You’re selling your home and want to boost its visibility by listing it on your local multiple listing service (MLS). But only licensed agents have MLS access — and you don’t want to sell with a realtor. At least, not for a hefty 3% listing fee.
What are your options, and how will you choose?
Overall, there are three main paths you can take:
- List With a Discount Real Estate Brokerage: Discount real estate provide the benefits of a real estate agent without the price tag. Different brands offer varying levels of service and pricing models to suit a range of needs. We think this is the best value and recommend it for most sellers, because you get more support and legit savings. » Jump to section 👇
- Choose a Flat Fee MLS Listing Company: Flat fee MLS brokers and agents charge a low flat rate to put your house on your local MLS. It’s usually only a few hundred dollars. but all they do is upload the listing to the MLS. Every other part of the sale is your responsibility. We only recommend this approach for experienced sellers who are sure they want to list for sale by owner (FSBO). » Jump to section 👇
- Avoid the MLS Entirely: You can go the 100% FSBO route and rely on word of mouth and free listing sites like Zillow. Or you can sell directly to cash buyer companies, like We Buy Ugly Houses or Offerpad. Just make sure you understand the risks and drawbacks of these approaches, because you’ll probably take a hit on price. » Jump to section 👇
Of these three options, we recommend choosing a discount real estate brokerage — and we've partnered with Clever Real Estate to help our readers connect with top-rated agents nationwide. You'll pay just $3,000 or 1% in listing fees, without having to sacrifice great service.
Why Listing on the MLS Matters?
Listing on the MLS is a crucial marketing tactic when selling your house on the open market. It boosts the visibility of your home among qualified buyers in your area, which ultimately helps you sell faster and get the most money out of your property.
The MLS is an exclusive tool for real estate agents to share information about listed properties and find potential homes for their buyer clients. It also pushes listings to hundreds of other real estate listing sites like Zillow and Realtor.com, which get millions of visitors. This is super important because more than 43% of home buyers start their search online.
We spoke to Steven Nicastro, a licensed agent and real estate investor in South Carolina, who confirmed how important the MLS is when selling a home.
“The MLS gets your home out there to every licensed agent. Your home has really limited visibility if it's not listed on the MLS," Nicastro said. "If you're not on there, your home might not be listed on Zillow, Trulia, or other home websites, either." Not listing on the MLS is a "huge mistake for FSBO sellers.”
Best Option: List on MLS with a Discount Real Estate Broker
What Is A Discount Real Estate Broker?
Discount real estate brokers and agents charge lower listing fees than conventional realtors — usually between 1-2% or a low flat rate instead of the typical 2.5-3%.
Some discount brokerages offer full service. You get the same support you’d expect from a traditional realtor but pay a lower fee.
Other discount brokerages offer limited service. You get some of the key services like MLS listing and help with paperwork, but they’re more hands-off and may be fully remote. They also cost about as much as full service brands (sometimes even more), so they usually don’t make much sense from a value perspective.
How It Works
Some discount real estate brands, like Redfin, use technology and team-based service to lower operating costs and create discounts. Other brands, like Clever Real Estate, negotiate discounted rates with conventional agents from name-brand brokerages like Century 21 and RE/MAX. You get the traditional realtor experience for less. These discount agent matching service brands typically offer the best overall value for most sellers.
What It Costs
Discount brokers will typically either charge a lower listing commission rate (1–2%) or a flat listing fee ($3,000–$5,000). Compared to a traditional agent or broker who charges a 2.5-3% listing fee, you can end up saving thousands of dollars.
Some limited-service brokers are slightly cheaper than full-service brands, but many are actually similarly priced (or even more expensive). In most cases, the value simply isn’t there; most offer little more than flat fee MLS companies at a much higher price.
Who Should Use It
It’s definitely worth exploring discount brokerages, as many brands offer great service and legit savings. But you have to be careful: the value depends on the company and agent you work with.
Some discount brands can’t provide 1:1 support because they’re spread so thin. Others don’t offer a full level of service. We recommend you shop around and research your options before making a decision.
How To Choose A Low Commission Real Estate Broker
When searching for the right discount real estate brand, look for companies that provide:
- Full Service: Ideally, you should have a dedicated agent who helps with negotiations, paperwork, pricing based on in-person assessment, and more.
- Quality Agents: The best discount brokerages only work with experienced agents. Don’t just hire the brand: always interview the agent and make sure they’re the real deal.
- Competitive Rates: They should charge 1-2% or a $3,000-$5,000 flat rate. Avoid companies with high minimum fees.
Based on these criteria, we recommend you choose an agent matching service. You’ll get more value and less risk than typical discount real estate brokerages like Redfin or Houwzer.
We've partnered with Clever Real Estate because they offer the lowest rates (1%) and highest average seller savings ($9,000) of any nationwide brand. In fact, the next closest agent matching service is 2x more expensive!
When you list with Clever, you'll get to choose from top agents from name-brand brokerages, like Keller Williams or Century 21, all at pre-negotiated, low rates. That means all the service and support you need to sell fast and high — plus thousands in commission savings.
Affordable Option: Get in the MLS with a Flat Fee MLS Listing
What Is a Flat Fee MLS Listing Service?
Flat fee MLS listing companies are brokerages or real estate agents who charge a one-time flat fee to list your home on MLS. It usually costs a few hundred dollars, so you can potentially save a lot of money compared to the typical 3% listing fee most agents charge.
