Disclaimer: This post is meant to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. Links and mentions of Austin, TX flat fee MLS listing companies should not be considered an endorsement. Individual program details can change — please visit a provider’s website for the most current information on rate packages, fees, service areas, and more. HomeLight always recommends doing your own research to determine which selling option is best for your situation.
If you’re preparing to sell a house in Austin, Texas, you may have a desire to weigh all your options. Although less common, some sellers opt for the FSBO (for sale by owner) route, which can entail using a flat fee MLS listing service that operates in Austin, instead of using a traditional real estate agent.
The FSBO option may not be for all sellers, but we’ll break down the details you’ll need to know before deciding whether it’s right for your situation.
What is a flat fee MLS listing service?
A flat fee MLS is a limited service that helps sellers get their FSBO (for sale by owner) homes on the local multiple listing service (MLS). The MLS is a private directory of for-sale homes that real estate professionals use to share home details with each other. The MLS is also how all the major home-search websites are populated with property listings.
Because the local MLS is one of the best ways to market your home to potential buyers and get maximum exposure, it’s vital to list your home on the local MLS.
Unfortunately, only licensed real estate agents or Realtors® can post listings on the MLS. If you’re selling your home without the help of a traditional agent, you can still have your property listed on the MLS with the help of a flat fee MLS service.
What Austin sellers might benefit from a flat fee MLS service?
A flat fee MLS service might be the right choice for you if:
You’re looking to save on the cost of a real estate commission.
Homesellers who hire a listing agent typically pay a 5% to 6% real estate commission, which is split between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent. A listing service can help you eliminate the cost of a listing agent (2.5% to 3%). Instead, you’ll pay a flat fee of $89 to $2,999, depending on the company and level of service you choose. But, you’ll still pay the buyer’s commission in addition to the cost of any other services you use to help you sell your home.
If you’re considering using a flat fee listing service, know that the money you save in commission may be offset by the selling price of your home. According to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), FSBO homes sold at a median price of $225,000 last year, signiﬁcantly lower than the median of agent-assisted homes at $345,000.
You have a desirable home, and it’s a hot market.
A desirable home in a hot market may sell itself. Listing your home in the MLS may bring multiple buyers and competitive offers your way. However, you’ll still be responsible for all aspects of your home sale.
You want to be very involved in your home sale.
If you have previous home selling experience, and you’re craving a challenge, you may want to take full control of your home sale. A FSBO sale may be your chance to shine. A flat fee MLS is the first step in your home-selling journey.
You don’t want to work with a listing agent.
Not all agents are the same. That said, for whatever reason you choose not to work with an agent, a flat fee MLS company allows you to forgo the services of a licensed agent and still get your home listed on the MLS.
You have the time and energy to invest in the home-selling process.
Depending on the level of service you purchase from a flat fee company, you may need to take on a variety of tasks normally handled by a real estate agent.
“These [flat fee MLS listing] companies are geared toward people who don’t want to pay a Realtor® and want to list themselves,” says Trevor Heuser, a HomeLight Elite Agent who works with over 77% more single-family homes than the average Austin agent.
Heuser adds that sellers with strong-willed personalities and those belonging to older generations tend to gravitate toward the FSBO path.
Even with a flat fee listing service, you’ll typically need the time, energy, and know-how to:
- Use market data to set the best selling price for your home
- Write a listing description that appeals to buyers and their agents
- Take professional photos of your property
- Market and advertise your home
- Make the state and federal required disclosures
- Coordinate showings and open houses
- Review offers and make counteroffers
- Negotiate the sales price
- Understand and negotiate the terms of your contract
- Calculate your closing costs and your net proceeds
- Navigate any issues that may come up with the appraisal or inspection
- Handle any local real estate transfer taxes
- Get the required documentation together
Pros and cons of using a flat fee MLS listing service
The advantages of using a flat fee listing company in your FSBO sale include:
- Eliminate the listing agent commission (typically 2.7% to 3%)
- Represent yourself in your home sale
- Control all aspects of the sale from start to finish
- Pay known costs for the listing service, upfront
- Get your home listed on the MLS and third-party websites
- Helps expand your exposure to traditional buyers and their agents
The disadvantages of using a flat fee listing company for your FSBO sale include:
- You’re still required to offer a commission to the buyer’s agent
- You’ll be responsible to handle any issues that may delay or kill the deal
- It’s a self-serve process that you’ll navigate without the guidance of a local expert
- You may be exposing yourself to liability claims and other legal risks
- Your house will likely sell for less than it would with a traditional real estate professional
How do I list my home with a flat fee MLS service?
