In general, do individuals think that using a buyers agent is beneficial? I would love feedback.

I noticed that some people think that there is a cost associated with a buyers agent, or fear that they will pay more for a home.  How can these concerns be addressed?
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October 11 2010 - Boston
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Answers (47)

The biggest misconception that buyers have is that if you dont use a buyers agent your automatically going to get a huge discount.



The fact of the matter is that the market price of a unit is set by fundamental economics and supply and demand and listing contracts typically spell out a specific % fee that the seller will pay. There are sometimes sellers that will discount the % fee up to 1 pt if the listing agent sells direct, however most agents try to avoid this for obvious reasons.

Since the vast majority of transaction use a buyers and sellers broker, market equilibrium price will be set as though all transactions have the full brokerage fee associated with it.   Therefore if you go in without a buyers broker there is a good chance the house will sell for relatively the same price as if you would have had one, the listing broker will just make more money and you will not have someone representing you 100% because by definition a dual agent cannot have your best interest at the forefront, nor the sellers.



Moral of the story - Home prices account for the agent fees and the world somehow got ride of all agents tomorrow that fee will allays be built in the price, so get yourself some good representation and have them negotiate a great deal for you!
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October 18 2010
Profile picture for dacolan
Joan,
I know of no survey or poll like that, but I would also be interested if one existed (although I wonder how unbiased such a survey/poll would be given the vast differences in individual buyers knowledge, experience, motivation, etc.).

I recognize the value a good agent can bring to the table, and have no problem paying a reasonable fee for those services. I just don't like the idea of being penalized for an agents need to make up for the disproportionate amount of time spent with more tentative, less motivated clients.

I suspect most novice buyers would support a flat fee model if they understood the overall price of the transaction would be lessened by such a model, and I suggest those that would balk at paying an above avg fee for an above avg level of services rendered when it comes to the largest investment of their lives may not be as ready as they think for such a commitment.
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October 14 2010
Dacolan, I agree with you, choice is better.  Flat fee services in my area, as far as I know, have only been offered to sellers and they usually appeal to people who are trying to have a hybrid of fsbo/agent services.
 
Practically speaking they haven't been too successful.  I honestly don't know why, I am not making any judgements, its just the way its been.  I personally have only heard feedback from 2 sellers who used what we call transaction brokers, and it has been negative.  I think sellers find that they want some sort of representation when an offer has been made and transaction brokers really don't provide that.

My issue with a different pay structure for buyers is how to apply it practically as a working model so that it truly benefits all involved.  I understand what you are saying about choice, but I think I need to see it applied and working before I could fathom the entire RE commission structure being changed. 

As a buyer, you have to admit that you are perhaps a bit more educated and knowledgable with limited need for agents, then your average buyer.   I keep thinking about my buyers that I used in my prior post as an example and I know for a fact that they would not want or even be able to pay a flat fee out of pocket expense for an agent.

I know this:  I would be very interested in a non-biased, nationwide poll which would detail different pay structures for agents and the effects it would have on home prices and their out of pocket expenses and ask buyers what they would prefer.   Do you know of any kind of survey or poll that has asked this type of question?
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October 14 2010
Profile picture for dacolan
Joan,
Choice is always in a consumers best interest. Flat fee models already exist, but this seems to be the exception, not the rule. Not all buyers need to look at 100 houses or the education, advice, reassurance and hand holding as others. For every example you can cite where you spent an inordinate amount of time coddling a buyer, I'm sure you're familiar with an equal number of transactions where an agent spent just a handful of hours or double-dipped for that same commission.

Every transaction is unique, yet in most cases consumers are expected to pay an equivalent amount for varying levels of service. As an educated and motivated buyer, I'm not happy I'm expected to subsidize the uninformed, unready tire kickers who aren't sure what they want.
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October 14 2010
Unless you can get a listing agent who will credit you what they advertise as a co-broke in the MLS, the answer is an emphatic YES. The seller pays the commission, 1/2 of which normally goes to the buyers agent. If you would like to go it alone in one of lifes biggest purchases and can find a listing agent that will halve their commission for you.............go for it. Until you start to ask questions like: Who is looking out for me? What about those repairs? Did I get screwed in the negotiations? Who makes sure everything goes smooth for me?

