Who are you going to believe about how the flat fee MLS industry works?
There are four „business models“ offering flat fee MLS listings in Florida:
1) National Website: They are not licensed in Florida but collect money and then refer you to a Florida discount real estate broker-who gets a portion of the fees collected. National websites are competent business enterprises that usually have a real estate broker’s license in one state but not in all states.
2) Florida part-time amateur flat fee website: There must be 70 or so of these „websites“ in Florida. They are licensed real estate brokers that do flat fee listings part-time or are testing the waters to see if they can make a few bucks at flat fee.
3) Florida broker that is masquerading as flat fee: They seem like flat fee but their business model is not consumer friendly and I see their business practices as questionable. They may or do take your buyer leads from Realtor.com and other sources for their own agents; or possibly charge a cancellation fee as high as $500; or hold your listing hostage until you pay up ($500) by only „conditionally“ withdrawing your listing from the MLS if you attempt to cancel and move to a full-service agent – your listing will be trapped in this „conditional“ status until you pay the ransom of $500.
4) Florida licensed flat fee MLS broker that is established, trusted, transparent and paperless, specializes in Internet marketing and offers real customer support.
(Note: There is more than one trusted MLS flat fee firm in Florida but there are also plenty of firms that do fall into the # 2 and #3 categories above as well.)
Flat fee MLS requires more than simply inputting a listing into a local MLS…
1) Flat fee MLS sellers in Florida are 100% driven by control. They want their MLS listing correct at all times.
2) Third party websites such as Realtor.com, local MLS systems and IDX feeds to local real estate brokerage firms must be monitored constantly because listings do fall out of these systems. Technical glitches happen frequently.
3) Sellers make adjustments to their listing such as pictures, price, commission and their property descriptions. There are needed forms such as mold, lead-based paint and property disclosures.
4) The Florida Flat fee MLS broker is charged with the responsibility of buyer lead capture, agent showing requests, Internet marketing, trouble shooting, customer service, negotiating, editing and peace making. Flat Fee MLS brokers must be prepared to dedicate their time and energy.
Flat Fee MLS brokers must be prepared to dedicate their time and energy…
1) Taking $200 bucks and throwing a listing into the MLS as an afterthought is not what flat fee should be about. There are more moving parts that make up a „real“ flat fee MLS company than one can imagine. For example: Last week, Orlando Regional MLS just took over Venice Board of Realtors. When they did this conversion, it knocked out 53 Realtor.com „showcased“ properties from Mid-Florida Regional (Orlando area). It occurred on a Thursday evening and took the resources of the vice-president of Mid-Florida Regional and the Director of Operations and many phone calls to straighten out the major glitch.
2) Amateur or part-time flat fee MLS „website“ operators might not have the resources or experience to deal with such matters.
3) The flat rate MLS broker must be prepared to back up the customer with support and market effectively on the Internet.
4) If the MLS discount broker requests that you print out forms, fill them out and fax back, this means they have put no thought or investment into on-line automation. This means listing changes, edit, status changes will all be fax this-fax that….back to caveman days.
What to look out for before you list flat fee
1) If the flat fee MLS „website“ does not display the „listing agreement“, that should be a warning.
2) Carefully read the listing agreement „beginning-to-end“ before you give any flat fee company money whether a National or a Florida based service.
3) Understand the process and policy about how buyer leads from Realtor.com and other sources get to you, the seller, if at all.
4) Realize that many calls do go to the flat fee broker. As many as 70 calls a day can come into a flat fee MLS broker. Miss one, that could be your sale.
5) Consider and verify what the hours are for the flat fee MLS service.
6) Flat fee websites that offer just one marketing option are really just a „website.“ There are many marketing approaches besides just a basic MLS listing. What about marketing directly to Realtors®. For example, if a seller wishes to offer a 4% buyer’s agent commission, does the flat fee service provide a way to promote this higher than average commission? Some flat fee services do offer a Realtor eblast program which sends about 12,000 or so emails to all Ft Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville real estate agent every 15 days. This is an effective marketing approach and Realtors do respond.
7) Flat fee sellers should think about contract representation. Contract-to-close flat fee programs help get the deal done faster. Having a seasoned real estate professional handle the contract negotiations results in a smoother transaction for the seller, as well, possibly netting a higher sale. One of the trickiest parts of negotiations is the possible- subsequent re-negotiations after the inspection. Negotiating an inspection report does mean re-roofing the house because some inspector or Realtor® says the roof is at the end of its „useful“ life. There is an art to getting the buyer’s agent, the buyer and the seller on the same page. As well, there are some important nuances that do help get more Realtor® showings such as allowing the flat fee broker to schedule showings (more professional), using an Exclusive Right of Sale (not Exclusive Agency Listing Agreement) and use a professional looking metal sign.
How to flat fee list in Florida and stay out of trouble
1) Read the listing agreement.
2) Call the flat fee service and ask how they handle buyer leads.
3) Call and verify the hours of operation.
4) Ask if there any penalties or conditions if you cancel the listing.
5) Ask if the listing company will „unconditionally „withdraw your listing from the MLS if you choose to cancel and go with a full-service agent.
by Keith Gordon