I love competition amongst businesses. Competition not only gives the consumer options but also ultimately drives innovation and progress amongst businesses. That said, not all business compete in an ethical manner with one another. The Flat Fee business model relies upon the internet in order to reach potential customers. As a result, anybody can put up a site and make various claims about what services they offer, etc… So why/how does this affect the consumer when choosing a Flat Fee Company? Below, I’m going to put up a quick list of things to watch out for and questions to ask any/all Flat Fee Brokerages.
1) The first question you want to know is do you have a Real Estate License to do business in my state? If the answer is, no… move on immediately. If the answer is no, but we are going to refer you to a “local” broker who does, etc… Move on.
Reason – It is illegal to accept a fee for Real Estate Services in a state you are not licensed in. Secondly, never allow a company to refer you to a “local” broker. You as the consumer have no say in who they refer you to. Referral companies generally choose the cheapest option for them. (meaning the local broker who will accept the least amount of money) The problem with this is that you could be sent to a company who is only open 3 days a week. (or doesn’t accept phone calls, etc…) You won’t find out who they are referring you to until after you’ve paid. You as the consumer should choose who you will be working with. Do not allow a referral company to choose for you.
2) Can I speak with a real person before paying?
Reason – If you can’t speak to a live person, do not sign up with that company. Preferably, ask to speak with the broker who will be listing the property before paying.
3) Can I review the listing agreement before paying?
Reason – the listing agreement is the agreement b/w you and the broker that allows the broker to put the property in the MLS. This agreement has the terms and conditions of your agreement. DO NOT PAY a penny to anyone before you have read the entire listing agreement.
4) Always ask just how much control you have over your listing.
Reason – Flat Fee Companies are notorious for misleading consumers into thinking they have complete control over the MLS listing. The fact is that they really do not. A seller has control over the data, however, the listing broker has to be the one to update the MLS with price changes, photo changes, etc… As a seller, you are at the mercy of the listing broker concerning when they actually update your listing.
5) Will all offers and negotiations go through me? (the seller)
Reason – Every state has different state laws affecting this very issue. Always ask ahead of time so that you know what to expect. If you are in a state where most offers are presented to the listing broker, DO NOT sign up for an MLS listing service where the broker does not work weekends. The worst thing in the world that can happen is an offer comes in on Friday night and the broker doesn’t fwd you the offer until Monday afternoon.
How Congress Realty would respond to your questions:
1) Yes, we are licensed in every state we do business. Our brokers are Donald Plunkett and Andrew English. You can speak with either directly at any time.
2) Absolutely, both are available at 800 657 6579
3) Yes, you can download the paperwork from our website or give us a call and we will email the docs to you. You can review everything before paying.
4) We have multiple staff members who update listings throughout the day. A seller can submit changes through our website directly via the private client area or via email/fax.
5) We constantly forward offers – 7 days a week. If an offer comes in a Sunday, 99% of the time you will receive the offer that same Sunday.