To list your home on the MLS, you’ll need the services of a flat-fee MLS listing service.
But before you go forth and google just any ‘flat fee MLS website’, please understand that not all of them are created equal. It is important to choose wisely — do yourself a favor, do not try to save a few bucks by choosing the cheapest site for $149 or whatever it is.
Currently, I recommend the Gold Package from USRealty.com to my clients — and no, I have not been paid by USRealty.com to recommend their company. I have no personal or financial relationship whatsoever with USRealty.com. Rather, I’ve just been handling FSBOs for years and so I’ve worked with lots of different flat-fee MLS sites – in that process I’ve found USRealty.com (formerly Housepad.com) is the best one out there to meet my clients’ needs.
Basically, here are the things you need to know as a home seller to select the right flat-fee MLS agent:
- MLS Listing. Make sure you choose a package that actually puts your listing on the MLS. I know, this should be obvious right?! But often the cheapest package from an ‘MLS listing site’ will not actually list your property on the MLS, but rather will simply list it on miscellaneous real estate websites like Yahoo Real Estate, which you could easily do yourself.
- Automated Phone. When potential buyers call to inquire about your home, do the phone calls go directly to you as the seller, or do they go directly to the MLS agent’s office? Trust me, you want calls to go directly to you as the seller. So, sellers should make sure the MLS listing service offers call-forwarding or an automated phone message so that phone calls go directly to the seller. You do not want your flat-fee agent to be a middleman, because then the idea of a ‘dropped call’ will take on a whole new meaning to you. Indeed, you won’t even know if calls are being dropped; you’ll just be in the dark communicating with your middleman who is probably trying to upsell you regularly (see item 4 below on upselling).
- Commission. Some MLS listing sites will not allow the seller to list a commission offered to a buyer’s agent. This is not good for sellers trying to attract buyers – it is like telling agents to ignore your listing because they might not get paid. Unfortunately, there are some flat-fee MLS sites that do not tell you they created this limitation until after you’ve signed up – and then they will only fix their own limitation if you agree to pay them a commission. What a racket!Side Note to FSBO sellers: please do not offer buyer’s agents less than a 2.5% commission. In an MLS listing, the seller should always offer a 3% or 2.5% commission to a buyer’s agent. Do not offer more, and do not offer less. Anything lower than 2.5% looks weird/bad, and is the equivalent of the seller intentionally shooting himself in the foot – the seller might as well put a caged skunk on his front porch during an open house to scare away agents. Sure, a seller is free to do it, but would you care to guess what the expected response will be?
- Upsell. Some MLS listing sites are mere middlemen who refer sellers to local real estate agents who then try to upsell their services for a commission. It’s ridiculous! I’ve seen ‘flat-fee’ agents offer ambiguous contracts to try to trick sellers into agreeing to a seller’s agent commission. The cheaper the site, generally the more likely they are to try to upsell people. Again, what a racket!
Fortunately, USRealty.com passes all of my tests above for quality & integrity, which is why I recommend them to my clients: MLS listing, automated phone, buyer’s agent commission stated; and a clear MLS listing contract that does not try to upsell clients.
One caveat is that some FSBO sellers like to list an open house, but they might not be able to do so with USRealty.com. Rather, for a flat-fee MLS company in California that allows you to list an open house and still meets my four criteria above, I recommend flatfeegroup.com
As an experienced FSBO lawyer, I want to see the customer-service model succeed because I think it should set an industry standard for MLS listing companies nationwide.
Greg Glaser, Attorney at Law
San Francisco Bay Area – Northern California
(925) 642-6651 — firstname.lastname@example.org
Flat Fee Packages Available for Buyers and Sellers Without a Realtor