Plug for using Flat fee MLS

chicagoerinMarch 8, 2011

So I just wanted to let everyone know I just sold my second house using a flat fee MLS service (notice, this is not a plug for a particular company as no particular service is mentioned). I live in Columbus, OH which is not excactly a booming real estate market. My belief is that realtors will become more and more obsolete as more people realize with a little extra work you can save tons of money (28k for me). It's really very simple: if you have a great house (updated, no clutter, etc) and you price it right (you need comps which are easy to get), a professionally done sign in the yard ($185.00)..IT SELLS. Not rocket science but the realtors will want you to think you NEED them. No thanks, what I NEED right now is as much money out of my house as I can get. The house is advertised exactly the same way-on the MLS and on (I DO NOT believe that paper ads or open houses sell houses but you can do these too if you want). And since you are saving at least 3% and very probably 6% you can price it more agressively and it will sell faster. You offer 3% to realtors so you have just as much traffic coming through.

I was able to sell both houses to people who saw it on and came through without a realtor which saved me 28k total for both houses. I paid $299 for the flat fee person to list the house on and MLS.

SO, as you go into spring and are thinking of selling, consider this: Realtors don't sell houses, houses sell themselves if they are 1. Posted in the MLS and with great pics (easy to do yourself), 2. Priced right, 3. Updated and free of clutter.

Now go save yourself some money!

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I completely agree with you. I had a great experience with flat fee listing when I sold our last house--was able to negotiate a by-owner offer against an agent-represented offer--guess which one I took? :-) I'm selling again and using the same service. Along with the marketing I receive through the MLS listing, I'm doing extra promotion on my own time.

In contacts I've had with Realtors, I'm amazed at how few take advantage of modern marketing opportunities, especially social media. I agree that the entire profession needs to re-train agents and think about the crippling commission structure.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 12:27PM
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I'm happy for both of you selling without paying a high commission to an agent, but I wonder if everyone did this what would happen to the MLS and that helped you sell your house?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 1:02PM
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cmarlin, I think both would still exist in the current format or something similar. Flat fee listers are considered real estate agencies, as I understand it.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 1:26PM
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I had a friend who was a flat fee realtor/broker and she always told me that a nice property just needs to be on MLS and and other realtors will show it and sell it. She also offered a showing service, sign, and lock box for extra money.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 6:53PM
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How did you handle showings? Did you have to be there for every showing? Did you show only in the evenings or weekends? (I assume you work at a real job.) How many days was your home on the market?

To me, the showing aspect is a difficult part of flat fee listing services. Who has to be available to make sure the home is available for showings because you can't just have a lockbox on the door for every stranger to access.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 6:59PM
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I think it is funny when realtors try to insist that somehow we wouldn't be able to have decent websites without the MLS. In fact, it is the opposite. The MLS is a data monopoly and completely stifles innovation in the modern era.

In the long run, realtors can't count on a data monopoly to justify their existence. They need to be providing quality service to their customers beyond just the MLS and some fliers. Many recognize that, but not all do yet.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 7:12PM
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I agree that the real estate industry needs a modernization. It's a bit dark-ages (or at least pre-internet) to have a structure that requires two brokers and two agents and a whole bunch of support people to sell a house. I see the industry needing to go in a direction like travel agents have in the past 20 years: mostly self-service, with experts that help on a fee-only basis.

I would love to see a self-serve, fee-for-service industry where I could access online info that would help me analyze comps and come up with a price, photograph and list my property myself in its (non-monopoly) online listing. Any part of the process you could hire out (pro photographer, home stager, graphic designer, chaperone for people wanting to view your house, or whatever) or you could completely DIY. None of the above should cost thousands to do. But because of the inefficiency of the current system, there's a lot of waste and extra cost. And I think the olden-days perceived value of the whole network of agents talking up homes to each other (if that actually sells homes) isn't relevant in the internet age.

I do see value to a buyer in having an agent do the organizing of the viewing and serve as a consultant. That has certainly helped me in buying homes in new areas. But then shouldn't the buyer pay for that?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 5:51AM
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"I would love to see a self-serve, fee-for-service industry where I could access online info that would help me analyze comps and come up with a price, photograph and list my property myself in its (non-monopoly) online listing. Any part of the process you could hire out (pro photographer, home stager, graphic designer, chaperone for people wanting to view your house, or whatever) or you could completely DIY. None of the above should cost thousands to do. "

Ummm....isn't that what the OP was saying about flat-fee MLS? You can do this.

