- Not being guaranteed you are in the MLS used by buyer agents in your area.
Many home sellers have been listed in the wrong MLS for their area. There are over 800 MLSs in the United States alone, and it can be difficult for the seller to determine what is the right MLS for their property. Flat Fee Brokers understandably would rather not pay fees to all the MLSs, so the temptation for the broker to put a listing in a nearby or cheaper MLS is undeniable. Being in the MLS that is not used by most/all buyer agents in your area is significantly less valuable and may be a complete waste of time and money. Make sure your broker guarantees you will be in the MLS used by agents in your area.
- Not investigating the flat fee broker’s complaint history.
You may not have friends who have used a flat fee MLS broker, but you can research opinions on Google and other websites to see what others have experienced. The Better Business Bureau’s BBB.org doesn’t have reviews but it does tell you when customers complain. Keep in mind even the best brokers will have the occasional negative comment from the "my house didn’t sell so it can only be the broker’s fault" individual. If you see a pattern of negative experience, avoid that broker.
- Using a service that sends you to the low bidder listing agent.
A few large companies recently started referring out listings on a bidding system. The websites charge the same price to the consumer, they keep the difference between the consumer price and the low broker bid. Getting the low bidder broker often means part time, high pressure "upsell" brokers, brokers with lots of complaints, and brokers who will use your listing to earn buyer agent commissions. Ask for a promise in writing that the company won’t bid your listing out to the lowest broker.
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- Forgetting to read the listing agreement before you pay.
Ask to see the agreements and forms you will need to complete before you sign up. Some brokers refuse to provide this information. The question is: Why? Keep in mind these forms may be proprietary, a broker wants to make sure they aren’t giving out their intellectual property to a competing broker. Be prepared to confirm you are who you are, your property address, and contact information.
- Not understanding the limitations of a 1 or 2 person brokerage.
The real estate busy season, vacations, sickness, and weather will overwhelm small brokerage capabilities and make everyone wait, even for urgent requests or rushed buyers who want to see your listing. There are stories of an individual broker who went on a 3 week cruise, and expected everyone to work with his one hour per day of internet and phone time. Seek a professional team or understand coverage and responsiveness will be spotty.
- Use a flat fee broker that doesn’t answer the phone.
Every flat fee seller will need to talk to their broker at some point in the sales process. Agents and buyers will also call the broker, even when the listing instructs to call the seller directly. If the brokerage doesn’t answer, the seller misses an opportunity. Call the phone number. Is it answered by a live person or do you go right to voicemail? More than one flat fee broker is known for refusing to take calls once a listing is entered, requiring all communication via email. Understand this before you pay.
- Using a yard sign that scares away buyer agents.
Avoid any yard sign that mentions the owner (by owner, for sale by owner, call the seller, etc.) or advertises a flat fee MLS listing service. These signs make agents worry that their buyer will go to the seller directly and they will lose the commission they were expecting to receive. Imagine in your own job finding out something that could put your next paycheck in doubt, that the last few weeks of work you have done you might not get paid anything for that time. We also recommend the yard sign confirm for agents that the property is listed in the MLS.