Should I List My Home Using Flat Fee MLS Or For Sale by Owner (FSBO)

In this economy many home sellers have at least considered selling their home FSBO style. This article will describe the difference between listing your home with a Flat Fee MLS service or as a straight FSBO.

What is MLS?

Let’s start with what MLS means. MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service, and this is a database that is used by Real Estate Agents and the general public. This database contains properties that are for sale and are added by Real Estate Agents and then published on the Internet. This database is typically hosted in a local Association of Realtors web site. For example, is the MLS company for the central section of Tennessee, known as Middle Tennessee.

Flat Fee MLS Services

Flat Fee MLS services providers will list your home for six months in an MLS database for your particular area, and perhaps even on, a national site. As part of the process to get your home listed, a licensed Real Estate Agent will contact you to get the details of your property from you. The major benefit to the home seller is exposure. Your home will be seen by agents that use the MLS to find properties that meet their buyer’s needs. Additionally, exposure comes through the Internet presence of this database for the public to use. The fee for this type of listing generally runs from about $300 to as much as $1000, depending on the services provided. Some Flat Fee MLS providers promote this as “MLS For Sale By Owner”, however, the National Association of Realtors does not agree with that description of your property. This is because in order to be listed in an MLS database, you must use a Real Estate Agent, therefore, you are not selling strictly as “For Sale By Owner”.

Listing FSBO

Straight FSBO is different than Flat Fee MLS in that your home is not listed in the MLS database at all. This means that you must find a way to promote your home on your own. Here is where many web sites and classified ad services can come in to play. There are many national web sites that provide FSBO listing capabilities, and there are many local FSBO sites that focus on a particular area of the country. There are also many differences between these sites. For example, the two largest national “FSBO sites” attempt to Arizona Flat Fee MLS up-sell you into a Flat Fee MLS listing. This may not be necessary if you can find a FSBO site that does the following:

  1. Promotes your home on the Internet to buyers.
  2. Direct markets your home to real estate agents (if you’re willing to pay some commission).
  3. Uses a format that is comfortable for Real Estate agents in your area of the country.

If these three things are accomplished by your FSBO site, then you have all of the benefits of Flat Fee MLS, because your home is being marketed directly to buyers, your home is getting in front of Real Estate Agents in a manner which makes them comfortable about being compensated, and with your properties details. This level of exposure will lead to more showings, and more showings typically means a faster sale. Generally, if you can find a FSBO site that provides these capabilities, the cost will run under $200, and your home will be listed until it is sold.


In conclusion, Flat Fee MLS listing and FSBO listing differ a few ways. First is inclusion in an MLS database. Flat Fee MLS Services add you to an MLS database, straight FSBO sites do not. Second is in how your home is marketed to buyers. Flat Fee MLS relies on using Real Estate Agents to bring buyers to you. FSBO means you have to find buyers yourself. Third is how your home is presented to Real Estate Agents. With Flat Fee MLS, your home is dumped into a large database of homes, and left for Real Estate Agents to find it. A well done FSBO site will directly market your property to Real Estate Agents. Finally, Flat Fee MLS is generally more expensive than straight FSBO. Flat Fee MLS can run from $300 to $1000, where as FSBO will generally be under $200. Finding the right FSBO site can help you really maximize the most likely reason you chose not to use a Real Estate agent to begin with – saving money!

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