Once you’ve decided to list your home with a flat fee listing service, you’ll follow these steps to get your FSBO home on the MLS:
Step 1: Vet the flat fee MLS service
Research the local service you’d like to use, including packages and rates. Be sure to look up Google reviews and check out the company on the Better Business Bureau. Before you proceed, know how much information you’ll be able to list, how many photos you can post, what forms are available free of charge, and what add-ons come at an additional charge.
Step 2: Register and select a plan
Register on the flat fee MLS company website, select the package you want, and pay the upfront fee online.
Step 3: Enter your property information
Describe your property and upload photos. If your service offers it, fill out the disclosure form.
Step 4: Read and sign your listing agreement
Sign the listing agreement. Be sure to read your listing agreement thoroughly to ensure you can cancel without penalty and won’t owe a listing commission.
Step 5: Review your live listing
Once you complete your listing, the listing company will publish it to the local MLS, which means it will be visible to buyer agents. Depending on the company you choose, it will most likely be posted on real estate websites such as Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com. However, it can take a couple of days, or longer to populate. It’s a good idea to review how your listing is displaying on real estate sites to be certain it’s correct and complete.
Prior to the pandemic, the number one reason why sellers opted for flat fee MLS services was to save money. The other reason is there are some sellers who desire to be in control so much that handing the sale of their house off to a Realtor® doesn’t sit well with them and they choose to be the main point of contact.
- Trevor Heuser
Real Estate Agent
Real Estate Agent at Realty Austin
Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience
- Average Price Point
- Single Family Homes
Are flat fee MLS listings effective?
A flat fee MLS service can be effective. Buyers’ agents use the MLS to find homes that fit their client’s needs, download detailed information and disclosures, and schedule showings. Most major home search websites are populated by the MLS. Because the local MLS is one of the best ways to market your home and get your home in front of buyers, it’s crucial to list your FSBO home on the local MLS.
However, the NAR reports that FSBO home sales are not a popular option — accounting for only 10% of home sales last year. Of those, 50% of the sellers already knew the buyer of the home.
Not only are FSBO homes a minority of those available, but also, about 90% of buyers purchase a house using a buyer’s agent. The same NAR data also shows that real estate agents are more effective when it comes to securing higher net proceeds.
“Prior to the pandemic, the number one reason why sellers opted for flat fee MLS services was to save money,” says Heuser. “The other reason is there are some sellers who desire to be in control so much that handing the sale of their house off to a Realtor® doesn’t sit well with them and they choose to be the main point of contact.”
Heuser explains that “homes were selling themselves” during the pandemic and FSBO sellers could sell quickly and easily. But since the market has cooled, he’s witnessed a sharp decline in activity among flat fee MLS listing services in the Austin area. Instead, iBuyers and discount real estate agents have risen in popularity.
How much does a flat fee MLS service cost in Austin, Texas?
The fees for MLS listing services may be a flat rate, but they vary widely from company to company and plan to plan. Some plans are as low as $100 or less, while others can cost a few thousand dollars. The difference is that the bottom tier plans mostly get your listing on the MLS and might provide a couple of extras like listing on real estate websites and allowing you to upload a few photos.
On the other end of the spectrum, the premium packages might offer more advanced digital tools like open house schedulers, a comparative market analysis, unlimited photo uploads, a year-long listing, and agents on hand to offer advice over the phone. Meanwhile, other mid-tier plans might offer some additional features like contract and document support but lack other perks.
Austin sellers have a variety of options when it comes to flat fee MLS listing services. They can select a local company that just operates in certain Texas metros or they can go with a national firm that covers the Austin area.
Let’s take a look at some examples of flat fee MLS listing companies that serve Austin home sellers.
Austin, Texas flat fee MLS listing companies
Service areas: Serves Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Waco, Bryan/College Station, Corpus Christi, Killeen, Temple
About: ListingSpark’s mission is to provide sellers and investors with tools, support, and resources to sell properties without having to pay large upfront fees and big commissions. The service advertises saving sellers an average of $7,200, with 2,358 properties sold through their site, 28% faster than the market average sale time.
Reviews and rating summary: ListingSpark earned 264 5-star ratings on Birdeye, and 10 4-star ratings. Reviewers commented on an amazing and affordable process and being “forever grateful.” One who had sold multiple properties through ListingSpark said the service was “exceptional.”
Rate package overview:
Spark Plan – $1,499 ($250 upfront, remainder at closing): In addition to MLS and major real estate website listings, the plan also includes a professional HD photographer, for-sale sign, digital lockbox, a showing scheduling tool, forms and documents provided, suggested marketing plan, remote or in-person closing, email, chat, and phone support, and integration with Spark Title title and escrow services.
