It seems too good to be true to think that a flat fee real estate brokerage can offer the same service as a traditional real estate brokerage for a fraction of the cost. Most local flat fee companies unbundle their services allowing sellers to select exactly how much representation they would like to purchase.
The flat fee listing is just that, a listing. There are, however, varying levels of service. At the very least your home is listed on the MLS. If you are working with a local brokerage rather than a national flat fee listing service, most often, an agent will visit your home and take professional photos. There are some flat fee companies that will offer a traditional listing appointment for a flat rate charge which would include the visual property inspection by the agent, photos, pricing consultation and MLS description. This tends to be the best value. As a seller you are not "short changed" regarding services at neither the listing appointment nor the MLS listing.
The next phase of the listing is showing management. Most flat fee listing companies require that the seller manage showings which consists of the seller handling showing requests made by real estate agents with potential buyers. It is not expected nor recommend that the seller attend the showing. The agent accompanying the potential buyer will be given access by a lockbox of some sort (determined by the listing agreement). Seller participation is always required for occupied homes for either a traditional or flat fee listing. Vacant homes can be on a "Go and Show" status for either type of listing. The difference in self managing versus using a service is minimal because sellers need to approve showings regardless.
The next phase of selling a home is contract negotiation. FSBO-MLS listing services and national flat fee listing services typically do not handle your offers or any paperwork. They do not offer contract negotiation services. They are essentially "hands off". Local flat fee brokerages vary in their level of participation. Professional flat fee companies strive to set themselves apart by representing their sellers all the way through the process and charging ala carte for each service. This is where we begin to see the unbundling of services. A traditional listing not only includes the listing and showing management but also contract negotiation and drafting of necessary documents to complete the transaction such as counter offers or amendments. In comparison a basic listing service will most often eliminate these services and a flat fee brokerage will offer them each for a flat fee. Although purchasing services ala carte can save you thousands, you will want to ensure you have professional representation from start to finish. Make sure you ask. This is where sellers can be disappointed and may want consider representation by a real estate attorney.
The last leg of the transaction is closing. This process begins long before signing of documents so it important to be sure all facets of the transaction are handled. This begins with opening escrow but also includes services such as ordering mortgage payoffs. Make sure that whether you are represented by a flat fee company, traditional real estate company or real estate attorney that they will get the wheels in motion for a smooth closing. This is, in fact, the day both seller and buyer are looking forward to, so it is extremely important all bases are covered.
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