What to look for with a flat fee MLS broker

Real Estate Agent with Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc. BK627826

Flat fee MLS, discount MLS, MLS-only listing, whatever you want to call it, it is the process for consumers to list their property into the local MLS and the related internet sites like Realtor.com for a few hundred dollars with the consumer doing the bulk of the work.  This sort of listing also offers the buyer's agent a commission of 2-3% or more if they procure a buyer for the property. I wrote a detailed explanation about this in a previous blog entitled A word about flat fee MLS listings .

This blog is a follow up article.  I want to describe things to look for in a flat fee MLS broker.  If you do a Google internet search, you will find out there are many many of these type of services available out there.  Some will charge you nearly $1000 and some charge as low as $100.  I have even seen some that will advertise for free in the hopes of getting the seller to eventually become a future buyer.  If you pay a high amount, you deserve to get many additional perks and lots of customer service.  If you pay next to nothing for this service, expect to get next to nothing in perks or customer service.

Obviously price is a big factor to be shopping for.  Beyond price there are basically 3 main things that you should be looking for in a flat fee MLS broker.

(1) Does this firm have a local office where I can meet someone?  Or, in the alternative can they send someone out to meet with me?  Most of these sort of firms only do business with you via a 1-800 phone number or the internet.  You should at least have the ability to get someone to sit down with you in person for an hour or so either at their office or at your house.  They should also be able to provide you with a basic idea on pricing your property and on a marketing plan to get your property sold.  If they are totally hands off and will not give you any advice on proper pricing and marketing, it would be a good idea to steer clear of them.  Your goal is to sell your house, not to let it sit in the MLS indefinitely.

(2) Does this firm allow me to upgrade my listing to a full service listing?  Will they help me with paperwork, negotiations, or the closing, if later on I do not feel comfortable with the situation? If the answer is no or that they will refer that work out to some other company, then you are probably getting short-changed.  If the firm does not allow you to upgrade your services, the reason may be that they either do not want to bother with giving you these services or that they are not competent enough to even provide them.  Watch out.

(3) What sort of perks do they provide for the money you are paying?  (a) A real basic thing is a For Sale sign.  Other Realtors often steer away from MLS listings that have a For Sale By Owner sign in the yard.  (b) Initial pricing & marketing advice. I already discussed this above. (c) Phone calls and emails from Realtors and customers regarding your listing. Listings get lots of these contacts. The MLS typically says for any Realtor to call the owner for all negotiations, but often they still call the listing broker.  Is the firm servicing these phone calls and emails or are they ignoring/deleting them?  Guess what happens when you hire someone to service your listing for $75 ???  Odds are, they are not going to service it.  You definitely need some sort of balance here.

Shop around for your Realtor like you would for anything else.  No Realtor whether it be full service or flat fee MLS can guarantee to sell your property at a reasonable price. So make sure they are giving you choices on what they can do.  If the firm you are talking with tells you "6% is it, take it or leave it." Or even better "My commission is non-negotiable."  Well guess what, there are hundreds of firms in most cities that you can call.  And they all are aggressively competing for your business.  What you charge for services matters. In fact it is typically the #1 consideration to most consumers.  Not everyone needs to be baby-handled by a full-service Realtor. Just like not everyone needs to go to the emergency room for every medical problem they have - some people can buy over the counter medicines, so people can go to a walk in clinic, and some people have a family doctor.

One quick story, I was in a GRI real estate class in Orlando a few years ago with about 100 other Realtors.  We all got to go around the room and say our name and firm.  One Realtor said she was with Assist-2-Sell (a franchised full service discounter).  About half the class "booed" this person.  The instructor actually had to tell the class to be quiet because there are federal anti-trust laws that protect these alternative models.  A sad day. I do fully believe this current real estate recession is going to usher in a new age of flat fee MLS and alternative real estate models.  You would not believe how many Realtors (and mortgage brokers and title companies) I talk to that are doing all sorts of creative things to bring in a few dollars right now.  The market is changing and the 6 per-centers are a dying breed.


(Copyright © 2007. Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Rob Arnold, ABR, CPL, GRI, Managing real estate broker, Licensed mortgage broker, Notary Public

407-389-7318 www.SDRhouses.com/

Your full service and investor friendly Realtor in Orlando. Learn to invest in Central Florida real estate and Orlando real estate. Investor mentoring and counseling available. I also provide flat fee MLS listings, For Sale By Owner, and menu-based services in most parts of Central and South Florida.

We buy houses cash, sell properties, and list properties in Central Florida including Orlando, Winter Park, Maitland, College Park, Ocoee, Winter Garden, Apopka, Pine Hills, Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Longwood, Winter Springs, Oviedo, Lake Mary, Sanford, Deltona, Debary, Deland, Mount Dora, Eustis, Clermont, Kissimmee, Saint Cloud, Davenport, Winter Haven, and more. www.WeBuyHousesFlorida.com/ 

Comments (7)

June Piper-Brandon
Coldwell Banker Realty - Columbia, MD
Creating Generational Wealth Through Homeownership

Great article.

I am an Office Manager for Advance Realty in Maryland.  Advance Realty is a full service discount broker.  Our listing fee is 1.75% (plus 2.5% or 3% for the buyers agent for a total of 4.25-4.75%) for which you receive as much service as you would paying 6 or 7% to a traditional broker.  We have local offices (there's one in Florida too) where clients can come to sign contracts or find an agent, we also advertise in local publications, do open houses, consult on contracts and all the things that traditional brokerages do just for a lower price.  How do we do that?  We have small offices with state of the art computer equipment, faxes, color printers etc., but no dedicated office space for the agent (productive agents don't use their office space anyway, they are out selling houses).


Oct 27, 2007 04:29 AM
Rob Arnold
Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc. - Altamonte Springs, FL
Metro Orlando Full Service - Investor Friendly & F
I agree.  I have seen signs for your firm here in Central Florida.  It is good to offer choice.  The internet along with competition is forcing change and choice into the marketplace.
Oct 27, 2007 08:30 AM
Armando Rodriguez
Orlando Homes 4 Sale, Real Estate Broker-GRI

I tend to agree with you...

Some people need a lot of hand holding and they pay for it. Others don't and they won't pay for it!

Good post!

Oct 27, 2007 03:29 PM
Rob Arnold
Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc. - Altamonte Springs, FL
Metro Orlando Full Service - Investor Friendly & F
I have tried to stress that it is good to have a choice.  Certainly some people need a full-service Realtor.  But some people definitely do not need one.  Why should someone be stuck paying 6% if they have already sold 10 other houses in the past?  Seems kind of silly to me.
Oct 28, 2007 08:41 AM
Congress Realty Reviews
Congress Realty - Albuquerque, NM
Congress Realty New Mexico MLS $299 flat fee
I agree.  I handle flat fee listings in the Western US and people that have sold 10 homes before are perfect for this MLS listing service.
Feb 02, 2008 06:41 AM


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