Premium Plan – $2,999 ($500 upfront, remainder at closing): Includes everything in the Spark Plan plus access to an Agent on Demand service, pricing assistance and review, premium photography package, listing and photography review, open house sign, and an e-flyer blast.
Additional service notes:
- Repeat customers can get access to the same features as in the Spark and Premium plans but at “deeply” discounted prices
- Offers market comparison and property search tools on its website
- Provides a closing cost calculator
- Uses SelTec software to simplify the selling process
- Lists on over 1,000 sites in addition to the MLS
- Can receive offers on ListingSpark dashboard
Service areas: Serves Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio
About: Headquartered in Flower Mound, Texas, Creekview Realty was founded in 2002 and is led by real estate broker John Prell who has over 40 years of industry experience. The company says its goal is to help sellers save substantial amounts on real estate commission while providing better service than a traditional agent.
Reviews and rating summary: Creekview Realty earned an average 4.5-star out of 5-star rating, based on 59 Yelp reviews. Several reviewers are repeat customers who said the company put care into helping sell their home. One said the service saved them a few thousand dollars.
Rate package overview:
Plan A – $600: Includes MLS listing for six months with cancellation at any time. It also provides a lockbox, CSS scheduling service, yard sign, and all forms.
Plan B – $1,400: Includes everything in Plan A, plus advice and representation for all contract and repair negotiations as well as assistance with all necessary paperwork.
Additional service notes:
- Plan B offers the same level of representation as would be expected with a 6% commission agent
- Professional photographer
- Comparative market analysis
- Supplies professional listing photographs
- Provides a yard sign
Texas MLS Broker
Service areas: Serves Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas-Fort Worth
About: Texas MLS Broker has been in existence since 2010 and says they listed over $100 million worth of Texas properties in 2021. They feature a simple listing process that takes 24 to 48 hours without hidden fees. They also offer a money-back guarantee.
Reviews and rating summary: The service received two 5-star reviews on Yelp. One reviewer said they sold two homes with Texas MLS Broker and would recommend the service. The other said they used the company three times with their house selling within five days every time.
Rate package overview:
Standard package – $175: Includes a six-month MLS listing, syndication on hundreds of real estate websites, 12 MLS photos, and online broker support.
Premium package – $280: Sames as standard and also includes a 12-month MLS listing, unlimited MLS photos, contract and state disclosures provided, contract review, and a comparative market analysis.
Additional service notes:
- Additional “Showcase” service level for $399 offers an 18-month MLS listing
- Setup so that buyer’s agents call you directly
- Guaranteed Realtor.com listing for the same duration as MLS
- Plan can be canceled at any time
- Communication with the service provider via email
National flat fee MLS companies that serve Austin, Texas
Flat Fee Group
Service areas: Serves 50 states including Austin, Texas
About: Flat Fee Group is a national group of independent real estate brokers that help FSBO sellers in various U.S. metros. All brokers and agents that work with Flat Fee Group are independent and not a third-party referral site. The local brokers are available for interviews before booking the service.
Reviews and rating summary: Listed under the name, Listing Results, LLC, Flat Fee Group earned an average 4.8 stars out of five on Better Business Bureau. Reviewers commented on receiving outstanding services with this company with one stating, “I absolutely don’t know why anyone would sell a home any other way.”
Service areas: Serves 50 states plus Austin, Texas
About: Byowner.com offers MLS listing services throughout the country, claiming that it provides the greatest exposure for properties without the traditional 6% commission. Listing options start at $499 scaling up to a professional representation listing package for $1,995.
Reviews and rating summary: Byowner.com received an average 4.1 out of 5-star ratings on Facebook. People described the service as an excellent way to sell property and a “money saver.” One reviewer said Byowner.com kept them up to date with each stage of the selling process and was quick to respond.
Service areas: Serves Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, South Carolina, and Tampa
About: Fizber promotes itself as an easy-to-use, customizable online platform to help home sellers get their properties in front of an audience. The service also uses SEO practices so listing can more easily be found on search engines. They say their average customer saves $15,000 and offers access to a “Closing Guru” for premium plans.
Reviews and rating summary: Fizber earned several 5-star reviews on Trustpilot. One praised agent Liz Chapman who works with the company as being professional and making the process effortless. Another said that they had a good customer service experience when they were struggling with the process and were able to get the help they needed.
As you can see, Austin sellers may have options in terms of having flat fee listing services to choose from, but keep in mind that not all are created equal. Make sure to consider your home selling situation and needs and weigh them against the strengths and weaknesses of the various services.
