Flat Fee MLS Entry Only Listing Basics (9)
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a database used by licensed real estate professionals to list property for sale or rent. It is used ubiquitously by licensed real estate brokers and agents, and is the standard source for advertising property for sale or rent. Stuart St James uses MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN), New England’s largest multiple listing service. MLS systems are directly accessible only by licensed real estate agents and brokers, yet the data within MLS systems are in part shared and/or syndicated with thousands of third party real estate websites.
Simply put, an entry only MLS listing, paid for with a one-time flat fee, is an ideal way to get your property listed for sale or rent in the official Massachusetts MLS system, drive exposure for your property, and do it all by owner without an agent so you can save thousands in real estate agent commission. For sale by owner (FSBO) sellers leverage this flat fee MLS model to list on the MLS without an agent, and by doing so, they avoid paying a commission to both a listing brokerage and a Buyer’s Agent.
A seller can engage the services of a real estate agent to sell his/her property (called the listing agent) and the real estate agent is then the agent for the seller who becomes the agent’s client. This means that the real estate agent represents the seller. The agent owes the seller undivided loyalty, reasonable care, disclosure, obedience to lawful instruction, confidentiality and accountability, provided, however, that the agent must disclose known material defects in the real estate. The agent must put the seller’s interests first and negotiate for the best price and terms for their client, the seller. (The seller may authorize sub-agents to represent him/her in marketing its property to buyers, however, the seller should be aware that wrongful action by the real estate agent or sub-agents may subject the seller to legal liability for those wrongful actions).
A buyer can engage the services of a real estate agent to purchase property and the real estate agent is then the agent for the buyer who becomes the agent’s client. This means that the real estate agent represents the buyer. The agent owes the buyer undivided loyalty, reasonable care, disclosure, obedience to lawful instruction, confidentiality and accountability, provided, however, that the agent must disclose known material defects in the real estate. The agent must put the buyer’s interests first and negotiate for the best price and terms for their client, the buyer. (The buyer may also authorize sub-agents to represent him/her in purchasing property, however, the buyer should be aware that wrongful action by the real estate agent or sub-agents may subject the buyer to legal liability for those wrongful actions).
Yes, your entry only MLS listing will be shown by Buyer’s Agents.
You may be concerned that, because you’re not using a traditional real estate brokerage that charges a full commission, your property is not going to be shown by licensed real estate brokers and agents to their clients.
It’s important to understand that, to the general buying public, your flat fee MLS listing looks no different than any other listing entered by a traditional real estate brokerage charging a full commission. In the MLS itself, directly accessible by licensed agents and brokers only, entry only MLS listings are required to have an entry only flag and oftentimes carry details in a Special Showing Instructions field (neither of which is visible to the general buying public).
Our flat fee entry only MLS listing option gets your property on MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN), the largest MLS system in New England, and the very same official MLS used by licensed real estate brokers and agents.
Further, Buyer’s Agents carry a fiduciary duty to their clients as a licensed professional, and it is in the best interest of their clients, to show all properties on the market that meet their client’s search criteria – if your property matches the search criteria of a buyer represented by a Buyer’s Agent, it’s the fiduciary duty of a Buyer’s Agent to show your property to their client.
In the state of Massachusetts, we help clients list Single Family, Condominium/Co-op, Multi-Family, and Land properties for sale, and separately, Residential Rental property for rent.
We list property for sale and rent in the largest MLS system in New England, MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN). MLS PIN gives us the ability to list property for sale or rent across every city in the state of Massachusetts. Further, once your property is listed in MLS PIN, which is only directly accessible by licensed real estate agents and brokers, it will be syndicated to popular third party real estate websites such as Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia, Redfin, and literally hundreds of others.
Yes, of course. There are two documents in the clickwrap agreement you will review and accept in conjunction with your entry only MLS listing. First, the Massachusetts Mandatory Licensee Consumer Relationship Disclosure, and second, the Listing Advertisement Agreement. Feel free to review the terms of each here.