My advice (my strong advice), ALWAYS have an agent that represents YOU.
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October 13 2010
Oops, sorry Dacolan (and hpvanc).  I guess I was a bit confused as to who I was addressing.
Practically speaking, which do you think is more palatable to buyers- paying what they consider to be a fair price for a house (even if it is made clear that the price is higher due to expenses, including commission) or paying out of pocket for services?
If buyers know that it will not cost them extra to take their time, see a hundred houses, call/email constantly for advise, who is it hurting, except for the agent?
If buyers know that they will have to pay a flat fee for each house they see or worse, an hourly rate for all the time spent, do you think its possible that this may make the process more stressful for them?  Could it possibly drive them to buy a house that they wouldn't otherwise buy because they know that the time looking is costing them more money?
I just don't see it being to the buyers' advantage.


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October 13 2010
Profile picture for dacolan
Joan,
While you addressed your last response to Hpvanc, I assume it was directed toward me based on it's context.

Nobody I know is in love with the commission structure.

I have seen debates on this board where the agents arguing against the current commission structure are in the minority (jkonstant, for example, has gone round and round multiple times citing the inequity of this system with little support coming from other agents).

I just don't see buyers rushing to change things.

If buyers understood the inherent "unofficial tax" they were paying as a result of this commission structure (that hpvanc so eloquently articulated earlier in this thread), I suspect they would overwhelmingly support this change.

You are right perception IS reality and in this case, buyers don't feel the pain of the commission.  Only sellers do. 

This is precisely where this perception stems from. If "buyers don't feel the pain of the commission," it's only because they don't understand the inequity of the system in which they're being unfairly "taxed."
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October 13 2010
Hpvanc,I don't mean to keep getting hung up on this but I don't know any agents who wouldn't mind charging for the work they put in.  Nobody I know is in love with the commission structure.

I just don't see buyers rushing to change things. I have buyers who I have worked with for a year.  They have some unique circumstances which have taken me to 5 different counties showing houses to them.  I can't even tell you how much time has been spent on these people researching, emailing, previewing, calling and driving to all these various properties. They are looking at low end houses.  There is no way they could have afforded to pay me out of pocket for all the work I have done and we haven't even gotten to the point of making an offer yet, where the real work begins.  The thing is, although I will admit to my patience wearing thin at times, this is their first home purchase, and I will not rush them.  I want things to be right for them even though I have my own bills to pay.  This is the reality of my job and truthfully, sometimes it really sucks the way we are paid.  We don't have buyer agency agreements in my office and at any time, after all this work, these people can, on a whim, go to an open house, talk to the listing agent and decide to buy.  I don't think they will do that, but they can and many buyers have done that to agents who have worked with them sometimes for years.
So when you say that agents are somehow trying to hold onto the commission pay structure, I'm not sure I follow your logic.  What advantage is it to us? 
This business can be lucrative- I wasn't an agent during the "easy" times so all I know is that the successful agents in my office work insane, neverending hours and deserve every penny.  It is NOT easy money, not these days.

You are right perception IS reality and in this case, buyers don't feel the pain of the commission.  Only sellers do. 
Agents feel the pain of the lack of commission when a deal falls through, through circumstances we have no control over (I can't tell you how many deals I've heard of that have fallen through due to loss of job, right before closing).  A flat fee or hourly wage would only be to an agent's advantage, as far as I can see.
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October 13 2010
Profile picture for dacolan
Joan,
I can see how you may have thought I was calling you out specifically, but it was meant as a general comment on how far too many REAs perpetuate the perception that buyer agent services are free. There's little doubt one of the motivations for this position promoted by the NAR is to make it more difficult to change the industry standard fee structure. Consumers best interests be damned; perception is reality.
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October 13 2010

We are an exclusive buyer agency company, which means that we work exclusively with buyers and work only under a written buyer agency agreement.  In Colorado, a buyer has the option of working with a real estate agent either under a buyer agency relationship...which means that the agent is required to represent the interests of the buyer...or a transaction broker relationship...which is defined in the legislation as a real estate licensee who is prohibited from doing anything to promote or protect the interests of the buyer.

