Selling Land With a Flat Fee MLS Listing Service - Pros and Cons
If you’ve ever browsed real estate listings on a website like Realtor.com, Zillow, or Trulia, or leafed through a glossy magazine advertising real estate for sale then you’ve encountered the MLS. That’s because the MLS is the network that connects all the real estate that’s for sale by realtors for a certain area. It’s also the main way that real estate is advertised for sale, so you’ll want to take advantage of the MLS when selling your land.
In this guide:
- The MLS is a database for realtors to post their listings for sale
- Flat fee MLS listing services allow sellers to list their property on the MLS without a real estate agent
- MLS listings get increased exposure and will attract high-quality buyers
- Flat fee MLS services typically cost $100-$500
- Be aware that buyers' agents may still require a commission
What is the MLS and how to use it without a real estate agent
First of all, MLS stands for multiple listing service and there isn’t just one MLS. There are actually hundreds of local MLS serving different areas and sometimes overlapping each other.
According to the National Association of Realtors®, “MLSs are private databases that are created, maintained and paid for by real estate professionals to help their clients buy and sell property.”
In other words, an MLS is a database for realtors to post their listings for sale, which can then be seen by all the other realtors participating in that MLS. The public can also then see the MLS listings through websites like Realtor.com and Zillow that publish listings directly from the MLS databases.
In short, MLSs are designed to help realtors and their clients buy and sell real estate. What not everyone knows is that it’s also possible to list your property on the MLS without a real estate agent using a flat fee MLS company.
What is a flat fee MLS listing service?
A flat fee MLS listing refers to an arrangement where the seller will pay a fee to a broker to have a property listed on the MLS instead of paying the broker a listing commission (percentage of the sales price). The fee is paid upfront, so unlike with a traditional listing arrangement the seller incurs a cost, whether or not the property sells.
Note that it’s typical (but not required) to still offer a commission to a buyer’s agent with a flat fee listing service. In this case, the commission paid by the seller is reduced by approximately half, but not eliminated.
Why list your land for sale on the MLS without a realtor?
Get the most exposure for your land listing
The main reason to list your land for sale on the MLS is exposure. The MLS is the predominant way that real estate is advertised for sale, so if you don’t take advantage of the MLS you’re potentially missing out on buyers.
The exposure of the MLS is magnified because popular, high-traffic websites like Zillow automatically publish MLS listings and display them more prominently than for sale by owner listings.
Considered to be ‘a la carte’ services, flat fee listings often come with perks such as for sale signs and the contract forms you’ll need once you’ve found a buyer. The flat fee real estate broker may also be available to answer questions and provide limited support in your effort to sell the property.
Attract high-quality buyers
Another benefit of listing your land for sale on the MLS compared to free options like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace is that it tends to attract higher-quality buyer leads. The buyers that will contact you about your MLS listing usually have a real estate agent representing them which means they’re taking their search seriously. Even the ones that aren’t represented by agents are less likely to be tire kickers or bargain hunters.
Large potential savings
Despite the other benefits, the decision for land sellers to choose a flat fee service often comes down to savings. Eliminating the listing agent’s sales commission could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Savings may vanish
Still, the savings may not add up as much as you think. The main reason is that it’s still typical to pay a commission to the buyer’s agent. It’s not a requirement, but agents don’t have a reason to show your listing to the buyers they represent if you’re not offering them a commission.
You may also end up paying for some things that a real estate agent might’ve provided for free such as a for sale sign and photography. These things can add up and whittle away at what you thought you would save.
How hard do you want to work?
It’s also much more work to list your land yourself. Compared with simple listing websites like Zillow or Craigslist, creating a vacant land for sale listing on the MLS is a tedious and time-consuming process.
Once your listing is posted and the phone starts ringing, you’ll be answering buyers’ questions and maybe showing some of them the property.
Finally, if your marketing efforts are successful, you’ll have the sales contract and other paperwork to handle. All of this can certainly be worth it, but the number of steps and work involved is not to be overlooked.
