Flat Fee MLS Listing Service

How to Save Big with a Flat Fee MLS Listing Service

You’ve just bought your Broward County Foreclosure property at auction. You’ve decided after inspection you are just going to put lipstick on that pig with a cleaning and some painting.  The property is near you, and you know this neighborhood really well and are really comfortable with it.  This is the perfect type of deal to list with a flat fee MLS listing service.

A flat fee MLS listing service inserts your property for sale into the MLS foregoing any commissions.  The agent typically takes a flat listing fee of $69 to $300 depending on your market and serives you choose.  This gives you the large-scale MLS listing exposure to other buyer agents in your market. Your listing is also syndicated to other websites that use the MLS like Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com & more.

The flat fee service does not provide any support for things like showing your property, answering calls, texts or emails. All the legwork is on you and your team if you have one.  When it comes time to close the transaction, you and your team have to do all the work again.  It’s your job to communicate with the title company and get this deal closed.  It’s simple, you do all the work and save paying the listing agent at closing.

Pros of using flat fee MLS Listing services:

  • You don’t have to pay listing agent’s 3% commission on the sale.
  • Set your own listing price and change pricing as you see fit during listing period.
  • Pick all your own listing pictures. You can take them yourself or hire a professional to get and use the shots you want. No more blurry selfie bathroom mirror pics of your agent in your listings.
  • Write your own promo text for the MLS listing description. A great way to avoid cheesy cookie cutter real estate agent listing speak.
  • You don’t have to give your listing agent 3% of the sale price.
  • Make up your own showing schedule.  It is up to you to create the appointments and can block out times yourself. 
  • The property owner will be super motivated to sell their own property. You will do more to get it sold than an agent that has 10 other listings.
  • You save 3% of the property sale price by not having to pay listing agent commissions.

Cons of using a flat fee MLS Listing Service:

  • You have to answer sale calls, text & emails which can eat up a lot of your day. If you don’t keep up with them you can lose a sale.
  • Time & Energy wasting. If you don’t know how to spot a good lead from a tire kicker lead, you are in for some pain. Experienced agents can prioritize their time based on lead quality.
  • You have to do all the promotional legwork an agent and their support team would typically do. Posting “for sale” signs in the area, social media promos, classified listings. Don’t forget brochures & other printed materials, holding and promoting open houses.
  • Other agents know which agents provide flat fee service listings and will purposely steer their buyers away from these listings. Your property may get less showings than a listing using a traditional agent listing from a known local brokerage. 
  • You need to show the property to buyers and agents over and over and deal with lots of calls.
  • You need to be able to take excellent listing pictures that will sell your property.  Sounds easy but for most it is not.  You need to know which rooms of the house sell the property best. Then you need to take compelling pictures of the rooms with the right lighting and angles.
  • You need to know how to negotiate a sale. If you aren’t good at negotiation you might get beat up on the sale price by some savy agents. We are talking about big numbers when dealing with house prices.  Negotiating the sale price is something you need to be good at! All the work you did to save the 3% agent listing commission goes out the window if you negotiate poorly.
  • You need to know how to deal with closings.  Title companies need a many questions answered correctly in order to create the mountain of paperwork to close a sale.  If you aren’t comfortable with overseeing a closing by yourself, you might think twice about not using an agent.  Properties bought at County Foreclosure Auctions are particularly difficult to close on a flip with possible clouds on titles.
  • You need to show the property to buyers and agents over and over and deal with lots of calls.

Many of the pros and cons listed above deserve entire articles, and perhaps over time this will happen. If you want a topic expanded on, please leave feedback in the comment box at the end of this page.

Things to watch out for when choosing a Flat Fee MLS Listing Service

Additional Fees: There are services that begin to tack on extra fees for services they shouldn’t. You want to add more than 3 pictures to your listing? That will be an additional picture fee. Do you need to add more than a 2 sentence description? Please pay this extra text fee.  Don’t pay extra for this stuff, plenty of services do not charge for things like this.   

Sneaky listing contracts: There are some flat fee services that sneak in $1000 closing fees, or 1% seller agent commissions at closing.  This is totally at odds for what a flat fee service should be! One flat fee that you pay up front and that’s it. Read their terms carefully before signing up!  

Not allowing any free changes to your listing once listed:  Some flat fee services try to earn extra money by charging to change text or listing price.  A good flat fee service will allow you to make as many changes to these things as you need within reason. Unless you have a super-hot property, you will probably need to drop the price once or twice before it’s sold. If the service charges fees for doing a single price change in a month, they might not be the service for you.

Expert Advice for When Trying to Sell Your Own Listing:

Please take some advice from your humble author who has sometimes used a flat fee listing service a little too often for his own good.  There are things you don’t think of until you’ve used a flat fee service a few times. These are pro tips you will learn the hard way when listing your own properties:

Install a smart door lock with keypad so you can give agents a code to view the property with. If you don’t do anything else I recommend below, do this one.  Agents are used to either finding the door code in the MLS listing information or calling to get the code.  Without a smart lock you will need to setup an old school lockbox with a key inside.

With traditional key in the box lockboxes, you will have no idea if the key or the house is secure after each appointment. The only way to be sure the house and key were secured is to go there in person after each appointment. Buyer agents don’t always lock the house or lockbox after showings. Some agents illegally give their clients the lockbox combos and let them go alone.  These clients can run off to have a key made, toss the key in the bushes, change the combination on the lockbox or worse.  Sounds too far fetched to be real?  In fact, these things all happened to me before the days of the smart locks.  

A smart lock that allows you to remotely set multiple temporary codes that are only valid at certain times. The smart lock should alert you when the code is used and also let you lock remotely as well.

You will need a Wi-Fi connection in the property to use a smart lock. This seems like a problem, I mean who has Wi-Fi in a flip right? Many times you will be able to persuade neighbors to let you use their Wi-Fi connection. Check to see if your mobile wireless or cable provider has free Wi-Fi hotspot that covers the area around your door. You can also buy a little 4g mobile hotspot device from Verizon or other carrier for $25 – $49 and $9 per month fee.

Hire a photographer to take your listing pictures and edit them for you.  Taking pictures of a property is easy, but good pictures that sell can be difficult for the average person to take.  Yes, your iPhone takes amazing pictures, but not compared to a good $2,000 photography rig. That $100 – $200 professional listing picture package can sell a house months faster and for up to 10% more.  Don’t be cheap here, hire a pro for your pictures. You are already saving 3% in commissions by using a flat fee listing service, invest a little back into the pictures.

When in Trouble Call a Pro for Help:

Don’t be afraid to call a professional to step in and help.  If at any point you have an issue you can’t handle, don’t be afraid to call for help!  Did the closing gets messy, call a real estate attorney!   If you are confident in your list price, and have no buyers calling, call a reputable agent for help. Many flat fee services will allow you to add on additional services like closing or showing agents and more ala carte features.

There are agents in your market that will welcome your call for help on a listing that is not theirs without asking for commission. They know there are listings you will have in the future you might want to give them, or they are excited to be able to add a new investor to their cash buyer network.   If an agent scoffs at you for doing your own flat fee listing and does not want to help, they are not a good agent and do not work with them!  Good agents will jump at the opportunity to help (within reason) an investor without asking for anything in return, just future considerations.

In conclusion using a flat fee service is a great tool to have in your real estate toolbox.  There are properties that will not be appropriate for a flat fee MLS listing like higher end properties or ones that are inconvenient to you geographically. Selling a property without paying a 3% listing agent commission yourself feels amazing and makes the victory so much sweeter!  Happy listings!

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