With a reasonable explanation of this difference, a buyer should understand that they would be better off if they had to pay something extra for the services of a buyer agent.  But they generally don't pay either for the agents' services...since these are generally paid by the seller...or pay more for the house...and will generally be paying less than if they were unrepresented. 

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October 13 2010

Probably the most important thing to do is sit down and present to your buyer.  Explain the process to them from start to finish. Let them know exactly how the Buyer Agent gets paid. That in most ALL transactions the seller agent shares their commission with either a buyer agent or facilitator and advertises the percentage split on MLS. Show them the split. Further explain your arrangement with your broker.  Let them know through Exlusive Buyer Agency they can opt to either 1) authorize the seller or seller agent pay this fee 2) include a fee as part of the offer to purchase the property or 3) choose to pay outside of the transaction HOWEVER this option is rarely chosen as an option by buyers.  Buyer Agent ultimately does get paid by the buyer. If you follow the money trail, the buyer pays the seller who then pays the listing agent who splits the commission with the buyer agent. So the question is then....why wouldn't the Buyer want representation from a Buyer Agent. Focus on the value Buyer AGency brings to the process. They have a feduciary responsibility as well their responsibility is to represent the buyer and protect their interests. Good luck!

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October 13 2010
Dacolan, I never once pushed the idea that buyer agent services were free.  But there is a huge difference in a buyer paying what they perceive to be a fair value for a house (and yes, we all know that all the hands in the cookie jar add to the price) and the seller having to hand over the commission from the proceeds.
The seller feels the pain of the commission they have negotiated with the listing agent.  The buyer feels the joy of getting a house for what they think is a decent price.
Huge difference in perception and therefore, no, I do not believe buyers would choose to pay out of pocket for agent services if they didn't have to. 
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October 12 2010
Profile picture for hpvanc
If Talisa only knew what a can of worms she was opening when she posted this question ...

"If a buyer does not hire a buyer agent, the price of the property does not get discounted just because they come alone ... the whole commission just goes to one agent instead of two."  So a savvy unrepresented buyer, or a buyer hiring a real professional or team of professionals on their own dime wouldn't negotiate this out of the contract?

""What costs do you think are associated with using a buyer's agent?" Then, address each concern."  Does that mean that you will rebate the portion that a particular buyer is choosing not to use (if legal in your state), it's a start but we just wasted time and cost negotiating it.
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October 12 2010
Profile picture for dacolan
If a buyer does not hire a buyer agent, the price of the property does not get discounted just because they come alone ... the whole commission just goes to one agent instead of two.

Is this response intended to be an argument in favor of maintaining the status quo?
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October 12 2010
Profile picture for dacolan
I honestly don't think buyers would pay out of pocket for something that they have always perceived to be "free".

I wonder where that perception comes from...

A pay for services structure might be preferred by more consumers than you think - I know I would favor this approach. Perhaps the first step would be to change this perception (that all too many buyers agents like to promote as "free").
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October 12 2010

Answer it with a question: "How can a listing agent try to get the most money for a seller, while at the same time try to save the buyer the most money?" Probably not.

"What costs do you think are associated with using a buyer's agent?" Then, address each concern.
 

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October 12 2010
Commission is included in the price of the house, just like tax on a loaf of bread.

If there is a sellers agent and a buyers agent the fee gets split...without the buyers money, there is no sale on the property and no commission for anyone.

If a buyer does not hire a buyer agent, the price of the property does not get discounted just because they come alone...also the commission that the seller agreed to is also not discounted...the whole commission just goes to one agent instead of two.

That is like thinking if you buy new construction property without an agent, that the builders price will be minus the commission....NOT TRUE.

Erika in Orlando
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October 12 2010
Profile picture for hpvanc
Joan,

If you can get the change through your MLS that the listing agent can under no circumstances collect both the listing and buyer commission if the buyer has arranged for a non-traditional compensation arrangement or chooses to represent themselves, you have my permission and encouragement to say "you get what you pay for" in this case.

