When you’re selling your home, you want the largest pool of potential buyers possible — which means you need to make sure you’re getting your home in front of as many people as possible. To do that, you need to list your property on the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS.
If you work with a real estate agent, your agent will take care of the listing process for you. That means you won’t have to worry about how to list a home on the MLS. But if you’re trying to sell your house by yourself — or For Sale By Owner (FSBO) — you need to look into your options for listing a house on MLS without a realtor.
While it can be a lot more complicated to manage the listing process yourself, this guide will explain everything you need to know, from what the MLS is to how to list on MLS with no realtor representing you.
Table of Contents
- What is an MLS?
- What are the benefits of listing on the MLS?
- How to list on the MLS without a realtor or license
- How to get on the MLS for free
What is an MLS?
First things first: There is not just one MLS — there are many different ones throughout the country and you’ll need to list your property on the MLS for your local area.
MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service. It’s basically a large database of properties for sale. Cooperating real estate brokers in each local area all agree to list their properties in the same large database (the MLS) and to update it as properties go on and off the market. But because different realtors come together to pool data for their own regions, there’s not one uniform large database throughout the country.
This may seem odd if you’re searching online listings, as you could go to a website such as Zillow or Realtor.com and type in the address of a property for sale anywhere in the country and find its listing right away. But what these sites do is aggregate the data from all the different local MLS databases to make one big searchable website.
Each regional MLS, however, has its own rules for listings. Typically, real estate agents pay dues to be eligible to put properties they’re selling into the database and to search for details about other listed properties. If you aren’t a realtor who pays to be able to list on the MLS, you can’t just put your property into the database.
Most regional databases have adopted many of the same rules, which were promulgated by the National Association of Realtors. These include requirements related to how quickly the status of a property must be changed when it has a pending offer, as well as a requirement that every property for sale display the amount of commission the seller must pay to sell a property.
What are the benefits of listing on the MLS?
The benefits of listing on the MLS are simple: You get the maximum amount of exposure for your property.
Essentially all real estate agents use the MLS to find properties for sale that they’ll show potential buyers. In fact, 64% realtors describe the MLS as one of the most valuable technology tools they use in their business, according to the National Association of Realtors.
And many individuals who search for homes for themselves also end up accessing MLS databases — either through a realtor’s website or through sites (like Zillow) that collect data from MLS services. NAR reported that more than half of all home buyers — 52% — found their homes on the Internet, compared with just 29% who discovered their property through their realtor or 6% who spotted their property via a yard sign. Properties Online also found 87% of buyers cite the MLS as a method realtors use to market homes, compared with just 51% who mentioned Realtor.com or 45% who mentioned a specific broker’s website.
If you don’t list your house on the MLS, it might show up on websites that also aggregate data from other places, such as For Sale By Owner listings. But anyone who is using the local MLS as their sole resource to find properties won’t see it. Not listing your home on the MLS is the equivalent of not having a website show up on the most popular search engine (like Google). People may still be able to find it, but it will be harder and you’ll get significantly fewer visitors.
Of course, simply putting your property into the MLS database isn’t enough to capture buyer interest. You need to make your MLS listing as attractive as possible to convince would-be buyers to come see your home in person. That means you need to include professional photographs as well as an engaging description.
Your MLS listing is the first experience a potential buyer has with your house, and it will be the last one if the home doesn’t make a good impression. One of the major benefits of working with a real estate agent is to get their professional assistance in presenting an enticing listing.
Real Estate Witch has partnered with Clever Real Estate to match you with full-service agents who are experienced at listing homes on the MLS. These skilled agents charge a discounted rate of just $3,000 or 1% commission for homes that sell for more than $350,000. Contact Clever today to learn more.
How to list on the MLS without a realtor or license
Remember, the MLS exists because cooperating real estate brokers all agree to use the same database — and they pay dues to be able to list properties within that database. That’s a problem if you’re selling your house yourself and you want an MLS listing.
You can’t just pay the MLS directly to list your property, nor can you sign up to list a home on the MLS if you aren’t a licensed realtor. That means if you want your home in the largest searchable database of properties in your area, you’re going to need to bring in outside help.
You don’t have to hire a seller’s agent (a realtor that represents sellers) just to list your home on the MLS though. You can pay a small fee to a company called a “flat fee MLS” service. These services list your home on the MLS for you so you’ll get the exposure it needs – and they typically do it for a flat fee of anywhere from $100 to $1,000.