While it’s certainly possible for you to sell your property without hiring a real estate attorney, we strongly suggest that you, as a FSBO, hire a real estate attorney. The Offer to Purchase and Purchase & Sale Agreement are legally binding contracts which outline the rights and responsibilities of both the buyer and seller. These documents should be reviewed, and in the case of the Purchase & Sale Agreement, prepared by an attorney. Moreover, in Massachusetts it is the obligation of the seller, or their representative, to prepare the first draft of the Purchase & Sale Agreement. Lastly, the buyer and/or the buyer’s creditor (i.e. lender) will most certainly be represented by counsel. The peace of mind that a licensed real estate attorney provides throughout the FSBO selling process will far outweigh the cost. So should you hire a real estate attorney? Yes, limit your liability and exposure and hire a real estate attorney.
Working with Your Flat Fee MLS Listing (17)
We strive to list your property in the official Massachusetts multiple listing service (MLS), called MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN), by the next business day, oftentimes faster, after you signup and make your one-time flat fee payment. Syndication of your listing to third party websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com will take place in the coming hours after your listing is published in the MLS.
We post new listings, and make updates to existing listings, in the Massachusetts MLS no later than the next business day after you complete the online sign up process or submit a Listing Update Request Form.
There are four (4) MLS systems in Massachusetts, we use MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN), MLS PIN is the largest MLS system in New England and is the only MLS system that provides comprehensive coverage over the entire state of Massachusetts.
Yes. From your list price to the amount of Buyer’s Agent commission you offer, along with the ability to make unlimited property updates using our online process, including adding open houses, you’re in control of how your property appears in the MLS, which is the ultimate system of record and the basis for listing information on MLS syndication partners like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Redfin, and hundreds of others.
When listing FSBO on the MLS, the placement of your contact information so that interested parties can quickly contact you directly is paramount.
The gravity and importance of sound communication practices around FSBO contact information is not lost on us.
As you can imagine, there are a number of subtle intricacies involved in facilitating communication with FSBOs using flat fee MLS entry only listings. We’ve coupled an intimate familiarity with how real estate transactions are conducted along with advancements in technology that we are the first to use, and then layered on top of that a tremendous amount of listening to clients, their feedback, their suggestions, and have built a platform that has both integrity and transparently facilitates prompt communication to you as a FSBO.
This was done all while taking into consideration the rules and regulations of the MLS specific to the use of your contact information, precisely what contact information is syndicated to popular third party real estate websites, and the business models of those websites (which lie outside our control), so that we do right by you as a FSBO wherever and whenever we’re given the chance.
Within the MLS itself (which is directly accessible only by licensed real estate agents and brokers), the special showing instructions field of your listing will contain your contact information and will instruct all licensed real estate agents and brokers to contact you directly.
Yes, your MLS listing has your contact information in it.
The special showing instructions field, which is limited in the number of characters it can support will read: For more information, showings, and offers, please contact owner Your First Name at Your Phone Number.
MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN), the largest MLS system in New England and the system we exclusively leverage, does not syndicate the special showing instructions field to third party websites (such as Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow, etc.), and therefore, only the listing brokerage’s contact information is syndicated along with your listing information to third party websites – how and where the listing brokerage’s contact information is shared on third party websites is up to that third party website, which is most often a for profit business either selling advertising to agents who want buyer leads, or, a brokerage website that wants to promote their own agents and not the listing brokerage that provided the listing.
If we receive an inquiry directly via phone or email regarding your listing from any party (be that a buyer or renter, or, a licensed real estate salesperson or broker), we facilitate prompt and direct interaction between you and the interested party by pointing them to stuartstjames.com/listings, a URL that resolves to a webpage on the Entry Only New England website which transparently provides access to your contact information (your property address, your name, email address, and phone number).
Keep in mind that third party websites like Zillow and Trulia (which merged as of 2015 yet still maintain separate websites), and Realtor.com are for-profit businesses which have their own business models that absolutely include selling advertising space to real estate agents so that when a buyer requests more information on a home in a particular zip code, the agent paying for advertising in that zip code will be sent that inquiry directly, bypassing the listing brokerage altogether.
Zillow and Trulia make it easy for an interested buyer or renter to contact up to four (4) agents about a single property listing, only one (1) of those four (4) being the listing broker, and, when submitting a contact request form it does not default a buyer to contacting the listing broker. While Realtor.com denotes a property listing is presented and brokered by the listing brokerage, Realtor.com’s business model is to present a single option to get more information about a property, so an interested buyer or renter will use a form to request information from an unknown source – a broker or agent that pays Realtor.com for advertising, not the listing broker, will receive that inquiry, every time.