How It Works
You pull together everything you need to make a great listing, including photos, a listing description, seller disclosures, and the price. Then you pay the broker a one-time flat fee to upload your listing to the MLS.
The rest of the home-selling process is your responsibility. You handle the showings, negotiations, and paperwork.
What It Costs
Most companies charge a few hundred dollars up front to list on MLS. Sometimes you can pay extra fees for additional services like professional photography or a virtual tour. When your home actually sells, you’re also responsible for the closing costs. That includes paying the commission of your buyer’s real estate agent. Yep, it’s true! Even when you sell by owner, you usually can’t avoid the buyer agent’s fees.
Who Should Use It
We don’t recommend flat fee MLS services (or selling FSBO) for most people (and especially for inexperienced or first-time sellers). Without an agent, you typically won’t get as much money for your home, which negates most or all of the savings. Plus, it requires a lot of time, effort, and paperwork. But if you’re 100% committed to selling FSBO, flat fee MLS companies are a good, low-cost way to increase your home’s visibility.
How to Choose a Flat Fee MLS Company
If you want to try flat fee MLS, look for a company with these key offerings and features:
- Full Local MLS Coverage: Make sure they list your home on all the major MLSs in your area.
- Plenty of Photos: 22-27 photos are optimal for a listing, but some companies set strict photo limits (5-7) for their base packages.
- A Generous Listing Term: Choose a plan with a listing term of at least six months. FSBO sales can take a while, and you don’t want to pay renewal fees.
- Ample Listing Description Length: Some companies set strict character limits for listing descriptions in base packages. Listing descriptions matter to buyers, so look for plans that give you enough room to adequately describe your home’s selling points.
- Cost-Effective Pricing: The ideal price is $200-300. Anything over that amount probably isn’t worth it. You’d get more value from a discount brokerage that offers full service.
When Not to List on the MLS
In some cases, you might not need to list on the MLS at all. If you’re in a competitive market with people eager to snap up your home, the MLS could be an unnecessary expense. In that case, try these options:
- Word of Mouth: Use your existing network to get people talking about your home. If you put up a yard sign, share on social media, and talk with your friends and family, there’s a chance you get some referrals. The great thing about word of mouth? It’s free!
- Free Listing Platforms: Bypass the MLS altogether and manually list your home on popular sites like Zillow and Trulia. You can also publish on Facebook Marketplace, and even pay to “boost” your listing to more potential buyers.
MLS Alternative: iBuyers
You can also explore other options that don’t involve listing on the open market at all. For example, iBuyer companies purchase qualifying homes directly from sellers via their websites.
How iBuyers work: You simply sign up, enter some details about your home, and if your home is eligible, you’ll get a preliminary cash offer within 24-48 hours. If you accept, some brands allow you to close in as few as 10 days – or extend up to 90 if you need to delay your move.
What’s the catch: You have to pay a “service fee” – typically 5-6% of the final sale price, which is comparable to listing with an agent. On top of that, iBuyers will usually pay less for your home than you could get on the open market. It’s also worth noting that iBuyers only purchase very specific types of homes in a handful of markets across the U.S., so there’s a good chance your home won’t qualify. But there’s no risk in exploring it as an option!
FAQs About Listing On The MLS Without A Realtor
What Is the MLS?
MLS stands for multiple listing service. It’s a regional database of real estate listings that only licensed real estate agents can access. It includes accurate, up-to-date information on home listings in the area, and pushes these listings to real estate websites like Zillow. Learn more about options for listing your home.
Why Does Listing on the MLS Matter?
The MLS is important because it maximizes your home’s visibility. Buyer agents search the database every day, and buyers search the web for potential homes. If you’re selling by owner and you ignore the MLS, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. Learn how discount brokers can help you maximize visibility at a fraction of the cost.
Do I Really Need to List on MLS?
The MLS is essential if you want to sell fast and get the best value out of your home. Without it, your home could be on the market for too long, and you might even have to drop the price. Learn how a discount broker can help you list on the MLS while saving thousands.
Can I Get an MLS Listing Without a Realtor?
No, you can’t get an MLS listing without a realtor. A real estate license is required to access the database. However, you don’t have to hire an agent and shell out a 3% commission. Instead, you can work with a flat fee MLS company or a discount real estate brokerage.
Do I Need to Use an MLS Service to Get My Home on Zillow?
You don’t need an MLS listing to showcase your home on Zillow. You can easily add it yourself for free! However, you will lose some visibility if you don’t use the MLS. Homes listed for sale by owner (FSBO) are shown separately from the rest, and buyer agents don’t review FSBO listings on Zillow. That said — an MLS listing is essential for attracting buyers to your listing. Learn how an MLS listing can help you sell your home.
Do Flat Fee MLS Listings Work?
Yes, with a flat fee listing, you can save money and still maximize the number of eyes on your home. But keep in mind that the listing is only part of the home-selling process. When you use a flat fee MLS company, you give up the services a qualified real estate agent can provide, like pricing advice, negotiation support, and help with all the paperwork.
How Do I List a Home on the MLS?
While you technically can't get on the MLS without a realtor, you can hire a flat fee MLS company to list your home for you. These companies typically charge a few hundred dollars, but they don't provide any additional support. Learn more about flat fee MLS companies.
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