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October 12 2010

Yes it's true you could wind up paying a bit more using a buyer's agent, but this like everything else is open to discussion prior to you entering into a buyers agency.
What you gain by having representation is a professional who is attending to your needs who will formulate a strategy on how to purchase and who will position you as a strong buyer my suggestion check out these two links and only sign with a buyer's agent who has some sort of formal training in buyer agency. http://rebac.net/abr_designation.cfm orhttp://www.cbrsource.com/ these sites should answer all your questions
Good Luck

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October 12 2010
hpvanc, a fee for services payment structure sounds great to me-  it would mean that I would be paid for work performed which isn't always the case, obviously, with a commission based pay structure.
However, as I've stated before, I honestly don't think buyers would pay out of pocket for something that they have always perceived to be "free". 
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October 12 2010
Profile picture for hpvanc
I have never said that all agents, and certainly never good agents will encourage you to raise the offer just to up the commission, however that is a risk.  My complaint is that unless I can directly negotiate compensation, I am subject to what is basically an unofficial tax, to spread the cost of bad agents taking on both bad buyers and sellers.  If it is on commission, the agent has to close a deal, any deal to get paid, how can that represent my interests as a buyer.  In my opinion the bubble is a spotlight on the commissioned buyers agent.

My personal opinion is I should compensate a professional on a fee for services basis, that way if I don't like how you do business I can compensate you for the work performed (or fight you over payment on work not performed), and I have no moral, ethical, or contractual obligation to continue working with a bad agent.  Also if I am efficient in the use of agent services I should pay less, if I am unprepared and/or inefficient I should pay more.  Either way it takes away the temptation for an agent to pressure someone into making a purchase or sale, and allows them to actually be objective.  Unfortunately it is a very different set of qualification to operate that way.
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October 12 2010

I think you get it Sunnyview.

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October 12 2010
Profile picture for sunnyview
:) Love it!
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October 12 2010
Sunnyview good advice
Good agents good for buyers
Bad agents just bad

Sorry, horrid haiku.
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October 12 2010
Profile picture for sunnyview
"of course after they listen to their "savvy friends" advice or go to a real estate website they feel ready to avoid using an agent..."

That's not a fair statement. I believe that agents provide a valuable service, but people should collect information so that they are smart clients. Also, I have to say that some people have do have friends that are smart about real estate. I definitely know people like that. Buyers need to focus on finding good agent representation not just agent representation. Truthfully, some people would be better off on their own with no representation if what they have is a bad or dishonest agent. That's a fact.

I think that agents that bring value to the table are a definite asset to buyers and seller alike, but lumping them all together in one premium professional asset class is not accurate. People should seek quality representation and if they can't find it, then they need to keep looking. Good agents are out there, but sometimes you need to pull a lot of weeds to find a flower. It is worth taking the time to find a good, honest hard working agent. 
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October 12 2010
Wait a minute. Because the seller is paying the commission, a buyers agent isn't trying to get the best price for their client?  A buyers agent doesn't suggest a price on what they will make on the deal.  They base the offer on market stats and fair value.  Most agents look forward to the challange of trying to get the lowest price they can.  If your agent  bases the offer on what theri commission will be, then get another agent.  To say that that is how we do our business is insulting and you just don't get it.
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October 12 2010
There are so many buyers that think that they can do a real estate transaction without an agent, of course after they listen to their "savvy friends" advice or go to a real estate website they feel ready to avoid using an agent...

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October 12 2010
Profile picture for hpvanc
"Saying that we work on commission implies that we are not looking out for the best interests of the buyer."  Socal's reply is true "If you select a competent and ethical REA, compensation via commission is not an issue."  My problem is if I am hiring you, while I may be able to find a competent and ethical agent, but if I am not directly responsible for your compensation, I lose the lever to control it if you are not.

The other issue is that it has so many abuses and disadvantages to all parties.  It has the potential to attract "something for nothing" people who are looking for an outsize gain, for their hustle.  It also discourages cooperation between agents, that would be better off operating as a team to provide more specialized due diligence services, that would facilitate fairer transactions and more confidence in the market.  It opens you up to abuses from the consumer, causing you to require a higher price for those consumers that use your services efficiently.  I'm in the minority that believes commission is an inappropriate and unfair way to either compensate or be compensated if you want quality work. 
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October 12 2010
Profile picture for SoCal_Engr
10-out-10 REAs think "buyer's agents" are beneficial.
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October 12 2010
Of course a buyer's agent is a good idea.  They typically don't charge for their assistance.
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October 12 2010
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