With that said, we strive to maximize the use of both your contact information where it’s allowed to be placed, as well as that of the listing brokerage, and, have put together an automated system so that we can transparently and promptly facilitate you establishing direct contact with buyers and renters and/or their agents when they contact us directly, and eliminate creating a bottleneck with us as a communication middleman.
Many interested parties will contact us about your listing, and taking the above into consideration, we’ve constructed a communication system that pushes interested parties to to stuartstjames.com/listings, which ultimately facilitates an interested party establishing direct contact with you. Said differently, instead of us emailing or calling you about an inquiry we receive on your listing, which is inherently slow and prone to human error, the automated system we built will give the interested party who contacts us the ability to obtain your contact information and quickly connect with you directly.
Given the business models of third party websites like Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, and others, clearly not all inquiries originating from these sites will come to us as the listing brokerage, some inquiries will indeed go to Buyer’s Agents that pay for advertising with those third party websites – while we do everything possible within the rules and regulations of the MLS to facilitate a connection with the FSBO, the reality is these third party websites have an agenda more aligned with generating ad revenue than helping FSBOs eliminate Buyer’s Agents from transactions.
For more information on this topic, please see:
According to studies, the most difficult task for a FSBO is pricing your house for sale. It’s not surprising that Realtors spend a lot of time analyzing how much properties have sold for recently to establish an accurate asking price for their listings. Unlike Realtors, FSBOs have a difficult time accessing a comprehensive view of the market at a level of detail that can unlock the best listing price. That’s why we suggest FSBOs purchase our How to Price FSBO Guide, a customized report for your neighborhood that will arm you as a FSBO with the same tools and information that Realtors use every day.
Yes, absolutely. Once your property is listed in the MLS, which is the ultimate system of record that we have control over, it will be syndicated to popular real estate websites such as Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia, Redfin, and hundreds of others to increase the exposure of your property. You will not have to do any work, signup for a separate account, pay any additional fees, or otherwise take action to get your listing syndicated to third party websites.
While syndication to third party websites is oftentimes largely complete 24 hours following your listing being published on the MLS, syndication from the MLS to third party websites takes place on different schedules, not in real time, and Stuart St James does not have direct control over these schedules.
If you list your property for sale or rent in the MLS, the answer is no.
MLS Property Information Network, Inc. Rules and Regulations, specifically Article IV – Prohibitions, state that only the “For Sale” signs of the Listing Broker may be placed on a Listed Property.
Ok, so what do I do now? I’d like a for sale sign on my property.
If you want the exposure a real estate yard sign provides, and you need a for sale (or for lease) sign, no problem, you can purchase one from us as your Listing Broker.
The real estate sign we sell you will have your name and your contact information on it, but it will have our necessary brokerage information to satisfy the rules and regulations of the MLS – take the next step with FSBO yard signs.
Along with deciding the list price of your own home, property photos for an MLS listing are clearly important.
Here are the facts when it comes to MLS listing photos in Massachusetts:
- Maximum number of photos allowed – MLS PIN, the MLS system we use and the largest in New England, allows up to 30 property photos per listing – regardless of whether the listing is an entry only MLS listing or not
- Signage and contact information in photos is not allowed – the rules and regulations of MLS PIN state that you cannot include signage or contact information of any kind in a property photo – while a short room label or description on a photo is fine (yet rarely used), don’t waste your time submitting property photos that have signs or any contact information visible whatsoever, even if the objects are at a distance
- Ideal dimensions of MLS listing property photos – according to MLS PIN staff, the optimum dimensions (in pixels) for property photos in the MLS is 512 (width) x 400 (height). You do not need massively sized photos that are multiple MBs in size for your photos to look good on the MLS, as the average 512 x 400 image is well under 100 KB in size
- Easiest and most efficient way to manipulate property photos – when you begin a new listing on our website and are given the opportunity to upload your photos, you’ll be able to upload up to 30 photos at one time, and we limit the size of each photo to 1 MB – we like using the free online tool called PicMonkey to edit, resize, rename, and save photos to a computer so they’re ready for uploading to your listing.
- This is a simple step that helps so many of our FSBOs – to avoid confusion and to clearly articulate to us the order in which you want your photos to appear on your listing, we recommend that you name your photo files in the order you’d like them to appear (1.jpg, 2.jpg, 3.jpg, etc.) and we want you to avoid adding any additional letters or numbers to the file names. Please use “1.jpg” for your first photo and increment up from there and we’ll be sure to get them in the right order for you
Yes, simply submit a Listing Update Request Form to request the addition of a virtual tour to your listing.