Except: "help me analyze comps and come up with a price"
Zillow will do that for free. As an REA, I will admit that it is more accurate than I care for (most of the time).

Or: "list my property myself in its (non-monopoly) online listing"
There are lots of sites that do this, just do a search for FSBO sites and you'll see lots. But if you want the most popular national site that thousands (? not sure, millions?) of licensed Realtors pay handsomely for (from commissions that they earned selling houses) and is probably the first site that buyers visit, then you'll have to go to MLS/

I guess what I'm missing on this thread is where "most successful" = "monopoly"
I mean, MLS isn't exactly operating like Microsoft - you do have a choice. (Yes, I know I can convert to Linux, which we've done, but a lot of specialized software only works on Windows, in fact, my local MLS only works on Microsoft Explorer - UGH!)

Wish to go back to the days where you have to visit each Real Estate office in town (or each of their websites) to see each of their listings? (This is exactly how rentals work in Alameda right now and thank goodness it's a small town because it's exasperating.) MLS/ allows us to cooperate.

I know a lot of REAs resent it, but I think it's great that an ordinary person can now use MLS via flat fee. Unfortunately, it's not every ordinary person that can successfully sell their own home. I think most of the folks on this forum are "extraordinary" in their knowledge of buying and selling homes and stand a much better chance of success.
If you read some REA forums (i.e. Active Rain) you'd find that there are a lot of ordinary folks who do need an REA. It's actually frightening how ignorant some buyers and sellers are about the process.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 9:03AM
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In terms of the showings, at least here in Ohio, the listing agent is never present at a showing anyway, it's the buyer agent who takes them through. So for those, you put a lock box on and it's business as usual. For ther people coming through w/o a realtor you do whatever it takes to get them in there (You let them in, a friend, etc) since those are the buyers who save you the big $$$$.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 11:34AM
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I wish I could FSBO. In my town there's what we refer to as the "Real Estate Mafia". It's a group of about 20 or so agents who have been doing business here for 20+ years each. They're very good, very active, and very visible. For some reason their houses sell with an average of about 20 DOM. It's not uncommon for offers to come in the evening of the first open house. Houses listed by agents outside of the Mafia, and FSBOs, languish on the market. Right now the DOM in my town is around 55 (Feb 2011 data). A number of us have remarked on this over the years. My guess is that these agents do particularly well in marketing to other agents.

Now, one reason that FSBOs don't sell very well is that the FSBOs tend to be unstaged, in less desirable neighborhoods, or are priced unrealistically. Two that I've tracked specifically have been on the market on & off for over 2 years.

Correlation is not causation, of course, but it certainly gives me pause when I consider how to list my house in the future.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 12:59PM
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annkathryn, I'm guessing that if a nicely staged, correctly priced home in a desirable (or even "undesirable") neighborhood in your town used a flat-fee listing agency, there's little chance that the 20-member Real Estate Mafia could dissuade hundreds of other agents looking at the same MLS from selling and showing that home. If they spread that much far-reaching influence and fear, then the rivers near your town should be dredged for bodies with real estate business cards in their pockets. :-)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 4:27PM
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Pilot: Yes, flat fee MLS is a big step to self-serve, but you still have to pay 3% to the buyer's agent (who's really working for the buyer). Maybe there are a lot more FSBOs on MLS than I'm aware of and we're trending toward my utopia. It just seems like around here it's all the same-old business as usual. And I haven't experienced a great selling agent so I'm a bit cynical about the value that they add.

Zillow doesn't have comps in my area. Sounds like it would be a great tool.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 7:03PM
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jboling I guess the question is, why are there so few FSBOs in my area? At the peak in 2007, agents were getting 7% commission. Now they start at 6% and will negotiate down to 5 or 4.5%. Median house prices in my town are over $1 million, and I think the percent of people with a college degree is around 75%. So with that much $$s at stake and a (presumably) educated population, why is FSBO so rare here? It's a mystery to me...

And by the way, we don't have rivers here, just streams that dry up from spring to fall, so any bodies would start to be visible around now ;)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 8:35PM
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annkathryn--Is it possible that, because the median price in your town is so high, there is a stigma attached to trying to sell by owner or without a traditional agent? That the owner doesn't want his neighbors to think he's concerned about saving money? That's the only reason I can think of for the lack of FSBOs or flat fee listings.

Or maybe it's because there are no rivers nearby. :-)

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 10:43AM
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