Pros and cons of flat fee listings
Pros of flat fee MLS
- Main place for advertising real estate for sale
- Listing added to Realtor.com and Zillow
- Attract high-quality buyers
- Built-in support like contract forms
Cons of flat fee MLS
- Upfront fee to list
- Creating the listing is tedious
- Paying a commission to buyer’s agent
- Listing is for a limited time period
How much does a flat fee MLS service cost?
Flat fee listings generally cost between $100-$500. They vary by region and by how long the listing will last, with packages ranging from 3 to 12 months. When choosing a listing duration, keep in mind that in many cases 6 months will not be long enough to sell a parcel of land. At the end of the period, there is usually the ability to renew the listing for an additional fee.
Some fixed fee listings also charge a small listing broker commission, typically around 0.25%. This won’t be a deal-breaker for many sellers, but for higher priced properties this can end up costing about as much as the flat listing fee itself. For example, selling a property for $50,000 with a 0.25% listing broker commission will cost you $125.
Finally, it’s customary, but usually not a requirement, to offer a buyer agent commission. That’s why flat fee listings are mostly about reducing or eliminating the listing agent’s commission. A reasonable range for buyer agent commissions is 2.5 to 5%. Keep in mind that without offering a commission, an agent representing a buyer client has no incentive to take an interest in your listing.
Calculate your savings
The simplest way to show what your potential savings could be with a flat fee listing is to provide an example. Let’s say you’ve determined the asking price for your land will be $50,000. If you were to list this property the traditional way through a realtor, you might pay a sales commission of 10%, or $5,000 in this example. While it’s negotiable, a sales commission of 10% is common for land sales and higher than home sales where 6% sales commission is typical.
It’s also common that the listing agent will get more than half of the total commission, so in this example let’s say the listing agent received 5.5% of the 10% commission or $2,750 and the buyer agent received 4.5% or $2,250.
In a flat fee arrangement, you wouldn’t have a listing agent commission, but you would pay a flat fee upfront. In this example, let’s say you pay $250 for the flat fee listing package which will last for 12 months and come with a for sale sign. You offer a 4.5% commission to a buyer agent and the property sells for the same $50,000 sales price. Your costs are $250 + $2,250 = $2,500, saving you $2,500 compared to listing it traditionally through a realtor.
Best flat fee MLS listing service
There are a TON of flat fee MLS listing services to choose from. You can find websites offering these services by searching for “flat fee MLS listing”.
One thing to note is that while these websites may have different ways of getting you there, they’re all fundamentally offering the same thing - the ability to list on the MLS for a flat fee. Because there’s a lot of competition, expect to find wide ranges on prices and offers, but behind all that these services are very much alike.
Comparing the options
Since the services are mostly the same ‘under the hood,’ they try to provide different kinds of features to stand out from each other. Here are a few things to look out for:
- Is there a listing broker commission percentage?
- Is there a minimum buyer agent commission percentage?
- How long will the listing last (go for 12 months in most cases)
- What does it cost to renew the listing?
- Number of photos you can upload
- Will they forward phone calls to you?
- Are contract forms offered?
- Do they provide yard signs?
It’s also frequent for these websites to offer specials and deals, so you’ll want to do your own research, but here’s a few to get you started: CongressRealty.com is only for western states, while ByOwnerMLS.com and BrokerDirectMLS.com are nationwide.
Conclusion - using a flat fee MLS
Selling land is really about marketing and getting enough exposure for your property. Although the internet has opened up many other channels for selling land, the MLS is still the main way to advertise real estate for sale. For that reason, most sellers should plan on listing their property on the MLS, whether that means listing it traditionally with a realtor or through a flat fee MLS company. Flat fee listings can provide real savings, but they also require significantly more work to get all the way from creating the listing to signing over the deed to the new buyer.
Looking for more ways to sell land by owner? Check out 6 Free or Cheap Ways to Sell Land Without a Realtor.