How To List On MLS For Sale By Owner (2023)
This is the complete guide to listing on the MLS as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) in 2023.
Table of Contents
- What Is The MLS?
- Why Is It Important To List On MLS?
- How Can A For Sale By Owner List On MLS?
- How Do Listing Agents Make Money On A Flat Fee MLS Listing?
- What Are The Key Terms To Look For In A Flat Fee MLS Listing?
- How Much Does It Cost To List On MLS?
- What Are The Steps To Listing On MLS As An FSBO?
- What Are The Best Services To List On MLS?
- What Do I Need To Do Once My Home Is Listed On MLS?
- Where Can I Learn More About How To List On MLS?
Listing your home on the MLS yourself is likely the greatest money saving activity you will ever do. We don't say this lightly and we absolutely mean it.
By spending a small amount of time and paying a small fee, you can avoid thousands of dollars in listing agent commission costs. Best of all, it is fairly easy to do and can be done from the comfort of your couch. Even the Department of Justice says it is the smart thing to do. Listing on the MLS yourself is truly a secret to building wealth that few homeowners are aware of.
How do we know all of this? We are the #5 listing agent in the United States and we help thousands of sellers save millions of dollars in commissions each year. Sellers who have done this will testify it is true.
What Is The MLS?
The MLS is a database where real estate agents list the homes they have for sale. There are actually hundreds of MLSs in the United States. Each MLS covers a certain area.
You want your home listed on the MLS that covers the area where your home is located, so the local agents can see it. You can lookup your local MLS here. Check out our video below for more.
Why Is It Important To List On MLS?
There are two main reasons to list your home on the MLS:
- Every major real estate website gets their listings from the MLS. In order to appear on all the websites that buyers look at (Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com, broker websites, etc), you need to list on the MLS. The websites pull in listing information from the MLS, so you only need to list and manage the property in one location (the MLS) and it appears everywhere.
- You can offer a commission to buyer agents. 86% of buyers have an agent. By listing on the MLS, you can offer them a commission, which will make them want to show your home. By listing on the MLS you put the home in front of agents (they don't search websites for homes) and it gets you on the agents automated reports to their buyers.
How Can A For Sale By Owner List On MLS?
Since the MLS is an agent only database, you need to use an agent to list on the MLS. The good news is that there are many agents who offer "flat fee" MLS listings. A flat fee MLS listing is when an agent charges a single fee (e.g. $200) to list your home on the MLS, and that is the only service the agent provides.
How Do Listing Agents Make Money On A Flat Fee MLS Listing?
Generally speaking, agents that offer to list your home on the MLS for a flat fee make their money in one of the following ways (this is in addition to the upfront fee):
- Charging a fee at closing. The flat fee agent will often hide the fact they are collecting a fee of between .1% to .5% of the sale price at closing. This is a very common practice. They may state that it will come from the buyer agent commission, but in reality you are paying this.
- Requiring the use of closing services. Many flat fee agents will require you to use their closing services or title company for closing. This is how they actually make the money on the listing and can charge high fees.
- Capturing buyer leads. Some flat fee agents will try to get the buyers that inquire about your property to use the flat fee agent to buy a home. This can be a conflict of interest.
- Charging fees for basic MLS listing needs. Some flat fee agents will offer an attractive listing fee, but then charge additional money for basic things like:
- Showing service: The MLS showing service is what buyer agents prefer to use to schedule showings with sellers. This will often be ShowingTime, though some MLSs have started using other services. This is included free with homecoin.com flat fee MLS listing.
- Disclosures: You will need to completed state and federal disclosure forms at some point in the sale. You can read more about the requirements for your state here. These are included free with the homecoin.com flat fee MLS listing.
- Listing changes: Charging for each change to the listing. Most sellers will usually need to make 5-6 changes to the listing. Some flat fee services charge up to $25 per change, so a listing can easily end up costing $400-$500. The homecoin.com MLS listing includes 10 free changes, and then it is just $5 per change after that.
For nearly every property that homecoin.com lists on the MLS, we only make $95. We do not charge a fee at closing, do not require the use of closing services, and do not keep buyer leads. We do offer all the additional services that full service agents provide, but all of our services are optional (none are required).
What Are The Key Terms To Look For In A Flat Fee MLS Listing?
The listing must be on the local MLS. There are hundreds of MLSs in the United States. Sellers want to list on the MLS that covers the area where their home is located, so they can offer a commission to local buyer agents. If the listing is on a different MLS than the local MLS, the local buyer agents will likely not be able to see it.
Cost to list + changes. The upfront listing cost can range from $100-$400. Watch out for fine print that requires an additional fee at closing (e.g. .1% to .5%) or from the buyer agent commission - this is a huge red flag. Make sure you are able to make changes to the listing after it has been posted for a nominal fee. Most sellers use ~5-6 changes. A change can be anything such as pictures, description, price, open house, and status.
Number of photos on MLS. Make sure you can upload at least 12 photos. Some services offer a great price, but it's only for 1 photo - which is not useful for most properties. Home buyers are very easily visually influenced. Pictures work wonders and numerous studies have shown that pro photography pays for itself many times over.
