When it comes to selling your house, getting in front of as many buyers as possible is the best way to make a quick sale and maximize your proceeds.
Talk to any agent and they’ll tell you that only they have access to the MLS, which they consider the holy grail of real estate marketing. It turns out, you have lots of options when it comes to selling your home. Whether or not you hire an agent, you can list your home on the multiple listing service without paying an agent a 6% commission.
What is the MLS?
First thing’s first, what is the MLS, and why does it help home sellers? MLS stands for “Multiple Listing Service”. There are over 600 different MLSs in different regions of the US, many of which are affiliated with local realtor associations. They’re the digital descendants of printed listing books that were delivered to real estate offices in years past.
Agents pay dues to the MLS for the right to post their listings. Posting to the MLS is to an agent’s advantage because it helps expose their listing to the widest possible audience.
As a consumer, you can see all of the homes that are posted on your local MLS for free. Home shopping is the easy part — and the fun part. However, unless you’re a licensed agent who pays dues to the MLS, you don’t have the privilege of posting your listing there on your own.
Why do I need my home to be posted on the MLS?
As more and more online search portals pop up — big ones like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com, as well as specialized search sites like New Home Source or ForSaleByOwner.com — the MLS is becoming less and less unique as a source for property listings. There are lots of places to find a home online, so you may wonder what makes the MLS so special?
There are two answers: syndication and access to agents.
If you post a listing on your own, say to Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, your listing will show up only on the site you posted on. Some potential buyers will see it, but only the ones who visit Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace directly. MLSs have struck deals with just about every search site you can imagine to syndicate their listings. Nearly every agent has their own website, and they all show syndicated MLS listings too.
So when you list on the MLS, you can list your house in just one place and it will show up on literally hundreds of websites.
Syndication saves time, but the biggest reason why you want your home on the MLS is because other agents use the MLS to search. These agents are the ones going out of their way to bring buyers to homes.
Why are other agents so motivated? When you sign a listing agreement with an agent to list your home on the MLS, you’re agreeing not only to pay your agent, but to pay another agent who brings a buyer. Listing your home on the multiple listing service instead of just for sale by owner is like hiring every agent in your community to help sell your home, and putting a big commission check out to motivate them.
Do I have to pay an agent commission just to list on the MLS?
You can’t post your own home to the MLS as a consumer, but there are still several ways to save money by avoiding hefty commissions from traditional realtors.
First, look for a discount full service agent, who will offer all of the same services as a traditional agent while saving you nearly as much as selling your home by owner. At Trelora, we’re proud to fall into this category. We are full service agents, but we believe you should keep your equity, so we charge less than the other guys. See how we compare side-by-side here.
When you decide to hire an agent (discount or otherwise), you can also consider offering lower commission to the buyer’s agent. In most states, each agent expects 2.5 – 3% of the home’s sale price in commission, but in a seller’s market you may be able to get away with less. Commissions are always negotiable. Agents who are willing to try discounting commissions are more likely to be flexible, strategic negotiators.
Buyers agents may not be as thrilled if their buyer purchases a home with a low buyer’s agent commission, but if their buyer likes the house, the agent doesn’t have much choice. A discounted commission is better to them than no commission, which is what they’ll get if their buyer finds a different agent or chooses not to buy at all.
Is there a special For Sale by Owner multiple listing service?
Unfortunately for sellers, MLSs specialize by geography, not by type of listing, so there’s no such thing as a “FSBO multiple listing service.” If you want your home to be seen by as many buyers as possible, your best bet is to list your home on the MLS (or MLSs) in your area.
You can and should market your home in as many places as possible, but nothing beats the convenience of posting once and sitting back while the MLS syndicates your listing all over the internet.
What about flat fee MLS listings?
Depending on your state’s local real estate rules, you may see a lot of websites promising to list your home on the MLS for a flat fee. These services are sometimes priced as low as $99, and the low price point can look appealing to cost-conscious sellers… at first.
A flat fee can be a great thing, and sellers who work with flat fee agents often save thousands. But before you sign on for a low sticker price, ask what you’re really getting to make sure it’s a worthwhile investment.
What’s the catch?
Does the flat fee company take professional photos? Do they market your listing anywhere besides the MLS? Will they conduct showings for you? Will they be available to help you decide between offers or how to handle an inspection issue? Are they experts in contracts and negotiation, or are they even willing to help with this? Do they have any incentive to help you once you sign up and fork over a hundred bucks?
Most often, these companies charge their fees upfront and do nothing but post your listing. That means if your home doesn’t sell, not only did you do all the work, but you spent real money to have to do all that work. Your home is your most valuable asset, so going it completely alone isn’t always a good idea.
We recommend finding a middleground — a reputable agent who charges a fair price for their services, like Trelora. At Trelora, we only charge a low flat fee to sell, and unlike so-called “flat fee MLS listing” companies, we do it all. We have in-house agents who are as experienced as any to provide the full service care you’d expect from a full-priced agent. The only difference is what we charge.
We also don’t charge a penny upfront, so we only get paid when you do.
Can’t I just list it myself?
You can list your home yourself, and many cost-conscious sellers look to free services like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to save money. In some states, there are even “flat fee MLS listing” services that will put your home on the MLS for you for a few hundred dollars without giving you access to an agent to help.
The problem with these approaches is that listing your home is just one part of selling your home. Sure, you’ll save thousands compared to what it would cost you to hire a real estate agent, but you’ll be on your own when it comes to taking photos, communicating with potential buyers, conducting showings, negotiating offers, dealing with inspection and appraisal, even details like yard signs, lockboxes and flyers.
Do you have the free time to play project manager, attorney, and tour guide all day until the home gets sold? If so, great, save yourself some money and list on your own. But if you’re like most people, your time is too valuable to waste with all of this work. In fact, more than half of the people who try selling their homes on their own are unsuccessful.
Even the lucky few people who go through this process and wind up finding a buyer typically still hire an attorney to look over the contract — a wise choice since you’re selling your most important asset, but often an expensive one. The bottom line is that listing your home on your own will end up costing you in time and stress while you’re figuring out all of the logistics on your own.
How should I list my home on the MLS?
So although you technically can list your home on many MLSs without hiring an agent, we don’t recommend it. The Multiple Listing Service is an invaluable resource in helping you sell your home, and we recommend you take advantage of it. At the same time, the advice of a good agent is often worth paying for.
Just know that hiring an agent doesn’t have to mean paying 6% in commissions. At Trelora, we think sellers deserve fair pricing, and that’s why we offer full service for thousands less. If you want to try real estate the modern way, reach out. We’re happy to help.