Save Money With Flat Fee MLS Listings
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is the single most important marketing tool in real estate.
Only licensed realtors can list properties on the MLS. But, if you’re selling your own home you can purchase a flat fee MLS service from a realtor. Flat fee listings are often very reasonably priced. They certainly cost less — thousands of dollars less — than the commission fee that’s charged when a real estate agent handles all aspects of the sale. This relatively small cost is worth every single nickel.
What is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?
The MLS allows realtors to share information about their listings with each other and to find properties that buyers may be interested in. It’s such a crucial marketing tool that The Law Times estimates that it accounts for about 90% of all home resales in Canada.
Essentially, the MLS is a vast system of linked databases. Each database is maintained by a local real estate board or association. There are 100 of these boards in Canada; 38 are in Ontario.
Licensed realtors may post properties for sale to their local board’s MLS. In order to be a member of a board, a realtor needs to pay dues. A realtor can be a member of more than one board.
Property information posted to the MLS needs to include specific details and follow a set format. This makes it easier for all realtors to sort through the vast amounts of information in the system. It also makes the information easily accessible to others who rely on its information for statistical purposes, including government agencies, economists, financial institutions, and appraisers. For consistency and accuracy, only licensed realtors are allowed to post listings to the MLS.
Once in the MLS system, a listing can be found by searching for criteria such as specific home features, location, and price.
The MLS has actually been around since the turn of the 20th century. At first, it was by word of mouth, with realtors getting together in person to exchange information. Eventually, it became print-based, with local boards printing booklets of property listings. Today’s MLS is obviously much easier for realtors to utilize — and the information in it is available to the public too, via the REALTOR.ca website.
MLS Listings on REALTOR.ca
REALTOR.ca is easily Canada’s most popular real estate website, with over 240 million visits per year. Because of its traffic, the site is an incredibly powerful marketing tool.
The website was established by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) as a way to advertise MLS posts — and only MLS posts appear on it. This is a bit of a conundrum for private home sellers since only licensed real estate agents can post on the MLS (and hence on REALTOR.ca). However, there’s a simple and economical solution: a flat fee MLS service.
What’s a “Flat Fee Listing”?
Up until 2012, the only way to get your home posted on the MLS was to list it with a real estate agent. At that time, if you hired a realtor to sell your home, they managed all aspects of the listing and sale. In exchange for their services, realtors charge a hefty commission (usually 5%) on the final sale price.
But in 2010, the Canadian Competition Bureau acted on complaints filed by discount brokerages. They forced the CREA to change its policies regarding the role of realtors. Beginning in 2012, private home sellers could hire a real estate agent to provide only select services–one of which is posting properties to the MLS.
When a realtor is hired only to post a property on the MLS (and concurrently on the REALTOR.ca website), that realtor is providing a flat fee MLS service, which may also be called a “flat fee listing” or a “mere posting.”
How Much Does a Flat Fee Listing Cost?
In Ontario, some real estate agents and discount brokerages offer flat fee listings for as little as $99 plus HST. These low-priced services usually include only the very basics:
- Posting your listing to the MLS for a limited period of time (usually 60 days);
- Editing your listing as required;
- Forwarding queries from interested buyers via email or phone.
(Because the MLS is restricted to licensed realtors, it is the realtor’s contact info that’s included on the posting.)
Some brokerages that specialize in flat fee postings may offer other services that can be bundled in with the MLS listing for additional costs. These are often referred to as a la carte services, and they may include:
- Pricing advice or a professional appraisal;
- Posting to additional real estate websites, such as fsbo.ca or Zillow;
- Photography services;
- For sale lawn sign;
- Lockbox rental;
- Open house and/or directional signs;
- Extending your listing on the MLS and other websites if your property is slow to sell; and
- Legal advice regarding offers and closing the sale.
The total cost of a flat fee listing plus a la carte services will depend on which additional services are purchased.
How to Choose a Brokerage or Agent to Post a Flat Fee Listing
There are a lot of brokerages and realtors who offer mere posting services. Beyond pricing, there are a few things to consider when picking the one to work with:
1. Can you add a la carte services down the road? It’s quite possible that you’ll decide that there are things you don’t want to do (like staging) or things that you realize would be helpful after your listing goes live. It’s a good idea to choose a company that allows you to add services as you discover that you need them.
2. Does the company or realtor post your listing anywhere beyond the local MLS? Make sure they also post it to REALTOR.ca and ideally also to other real estate websites.
3. What kind of online reviews does the company or realtor have? Be sure to pick someone who has outstanding customer service reviews.
Selling your own home takes a lot of time and effort. Choosing a flat fee service provider who exceeds your expectations can go a long way to minimizing your own workload and stress.
How Flat Fee Listings Can Save You Thousands of Dollars
Not only is the MLS used by real estate agents to locate properties for the buyers they work with, but it’s linked to REALTOR.ca, the most popular real estate website in Canada. Getting your home listed on the MLS ensures that it reaches the widest possible audience of potential buyers.
Since only licensed realtors can post to the MLS, there are two ways for a seller to access the system. They can either list their home through a real estate agent, and pay that agent a commission when their home sells, or they can hire an agent to post a flat fee listing.
In Canada, real estate commissions vary but they’re usually calculated at 5%, with 2.5% going to the seller’s agent and 2.5% going to the buyer’s agent. As an example, a 5% commission of $25,000 would need to be paid on a house that sells for $500,000.
If, instead, a seller decides to sell their home themselves, and engage a real estate agent to post their home to the MLS via a flat fee listing, the realtor’s fee may be as low as $99 plus HST.
Compared to the cost of a full commision, a flat fee listing will save a seller thousands of dollars. For that relatively small sum of money, a private home seller can access the best real estate marketing tool out there, which will help to sell their home more quickly and for a higher price.
Choosing to use a flat fee listing service is simply one of the best decisions that a private home seller can make.