A real estate virtual tour is a simulation of an existing property, typically composed of a sequence of videos and/or still images.
Approximately 18% of single family home listings in MLS Property Information Network (the largest MLS system in New England and the preferred MLS system partner of Stuart St James) have some sort of virtual tour associated with them.
For sale by owners (FSBOs) are welcome to submit a virtual tour with their flat fee MLS entry only listing, to be posted to the MLS, yet the virtual tour must be in compliance with MLS Property Information Network Rules & Regulations 1.0(e).
Essentially, 1.0(e) establishes that virtual tours cannot contain identifying contact information, similar to property photos.
Every virtual tour submitted with a listing is reviewed by MLS Property Information Network front office personnel (not Stuart St James) before being posted to the MLS. If a tour is not acceptable an email will be sent explaining why the tour was rejected so it can be remedied and resubmitted.
During the flat fee MLS entry only listing process, if a FSBO has a virtual tour, the URL at which the tour is hosted can be provided and will be submitted to MLS Property Information Network front office personnel for approval once the listing is actually published in the MLS (there’s no ability to submit a virtual tour for a “pre-approval” to the MLS front office personnel).
The MLS does not accept virtual tours hosted on YouTube because it makes it possible for consumers to contact the listing agent directly and because YouTube sometimes contains questionable content under related media.
That being said if the virtual tour is hosted where there are no additional unrelated videos, there’s no ability to leave comments or contact information, the MLS could accept it. Dropbox, Box, or similar video hosting sites are appropriate so long as comments are disabled for the shared file.
There is no limit to the title of the video providing it does not include agent or office information. The property address can be displayed on virtual tours. Providing information about the property itself including open house data is allowed on the tours.
With any real estate transaction, there’s paperwork, offers to negotiate, contracts, escrow accounts for earnest money deposits, showings, open houses, etc., and with an entry only MLS listing, the property owner, or a licensed real estate attorney you decide to hire, is responsible for such activities.
No. With an entry only MLS listing, the homeowner / seller is responsible for the activities typically handled by a Seller’s Agent, including open houses. You will have the ability to add open house announcements to your listing at your convenience electronically via our website.
To request an open house, simply submit a Listing Update Request Form any time before Wednesday at noon EST the Sunday before your open house so that it can be reflected in the MLS system – should you wait to submit your request until the Friday before, for instance, the open house information would not have time to fully syndicate across the Internet. You are welcome to request open houses in advance.
Professionally designed real estate flyers for both open houses and private showings help FSBOs command top dollar for their property. We provide clients who choose our Advanced package with real estate flyer templates for Word and Mac that are both professionally designed and easy to edit.
Lock boxes may be common in your local market, it’s entirely your choice whether you decide to leverage one or not, however, there’s no requirement to do so.
Should you use a lock box to safeguard access to your property, you will directly provide the necessary code to Buyer’s Agents or buyers upon qualifying the inquiry and setting up a showing.
We do not rent or otherwise provision lock boxes in any capacity.
Within 24 hours of accepting an offer, you must change the status of your property. This is a rule and regulation of the MLS. To change the status of your property, simply submit a Listing Update Request Form.
What property status should you choose after accepting an offer?
The overwhelming majority of FSBOs change their property status to Under Agreement following the mutual acceptance of an offer. Under Agreement is the most common status to utilize after an offer is signed, that’s true for both flat fee MLS listings as well as listings from Realtors that charge a full commission.
There are some FSBOs who want to utilize a Contingent status (see all MLS property status types), signifying the property will continue to be shown and back up offers accepted. If a property is placed in a Contingent status, one of the following contingencies must exist: Inspection, Attorney Review, Appraisal, Financing, Third-Party Approval, or Pending P&S. Once that contingency is met, the property will be moved into an Under Agreement status. Because Contingent status is not terribly common, and the MLS does not want the status type misused, in addition to submitting a Listing Update Request Form to change a property’s status, to utilize the Contingent property status type, FSBOs must also fill out and sign an official MLS form called a Contingent Status Request Form and include it in their update request.
Yes, you’re welcome to use a Temporarily Withdrawn status, which removes the property from the market, however, we encourage FSBOs to consider such a status change thoughtfully as you will still continue to incur the daily charge associated with the listing package you purchased.
