How to List on MLS Without a Realtor in Ontario

Knowing how to list on MLS without a realtor when you’re selling your home privately in Ontario is crucial. A flat fee listing is a low cost but powerful marketing tool.


In order to sell anything, marketing is key. And that is certainly the case when you’re selling your home. There are all kinds of marketing tools available when you’re selling a house privately–everything from lawn signs to classified ads to social media listings. However, the most powerful marketing tool in real estate is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). And because it’s such a crucial marketing tool, it’s important for private sellers to know how to list on the MLS without a realtor in Ontario.

The MLS is a system that realtors use to share detailed property information with each other. Only licensed realtors can post to the MLS. As explained in a piece by the Greater Real Estate Board of Vancouver (REBGV):

To participate on the MLS®, Realtors must meet professional development requirements and adhere to a code of ethics and rules of cooperation. They must also, among other things, carry Errors and Omissions Insurance and follow a strict set of business practices.

At first glance, it seems as though the MLS is not available to anyone who is selling their home privately. That is actually not the case. We’re here to help you learn how to list on the MLS when you’re a private seller in Ontario.

What is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?

While you won’t be using the MLS yourself, it’s helpful to understand what it is and how it works.

The MLS has actually been around since the turn of the 20th century. At that time it was obviously quite low tech, with realtors getting together in person to exchange information about properties they were hoping to sell. Today, of course, the system is high tech with online listings that are searchable by criteria such as features, location, and price.

Realtors who represent sellers post their properties to the MLS; and realtors who represent buyers browse the MLS to find properties that might appeal to their clients. The MLS is such a powerful tool that it accounts for about 90% of all home resales in Canada, according to The Law Times.

The information posted to the MLS needs to be detailed and precise. While the primary audience of MLS listings are realtors and their clients, others rely on the information submitted too. According to the REBGV, “government, economists, financial institutions, appraisers and others” also use MLS data for purposes such as property assessment. For this reason, it’s important that only licensed realtors, who have received appropriate training, post listings.

Small Local Databases = One Big MLS

Although the MLS may seem like one large database, it’s actually a conglomerate of separate databases, each maintained by a local real estate board or association. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), there are 100 of these boards/associations in Canada; 38 of which are in Ontario.

Local boards can be somewhat territorial about their MLS listings. In general, a realtor needs to pay dues and be a member of a local board in order to access the properties listed on that board’s MLS. Realtors can become members of more than one board.

In many ways, it makes sense for properties to be listed on their local real estate board. As pointed out on the FSBO Real Estate Inc. website, doing so ensures maximum exposure to local buyers. However, properties can actually be listed on real estate boards outside of their local area. Some private sellers prefer this. Listing on an outside real estate board will limit the number of realtors who are able to interact with the seller, including those acting as a buyer’s agent (which may eliminate the need to pay a commission to the buyer’s realtor).

The MLS and Canada’s Most Popular Real Estate Website: REALTOR.ca

The REALTOR.ca website was created by the CREA as a way to widely advertise the listings that are on the MLS system. REALTOR.ca has become Canada’s most popular real estate website for consumers, with over 240 million visits each year. It’s an incredibly powerful marketing tool–but it can only be used if a home is first posted on the MLS. For this reason, it’s essential to figure out how to list on the MLS without a realtor in Ontario.

Flat Fee MLS Listings (AKA Mere Postings)

Until relatively recently, for sale by owner (FSBO) homes weren’t listed on the MLS. Because the system is restricted to licensed realtors, private sellers couldn’t access it. However, in 2010, following complaints from discount brokerages, the Canadian Competition Bureau forced the CREA to change its rules regarding MLS posts. From that point on “mere postings” were allowed.

A terrific piece at rhinorealty.com explains that mere postings are listings on the MLS where a “private seller hires a real estate brokerage to ‘post’ his or her home onto the MLS® System (and REALTOR.ca), usually for a small flat fee, and then controls the sale without the listing brokerage being involved. … A mere posting is essentially a FSBO that appears in the MLS® System.” The realtor/broker agrees to initially post the listing, and also to amend or remove it as required.

As might be expected, with a mere posting, a realtor or brokerage works with the seller for only a short period of time and is not involved in showing the home or handling any offers that may come in. Because their time and needed skill set is limited, the fee for a mere posting is significantly smaller than regular real estate commission rates. In most cases, mere postings are provided for a one-time flat fee, which is why they may also be referred to as “Flat Fee MLS Listings.”

The Bottom Line: The Flat Fee

Private sellers can expect to pay anywhere from $99 for a basic no-frills MLS post to $700-800 if the MLS post is bundled with other services offered by a realtor. Selling a home on your own can be time-consuming, tricky, or require equipment that you don’t have. It may be worth your while to pay for some services offered by a realtor in addition to the MLS post, such as photography services or rental of a lockbox.

What to Look For in a Mere Posting Service

When shopping around for a brokerage or realtor to list your home on the MLS, keep these things in mind:

  • It’s best to stay local. As explained earlier, listing on your local real estate board’s MLS means that your post gets maximum exposure among local buyers. If you’re looking at online brokerages, check to see if they can post in your local board.
  • Look at the packages offered. Even if you intend to only pay for a mere posting, it’s worth looking at the packages offered by different realtors and brokerages. Sometimes, it can be worth the extra money to have a professional service (like an appraisal) bundled in. Check also to see if you can continue to choose add-ons at a later date. For instance, if your home is slow to sell, you may be able to upgrade later on to an enhanced listing.

Considering the low cost, a mere posting is a terrific investment. The marketing power offered by MLS and REALTOR.ca listings is an enormous benefit if you’re trying to sell your home privately in Ontario. While the amount of the flat fee itself is likely an important consideration, also check to see if the brokerage can list your property on your local real estate board (assuming that’s your choice) and if there are any other add-on services that might be of value to you.