Can FSBOs List On The MLS?
By Molly Grace
Much like the famous “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” quandary, for sale by owner sellers must contemplate a philosophical question of their own: If a house is for sale and no one sees the listing, will it ever sell?
The answer to that question, obviously, is a resounding “no.” Proper marketing of your FSBO home is vital to getting it sold, and a big part of that depends on the visibility of your listing.
Typically, real estate listings go on the multiple listing service, which is sort of the holy grail of home listing databases. As a FSBO seller who wants their for-sale home to be just as competitive as those being represented by a licensed real estate agent, you might be wondering if you can get your listing on your area’s MLS, and if so, how to do it.
Read on to learn about the options for FSBO sellers.
What Is An MLS?
A multiple listing service is a database that real estate agents in a specific area use to showcase the homes they are selling to other real estate agents, who then use the MLS to find potential homes for their purchasing clients.
If the MLS sounds a lot like the home listing websites (like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com) that are so popular nowadays, that’s because it is. MLS databases have been around a lot longer (before the internet, the listings were printed in books and sent around to cooperating brokers) and were one way for real estate professionals to keep each other in the know about available inventory.
MLS databases are only available to real estate professionals, and contain more information than what you’ll see on those public-facing listing sites, including seller contact information or the commission percentage a seller is offering the buyer’s agent.
Flat Fee MLS Service
Some licensed real estate brokers offer a service called a flat fee MLS listing, where they’ll work with you to list your house on the MLS for a one-time fee. A flat fee MLS listing is really the only way you’ll get your FSBO home onto the MLS, short of becoming a licensed real estate agent and paying for membership yourself.
Flat fee MLS listings tend to be a pretty good deal for FSBO sellers, since they’re able to get their listings into the database that the majority of buyer’s agents are using to find houses for their clients without having to pay a listing agent commission. Plus, when you’re on the MLS, your listing will automatically be pulled into all the major public-facing listing sites, getting you maximum exposure to both real estate agents and their buyers.
If you’re interested in a flat fee MLS listing, look for brokers in your area that offer this service and do some research to learn about what they offer. Often, brokers will offer multiple flat fee packages at different price points, so you can decide if all you want is an MLS listing with a few pictures, or a more thorough MLS listing plus help with some of the more technical and legal aspects of home selling.
In general, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for an MLS listing through a broker, though costs can vary depending on what services they provide. You may be able to find very cheap flat fee MLS listing for around $100 that offer shorter-term listings that limit the number of photos you can use to just a few, or services that cost upwards of $1,000 where the broker handles many of the responsibilities they would in a traditional real estate transaction.
Alternatives to the MLS
If you don’t want to pay to have your house listed on the local MLS, you’ll need to come up with a plan for how you’re going to market your house so that potential buyers see it.
Certain online listing sites, like Zillow, allow FSBO sellers to upload their listings directly to their databases. Since browsing for homes online has become so popular with prospective buyers, this greatly increases the visibility your home will get compared to FSBO homes of the past, when a yard sign and an ad in the local newspaper was the standard for FSBO advertising.
You might also consider other online marketplaces, such as Craigslist, to advertise your home.
Of course, to get in front of an audience that is specifically seeking FSBO homes, you can easily upload your listing onto forsalebyowner.com. When you choose our Independent package, you’ll get a free, customizable listing on forsalebyowner.com, an unlimited number of listing photos, tools to help price your home and access to purchase all necessary legal forms.
What Should FSBO Sellers Do?
Listing your FSBO home on your area’s MLS for a flat fee can end up saving you a significant amount of money, depending on how much you sell your house for and how much you would have paid in commission if you’d worked with an agent.
On the other hand, if you aren’t willing to spend the money for a flat fee MLS listing and are dedicated to doing a true FSBO sale and saving as much money as you possibly can, it is possible to get buyers’ eyes on your home without having it listed on the MLS. It may just require more work on your part.
Ultimately, it comes down to how much marketing you’re willing to do yourself, and how effective you think that marketing will be. Those who are more concerned about having an easy time selling might find a flat fee listing service to be worth it, while those whose goal it is to save the most money might be less inclined to go that route.
If you’re ready to get your FSBO home on the market but think you might need some personalized guidance, our Partner package matches you with your own dedicated Home Listing Coordinator who can help you throughout the experience. Check out our page for more information, or give us a call at 888-FOR-SALE.