Location, Location, Location
Anyone who knows anything about real estate knows it’s all about location. The ugliest house in a fantastic neighborhood is still a valuable piece of property, simply because it will always have intrinsic value based on where it is located. Anyone who knows anything about real estate also knows the Multiple Listing System (MLS) is the place to be when it comes to selling property.
According to realtor.comⓇ, the MLS can be defined as more than a “huge database of home listings,” but a “suite of approximately 700 regional databases,” each with its own listings. Agents pay a fee to access and post their listings on the relevant databases. Agents can be members of multiple MLS databases, depending on their territories.
Many real estate sites and firms offer a highly-condensed version of MLS listings to help buyers search for properties using filters, such as zip codes, price and home features. It’s where agents, brokers and buyers go to find for-sale properties. That’s why you want your property there – it’s the #1 place to get found.
There’s only one problem: unless you’re a licensed agent or broker paying membership dues to access and post to the MLS, you don’t get to use it to list your home. At least, that’s the way it used to be. Sellers now have a few options beyond paying an agent or broker full commissions.
Get on MLS without a RealtorⓇ
More home sellers are looking to sell their own homes the For Sale by Owner (FSBO) route. They don’t want to pay a real estate agent’s full commission, typically around 3 percent for the seller’s agent and another 3 percent for the buyer’s agent. The FSBO route has always helped sellers keep more of their own money, but until relatively recently, it meant selling the property without the help of the MLS.
Today, if a home seller wants to get their property on the MLS (and they should), they have options other than paying a full agent commission. Whether you want to sell your home the FSBO route or you simply don’t want to pay an agent so much, you have choices. There are flat-fee brokers/agents, discount brokers and even per-day pricing firms who can get FSBOs and others wanting to save money the same MLS access as the full-service agents have. All of these options can result in home sellers keeping more money in their pockets.
Flat-fee agents are licensed real estate agents who offer clients a flat rate for their services (including getting their property listed on the MLS) rather than being paid on commission. This fee is often advertised as lower than a commission based on the final sale price of the home. For many home sellers, knowing exactly what they will pay on the front end is easier to budget for and removes any surprises on the back end.
There is, however, a surprise that flat-fee brokerages don’t always readily disclose – while you may pay them a flat fee upfront, you will still have an additional fee to pay to the buyer’s agent for bringing the buyer to the table. The percentage of that commission may be negotiable, but it will be in addition to the flat fee you paid your agent.
Discount brokers work under a similar premise as a flat-fee agent; it’s just a matter of when you pay. Instead of a flat fee upfront, you will pay a commission percentage after the sale, but it will be less than the standard 3 percent. What many home sellers don’t know is that real estate agents’ commissions are negotiable. Discount brokers are just telling you so. They advertise that they will take your listing for only one or two percent commission.
Once again, however, they may not disclose that you still have to pay the buyer’s agent’s commission. This, too, may be negotiable, but it needs to be spelled out in the contract when you list your home. This way, the buyer’s agent knows going into the deal that they will get paid less than the standard 3 percent. While many agents are just happy to find their buyers a home, some may prioritize homes where sellers are offering the full 3 percent commission.
An innovative new approach to FSBO is to pay a daily fee to list your home. The per-day pricing model with ListingSpark, for example, gives home sellers access to the MLS, market data and sales comparisons, a yard sign, lockbox, professional photos and marketing flyers. For a small additional fee, sellers can obtain the ongoing guidance of a licensed agent.
The per-day pricing model benefits those who can sell their homes quickly and do more tasks themselves, such as pricing their home and listing their home on the MLS. The faster the home sells, the fewer days they pay. Even the worst house in the neighborhood will sell quickly if it is priced right, so this option can be advantageous to just about anyone who wants to sell their own home and keep more of their own money.
Make Your MLS Access Count
Getting onto the MLS without a realtor may be your ultimate goal, but once you’re there, you need to know the tricks of the trade to make your home shine. Many of the fields on the MLS are standard fare – address, legal property description, number of bedrooms and baths, one level or two, etc. It gives the viewer a comprehensive view of your property, floor to ceiling, fence to fence.
There is room for a general property description, where you can highlight the best parts of your home and write words that will attract buyers. You want to be honest and not embellish, but you do want to paint your home in the best light possible. This is the first thing viewers will read about your home, so consider it a marketing pitch to literally get them in the door.
Beyond the description, you may add photos of your property (and you should). This is no time to skimp. Do not take photos of your home using a mobile phone. It is recommended (in the strongest terms) to use a professional real estate photographer who knows how to use lighting, position the camera and shoot the pictures in a way to make the rooms appear large, bright and fresh. Anything less than professional photos will make your home look subpar compared to the majority of others who used a professional photographer. You can hire your own or ask your flat-fee agent, discount broker or per-day pricing firm if they offer photography services.
Selling your home has never been more lucrative. The standard six percent commissions are no longer standard. Determine what’s important to you, what level of support you need and how you like to pay to access the MLS. The MLS is worth the investment and will give you a higher rate of return on your investment, both in terms of dollars and hours.
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