To reactivate a listing in Temporarily Withdrawn status at a later time, you’d simply submit a Listing Update Request Form to move the property to a Back on Market status.
A listing in Temporarily Withdrawn status continues to accrue days on market.
Yes, of course. Simply use our Listing Update Request Form to request cancellation of your listing. If you decide that an entry only MLS listing is not for you, or even if you’d like to switch your listing to a traditional brokerage charging a full commission, no problem. We do not impose cancellation penalties or fees of any kind, however, we do not provide refunds.
Flat Fee MLS Entry Only Listing Fees & Commissions (8)
We try and keep it simple, you will pay a low daily fee to list and advertise your Massachusetts property in the MLS. You will see an individual daily charge from “STUART ST JAMES” on your credit card statement. When you update the status of your listing into Sold status, or in the event you cancel your listing, daily subscription billing is terminated.
There are none. There are no hidden fees at Stuart St James. Our flat fee MLS listing packages include varying levels of products and services billed daily for varying flat fees starting at $5 per day. You pay only for the products and services outlined in the package you purchase. You pay a daily flat fee until your listing is moved into a Sold status, or, it’s canceled. We do not charge you anything more during the listing period or after, and absolutely no additional commission upon closing. Should you want to cancel your entry only MLS listing, you’re welcome to do so with no penalty, fee, or ongoing obligation whatsoever.
You have full control over the commission offered to a Buyer’s Agent (or a Cooperating Broker in the case of a Residential Rental listing). Note, real estate agent commissions and fees are not fixed by law.
The amount of Buyer’s Agent commission you offer is stored in the MLS system with your listing yet the Buyer’s Agent commission value is not syndicated to third party websites – only licensed agents and brokers with direct access to the MLS system itself can ascertain the amount of Buyer’s Agent commission offered for a listing, and that particular piece of information is not visible or discoverable in any manner by the general public via third party websites like Zillow, Tulia, and Realtor.com.
The answer to that is, yes, with a caveat. If you choose to list your property in the MLS for sale you must make an unconditional offer of compensation – that’s a rule and regulation of the MLS. The caveat, however, is that if the buyer purchasing your home is not represented by an agent, there would be no obligation for you to pay any real estate agent commission fees whatsoever.
We are the only real estate brokerage to have actually conducted the research to determine the average Massachusetts Buyer’s Agent commission. Based on market research, we’ve assembled a full report that unpacks the mystery surrounding Buyer’s Agent commission and we make this first-of-its-kind exclusive report available to clients who purchase either our Standard or Advanced listing package. We’ve got a whole lot more on this topic at How Much Commission Do Buyer’s Agents Get Paid?
Per Section 5.0 of the Rules and Regulations of the MLS, if you choose to list your property in the MLS you must make an unconditional offer of compensation on all listings of property for sale. The amount of compensation offered must be stated in the MLS as either (1) a percentage of the selling price or (2) a definite dollar amount. In either case, the amount must be unconditionally offered to cooperating brokers, and, compensation must be an amount greater than zero, expressed in the format indicated above.
As you begin to provide your property details to list FSBO on the MLS with us, you will have the opportunity to select the compensation you’re willing to offer cooperating brokers. While during the listing process we allow you to select from seven (7) different compensation percentage values of the selling price, ranging from 1% to 3%, you’re welcome to select any value you desire that satisfies the MLS guidelines, which could be a percentage lower than 1%, higher than 3%, or, a fixed dollar amount at any level above $0.00 – should you wish to select a value outside the potential values we provide in our signup process, you may utilize our Listing Update Request Form to alter your selection and we’ll be sure to update your MLS listing accordingly.
No. In a scenario where you find your own buyer or renter that is not represented by an agent, there would be no obligation for you to pay any real estate agent commission fees whatsoever.
Stuart St James is the real estate brokerage that enters your property into the MLS. If an agent of Stuart St James brings one of their clients to the table as a buyer or renter of your property, that agent will be entitled to the Buyer’s Agent or Cooperating Broker commission you set during the MLS listing process.
For any inquiries we receive on your flat fee MLS listing directly from buyers via third part websites like Zillow or Trulia, we promptly facilitate that buyer connecting with you directly by giving them your contact information, and that inquiry is not shared with a Stuart St James agent in any form or fashion – for more information on this specific topic, please see Test Communication Integrity after You List FSBO on the MLS.