
When using a flat fee MLS listing service, we recommend factoring a buyer agent commission into the sale price of your home. If a buyers agent doesn’t get involved – great, more cash in your pocket!
#1 Benefit of the MLS : Marketing
Hands down, the number one benefit of listing your home in the MLS is the amount of exposure it provides. A listing in the MLS not only markets your home to every buyerd agent in town, but it also becomes listed in Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Homes.com, and hundreds of other real estate portals. It becomes listed in literally hundreds of other websites, hosted by real estate agents and brokerage members of the MLS.
The marketing a flat fee MLS service provides is great, BUT none of it matters if these three things aren’t handled properly:
- Pricing. Accurate pricing is the most important factor in selling your home.
- Photos. Poor, low quality photos don’t encourage anyone to see your home. If you don’t have an eye for photography, do yourself a favor and hire a photographer.
- Staging. Once you’ve lured a prospective buyer to your home through attractive pricing and photography, win them over in person by staging it well.
What else comes with the service?
Most flat fee MLS listing services don’t provide you with the three critical factors above – pricing, photos, and staging. Some do nothing more than provide you with access to the MLS.
Before you sign up, or pay for any flat fee MLS service, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting. Here are some things you should ask to an MLS listing provider:
- How long is the term of listing?
- Is contract and disclosure paperwork provided?
- Is an agent available to help you, and during what days/hours?
- How many photos can you include?
- Is a lockbox provided?
- Can you market your open houses?
- Is a showing scheduler/service provided?
- Is signage and other marketing materials provided?
- What are the extra – nickel and dime – fees?
Is an MLS listing service right for you?
Using a flat fee MLS listing service is a great way to save money when selling your home, but it’s nothing like hiring a full service agent to sell your home. You will be doing a lot of the leg work, and the success or failure of your home selling depends entirely on you. The MLS is simply a channel for you to market your home.
It’s up to you to decide whether, or not, it’s a fit for you. And if you’re looking for a flat fee MLS service in your area, Contact Us – Transactly can help.