Alternatives to a flat fee MLS services in Austin, Texas
Not sure you want to use a flat fee MLS service? You still have alternative options. Here are a few:
1. Hire a full-service real estate agent
Full-service real estate agents are experienced at selling homes and tackling all of the tasks that go into landing a successful sale. That includes things like marketing, pricing, negotiations, fielding calls from potential buyers, and more. Especially in the current market, it can pay to go with a real estate agent that has experience.
“Right now homes are not selling themselves,” says Heuser. “The question is, do you want your home just sitting on the market as a listing, or do you want to work with an agent who understands what’s happening in the market? Because numbers are changing daily. When one home in the neighborhood drops, it affects all the other homes.”
HomeLight can connect you to an experienced, trusted real estate agent in your market. This free platform scans your local area and finds the top-selling agents that fit your selling situation.
2. Flat fee real estate agents
Rather than taking a commission, flat fee real estate agents agree to help you sell your house for a lump sum. This route can make it easier to budget for a property transaction because you’ll know exactly how much money you’ll be pocketing after the sale. At the same time, flat fee real estate agents don’t have a compelling reason to sell your house for a high price. That means they may not work as hard on negotiations, marketing, pricing, or other tasks that full-service agents prioritize.
3. Sell for cash
If you want to expedite the home-selling process, you can also seek a cash offer from a house-buying company, such as an iBuyer or a We Buy Houses investor group. If you sell your home for cash, you likely won’t receive as high of an offer as you would if you listed your home. However, it is a way to cash in on your home quickly, without having to spend time and energy prepping for a sale.
One easy and convenient way to sell your home fast for cash is to use HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform. This tool allows you to bypass repairs, showings, and commissions and presents you with a cash offer in as little as 72 hours. You’re under no obligation to accept offers, but if you do, this method makes it possible to close in as few as 10 days.
Will I save money with a flat fee MLS listing service?
While it’s possible to save money on the listing agent commission fee, you may be losing money in the long run. Not only will you be sacrificing time and work, but you will also be proceeding without the expertise of a professional who could save or earn you money later when negotiating with a potential buyer.
If you add in the cost of your time and the likelihood of a lower sale price, you might not realize the savings you hope to see. As noted earlier, data from NAR shows that FSBO homes sold at a median price of $225,000 last year compared to agent-assisted homes that sold at a median price of $345,000 — up to a 35% difference.
In addition, HomeLight data shows that homes listed with a top-performing agent sell for up to 10% more than those listed with an average agent. Of course, your results can vary widely depending on the condition and features of your home, its location, and market conditions in your area.
Heuser cautions FSBO sellers to be realistic, explaining that flat fee MLS companies are often used by homeowners who think the market is still hotter than it is. “You get what you pay for,” he says.
Heuser adds that one complaint he’s heard about some flat fee MLS listing services is that they can be slow to respond to customer queries. “Time is money – buyers will just go to the next option,” he says.
More insights about flat fee MLS services in Austin, Texas
There aren’t specific rules governing the use of flat fee MLS listing services in Austin, however, there are disclosure laws that sellers need to be aware of, covering the state of Texas.
While a real estate attorney isn’t required to help close a sale in the state, FSBO sellers should consider the benefits of hiring a lawyer to assist with closing the sale. Not understanding the legalities of disclosures and contracts could prove to be an expensive mistake if they end up getting sued by the buyer over the transaction.
Here are a few additional insights to consider:
- Unlike traditional agents, flat fee services get paid whether or not a house sells
- Some listing services change their names, which could make it difficult to track performance
- Many services will put the seller’s contact information in the listing so they take on less responsibility for communications
- As opposed to a traditional agent, there might not be a dedicated person to help sellers with their home sale through the listing service
- Flat fee MLS listing service fees might be fixed but agent fees are negotiable
Ready to sell your Austin, Texas home?
Selling a home can be a full-time job. When a seller works with a traditional real estate agent, they have an experienced ally in their court whose job it is to sell their house. On the flip side, FSBO sellers take on much of the agent’s duties themselves. If they have a full-time job and limited real estate knowledge, they’ll have to spend time figuring out much of the process themselves, which might be difficult.
Working with a flat fee MLS listing service can help take off some of the burdens, with some plans providing more assistance than others relative to the cost. However, especially in a buyer’s market, sellers may find they need the support of a top traditional real estate agent to achieve a more successful sale.
Writer Jael Batty contributed to this story.
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Header Image Source: (César León / Unsplash)