Real Estate Terms

Flat Fee Listing Definition

A flat fee listing is a real estate agreement where the seller pays an agent a flat fee to have their property listed on the multiple listing service (MLS). 

Before calling yourself a real estate pro, you’ll need to learn how a flat fee MLS listing works. To get the most accurate information possible, you must learn from reliable real estate experts. With years of experience in the industry, I’m happy to share the ins and outs of how a flat fee MLS listing service works in real estate.

In this post, we’ll define a flat fee MLS service, analyze its pros and cons, and provide helpful examples of when they work best. Keep reading for a comprehensive look into flat fee MLS listings! 

What Is a Flat Fee Listing?

A flat fee listing is an agreement where the seller pays an agent a flat fee and, in return, the agent lists their property on the multiple listing service (MLS). 

When a homeowner uses a flat fee MLS listing they are typically considered an FSBO seller, or a “for sale by owner” seller. FSBO sellers do not have a real estate agent to market their property (besides listing it for them on the MLS).

Instead, the seller acts as their own real estate agent; they are responsible for marketing their home, choosing a listing price, showing the property, and negotiating with prospective buyers.

While it may sound like a lot of work, FSBO sellers benefit by not having to pay a commission to real estate agents. Once they sell their property, the full home sale amount goes directly to them. 

What Is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?

The Multiple Listing Service is a real estate database agents use to sell their clients’ homes. The MLS contains information about properties being sold and connects real estate brokers with potential buyers. 

There isn’t just one MLS in the United States; there are hundreds! Many areas have a local MLS where real estate brokers can post their clients’ listings. When a real estate agent posts a listing on the MLS, it increases their client’s chance of finding a buyer and selling the property. 

Pros and Cons of a Flat Fee MLS Listing

Some benefits of using a flat fee MLS listing service include saving money and having more control over the sale process. Some cons of using a flat fee MLS listing include real estate fees and receiving less help from experienced real estate agents. 


The most significant benefit of a flat fee MLS listing is that sellers do not have to pay a commission to a real estate agent. In most states, the commission is 5-6% of the home sale, so sellers can save a lot of money using this type of listing. 

Another benefit of flat fee MLS listings is that sellers have more control over the sale. For example, the home seller can market the property however they like, be picky about which buyers they show the home to, and list the property at whichever price they see fit. 

Some flat fee MLS listing services also benefit sellers by providing extra services. While many listing services only put the seller’s property on the MLS, others offer additional real estate assistance. This way, the seller can avoid commission fees while enjoying the benefits of an experienced real estate broker. However, you’ll need to ensure your local MLS offers these services. 


The drawback of a flat fee MLS listing is that sellers still have to pay a flat fee to have their property listed on the MLS. Sometimes, sellers may even have to pay a commission fee to the buyer’s agent (usually around 2-3%). This is a significant con, as the seller could end up paying hefty costs without benefiting from the services of real estate agents.

That brings us to our second con: FSBO sellers do not have much help from real estate agents in a flat fee MLS listing. An FSBO seller handles all aspects of the sale, from marketing to closing. Selling a house can be a full-time job, so doing it all on your own isn’t the easiest, especially if you don’t have a background in real estate.

Another issue with a flat fee MLS listing is that home sellers often make less money when they don’t have a qualified real estate agent to negotiate. So while it’s great that sellers don’t have to pay an agent commission, they may lose out on money anyway by selling their home for less. 

Check out the following table for a clear breakdown of the benefits and drawbacks of a flat fee MLS listing: 

Flat Fee MLS Listing-Sellers Can Avoid Paying a Commission
-Sellers Have More Control Over the Home Sale
-Sellers May Be Able to Pay for Additional Services
-Sellers May Still Have to Pay a Buyer’s Agent Commission
-Sellers Have More Responsibility 
-Sellers Do Not Have a Real Estate Agent to Help
-Sellers May Make Less Money 

Example of a Flat Fee Listing

Say that Andy is looking to sell his home. He would like to save money by handling the sale himself instead of hiring an agent; this way, he doesn’t have to pay commission fees once the property is sold.

Andy has a marketing background, a solid understanding of real estate laws, and the time to invest in selling his home. He uses a flat fee MLS listing service so that a real estate agent can post his home on the MLS and attract more buyers.

Andy takes photos of the home, performs showings to prospective buyers, and negotiates sale terms. While the process is time-consuming and requires much effort, Andy eventually sells his home to a qualified buyer.

The best part is that Andy doesn’t have to pay a 5% commission fee to any real estate agent; he profits fully from the sale and can use that money for moving costs. 

Should I Use a Flat Fee MLS Service?

If you’re interested in selling your home, you may wonder, “Should I use a flat fee MLS listing service?” 

Well, the answer depends on who you are; if you’re an FSBO seller with enough time and experience, a flat fee MLS listing service could be an excellent option. The ideal candidate for flat fee listings is willing to wear multiple hats (photography, marketing, negotiating, etc.) and is confident they can sell their house for a price that makes the trouble worthwhile.

However, it’s important to note that using a flat fee MLS listing is not for everyone or even most people. FSBO sellers rarely have the time and experience necessary to profit from a flat fee listing. 

In most cases, we’d recommend going a more traditional route. Even if you pay a traditional real estate agent a commission, you will likely save money by avoiding the time-consuming and expensive home sale process. 

Another excellent option might be an open listing, where you can sell the property yourself or with the help of multiple agents. You could even ask for an exclusive agency agreement, where you hire a real estate broker but still retain the right to sell the home yourself (and you only pay the agent commission if they find the buyer). 

How Much Does a Flat Fee MLS Listing Service Cost?

Before you can decide if a flat fee MLS listing service is worth your time, you should know how much it will cost. The flat fee you’ll be required to pay varies depending on where you’re from and which service you use.

In most cases, the flat fee is around $200-500. Some MLS listing services may be more costly, but they generally include extra services from real estate agents, such as help marketing the property. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s go over the most frequently asked questions real estate students have about how a flat fee MLS listing works. 

What Is the Best MLS Listing Website?

To view property listings in your area, you should check out the MLS Real Estate Portal. From their site, you can click on a state to see properties for sale in that area.

You can also use other real estate websites that feature flat fee MLS listings. Examples include:

  • Zillow
  • Trulia
  • Homes for Heroes

What Is a Flat Fee vs. Commission?

A flat fee refers to one fixed payment a seller makes to a real estate agent. In the case of a flat fee MLS listing, this payment enables the real estate agent to post the seller’s property on the MLS. However, the flat fee may also cover additional agreed-upon services from a real estate agent.

Meanwhile, a commission is a percentage of the sale that real estate agents receive after selling a home. In most cases, the average commission is around 5-6%, though this varies from state to state.

What to Know Before the Real Estate Exam

A flat fee listing is an agreement where the seller pays a real estate agent a flat fee in exchange for having their house listed on the local MLS. The seller then markets and sells the property independently or pays a higher cost for additional services. 

Knowing how a flat fee MLS listing works in real estate is crucial to passing the exam. This knowledge will also help you to succeed as a future real estate professional. 

But of course, understanding flat fee MLS listings is only the first step to becoming a real estate whiz. To ensure you excel on testing day, you’ll need to be familiar with even more vital concepts. 
Luckily, you can study up on other key terms using our online Real Estate Flashcards!

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