To use a flat fee MLS service, look for a local one in your area (remember that MLS databases are regional). You should also see what services it offers, as some provide more help during the selling process than others do. Some features that a flat fee MLS service may offer include:
- Professional photography
- 3D tours
- A competitive price analysis (this can help you price your home)
- A “For Sale” sign to post in your yard
- Access to automated services that schedule home showings so you don’t need to take a call from a realtor every time someone wants to visit your home
- Marketing assistance to place your property on social media or other websites where people look for homes
- Assistance negotiating with potential buyers
These are great features, but most of these services come at an additional cost beyond the low flat fee you pay just to list your house.
Look into the packages being offered by flat-fee MLS services in your area to find out what is included and consider how much help you need. Remember, if you don’t pay for pictures or for someone to help negotiate with potential buyers or to review the legal paperwork if you get an offer, you’ll be on your own. That’s why it’s not a surprise that as many as 70% of owners who try to sell their homes themselves indicate they have significant difficulty with the process.
You may find that by the time you add in the costs of photos; tours; negotiating advice; and yard signs, you actually save very little money with a flat fee MLS service compared with hiring a full service agent through Clever.
Selling your home FSBO can also cost you money in the long-run if you get a lower price for your home or it takes longer to sell. And those outcomes are very real possibilities, as the National Association of Realtors reported the typical home sold by a private owner in 2018 sold for $217,900 while the typical home sold by an agent went for $295,000. FSBO homes also take around 19 more days to sell than homes represented by an agent. And as many as 20% of FSBO homes end up relisted, so they stay on the market for an average of 68 days longer in the aggregate.
How to get on the MLS for free
If you are looking for a property, it’s easy to gain access to MLS listings at no cost. You can search the database on many realtors’ websites for free just by signing up for an account. Or you can use Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia, or one of many other sites that allows you to search homes for sale. These sites aggregate data from the MLS as well as other sites with homes for sale, so you may actually see more properties than if you just searched the MLS alone.
Listing your home for sale on the MLS for free is going to be a lot more complicated. The bottom line is, you can’t list a property on the MLS without a real estate license. So you’ll either need to convince a realtor to list your home for free or pay a realtor to list the property for you — which is essentially what you’re doing when you pay a flat-fee MLS service.
However, just because you can’t list on the MLS doesn’t mean you can’t list your home for sale at all. Zillow and many other websites allow you to post your home For Sale by Owner at no cost. You can even include pictures and video tours.
When you use one of these other sites, your listing will show up on the platform — as well as any syndication partners the site may have. But the bottom line is, you’ll show up on fewer searches and you’ll make it harder for people to find your home if you aren’t listed on the MLS.
Making the decision not to list on the multiple listing service might save you a few bucks up front. But if it takes you longer to sell your home or you have to accept a lower offer because there aren’t as many potential buyers, you could lose thousands. The amount you lose out on would likely far exceed what you’d have paid to list on the MLS.
The Bottom Line
If you don’t want to try to navigate the listing process yourself, hiring a real estate agent is a smart move. Your agent will take care of managing and marketing your listing and will handle other key steps of the home sale process. Contact Clever now to get matched with a skilled full-service agent for a price that’s not more than you’d pay for a flat fee MLS package offering multiple services.
If you’re considering listing your home on the MLS, these additional articles may be of interest.
Read This Before You Pay For a Flat Fee MLS Service: If you list your home without a real estate agent, you’ll need to manage contact with potential buyers, arrange professional photography, and more. Learn what’s involved in the process.
What Companies Offer the Lowest Real Estate Commission Fees: If you’re considering listing your home For Sale By Owner because you’re concerned about the cost of hiring a traditional realtor, these companies can offer you the services of an agent at a discounted price.
Seller Closing Costs: Here’s Everything You Need to Know: Even if you list your home yourself to avoid the commission you’d otherwise owe a seller’s agent, there will still be costs to pay. Learn about the expenses a seller incurs when selling their home.
Read This Before You post Your FSBO on Zillow (2020 Update): Listing on Zillow is an alternative to paying to list your property on the MLS. Find out what’s involved with posting a free listing on Zillow and learn how to maximize your chances that your listing will help you find a buyer.