Length of listing. Get at least a 6 month listing and be sure that there is no charge for cancellation. Homes rarely sell as quickly as their owners think they will, even when the owner is sure the home is priced perfectly.
Showing service setup. Buyer agents like to schedule showings through the showing service on the MLS (usually ShowingTime). This makes both your life and their life easier. Make sure this is included in the fee to list on MLS.
Disclosures. You will need to completed state and federal disclosure forms at some point in the sale. You can read more about the requirements for your state here. Make sure you get these for free with any listing.
Fine print. You should never be required to use any closing service (e.g. title) provided by the flat fee service agent. Read the listing agreement carefully - you will be required to sign it in every state.
Minimum buyer agent commission. Some services that list you on the MLS require that you offer a minimum amount of commission to the buyer agent (e.g. 2%). The buyer agent commission is not set by any state or federal law.
Contact info in the MLS. While the MLS doesn't allow the seller contact info to appear in the property description, make sure that your contact info is placed in the private remarks to the agents.
Be careful with referral services. Many of the flat fee MLS listing service providers you come across on the internet are actually just middlemen. These referral services find flat fee agents in each state and then advertise to sellers . These referral services have you add property info, photos, etc. but then send your info to the listing agent who does the work (and gets paid by the referral service). Here's the catch: The actual listing agent is going to need to send you the real listing input form for your local MLS. The generic form that the referral service had you fill out is basically useless. You will also be required by state law to sign a listing agreement with the listing agent. It can be very dangerous paying for a listing without knowing what terms you are going to be required to agree to.
Bonus points. You should also consider how easy the flat fee agent makes it to list on MLS. Can you complete everything online? How quickly is the listing added to the MLS? How quickly can changes be made? Is the service easy to get in contact with?
How Much Does It Cost To List On MLS?
The cost to list on the MLS through a flat fee agent can vary based on the state and MLS. Some less populated states have very few flat fee agents (e.g. North Dakota) due to the lack of business to support the model. Additionally, sometimes the local MLS is very small and there may not be a flat fee agent available, or the only agent available needs to charge a higher fee to cover the cost of being an MLS member.
Flat fee agents usually offer 3 different packages. Below is the typical offering for a flat fee agent to list on the MLS. We have also included our single package to show why we think you should consider us :)
|Free to Cancel?
|0 - ?
|Free ShowingTime Service
|All Websites Included
|Free Auto Call Forwarding
|Often unavailable or costs more
|Often unavailable or costs more
|Often unavailable or costs more
|Free Auto Email Forwarding
|Minimum Buyer Agent Commission
|Can be up to 2%
|Can be up to 2%
|Can be up to 2%
|Your Contact Info In MLS
|Buyer Leads Go Direct To You
We have a list of agents that can list on the MLS for a flat fee here.
What Are The Steps To List On MLS As An FSBO?
Follow these steps to list your home on MLS as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO):
- Find a flat fee agent to list on your local MLS
- Fill out the MLS listing form
- Provide photos
- Complete any MLS required disclosures
- Sign the listing agreement and pay
Once you complete the above steps, your listing will appear on the MLS and real estate websites, typically within a couple days.
Avoid any service that requires payment as the first step. You may get partway through the process and change your mind, in which case the flat fee agent will often keep a portion of the fee paid.
What Are The Best Services To List On MLS?
We have a list of agents that can list on the MLS for a flat fee here. You can also do a google search for "Flat Fee MLS + your city" (e.g. Flat Fee MLS Miami) and then check each agents reviews from reputable review services that cannot be "gamed". An indication of a review service that can be "gamed" is one where the flat fee agent has 1000+ reviews. Here is our Yelp page.
What Do I Need To Do Once My Home Is Listed On MLS?
Here are the key things to do once your listing is active on MLS:
- Be responsive to buyer agent showing requests. Buyer agents are often managing many showings and buyers. It makes their lives much easier if you are responsive and confirming requested appointments quickly. It can also often be the difference between selling quickly and missing out on a sale entirely.
- Update the status of the listing immediately. Once you accept an offer, you will want to inform the flat fee listing agent immediately, as the MLS will issue fines (passed to you) for not updating the status of the listing (e.g. from Active to Pending, or Pending to Sold).
- Adjust your price based on activity. The good news is that there is no mystery to home selling and the market will often give you instant feedback on if your home is priced correctly. See our help article here for more info on the most important things to get right when selling a home. Once your home has been on the market for ~2 weeks, you will have a good idea on if you need to adjust price. The rule of thumb is:
- Some showings, no offers: Reduce price by 5%
- No showings, no offers: Reduce price by 10%
Where Can I Learn More About How To List On MLS?
Check out our webpage dedicated to flat fee MLS listings at the link below:
Do you have questions? Please open a support ticket here and we will get right back to you.
There are also many competing companies that have published similar guides, feel free to review:
- wikiHow: How to List for Sale by Owner Using MLS Listing
- RealtyNA: How to List a Home on the MLS?
- iSoldMyHouse: How To List Your House On The MLS Without A Real Estate Agent
- Houzeo: How To List On MLS For Sale By Owner In 2022
- Maximum Exposure Real Estate: Listing on MLS For Sale by Owner With Flat Fee MLS Service