Profile picture for sea2sea09

Negotiating commission

It seems like with real estate websites such as Zillow and Red Fin providing essentially the same service real estate agents do, it may be a good time to start asking for a lower commission from the buyer's agent (2% range). Is this a reasonable request? Any success stories for negotiating a lower commission?
  • May 08 2011 - Wallingford
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Answers (26)

Profile picture for Dunes....
"Neg of commissions is for the Seller side.  Buyer side receives commission from the Seller.   They can not legally cut part of their commission per that is paychk that they pay taxes on."

Say what? 

I would like to recommend to sea2sea09 and any other Consumer who views this that they take a look at the Information provided by the Department of Justice....

"Consumers who live in states permitting the option to choose innovative brokerage options, such as rebates or fee-for-service MLS-only packages, can potentially save thousands of dollars on commission payments."
Consumers Can Save Thousands of Dollars in Commissions

"Ten states forbid buyers' brokers from rebating a portion of the sales commission to the consumer. Eight states require consumers to buy more services from sellers' brokers than they may want, with no option to waive the extra items. HUD recently clarified its rule that rebates are permissible under RESPA as long as they are reported on the HUD-1 form."
What are the laws in your state?

"Buying or selling a home is the largest financial transaction most Americans will ever undertake. "

"New business models are emerging that allow consumers to save thousands of dollars when they buy or sell a home. Where these practices are allowed, some buyers' brokers are offering refunds on commissions, and some sellers' brokers are charging only for services actually used."
Competition and Real Estate

"In many parts of the country, the traditional full-service real estate broker now faces competition from a variety of real estate brokerage models, many of which use the Internet to reduce costs:"
Competing Models of Real Estate Brokerage
  • May 28 2011
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Profile picture for Carole Tyne

Neg of commissions is for the Seller side.  Buyer side receives commission from the Seller.   They can not legally cut part of their commission per that is paychk that they pay taxes on. You have to be licensed to recieve commission.   Now a days with short sale and even some bank properties the Seller side offers a reduced commission to the Buyers agent.  Some buyer brokers will have you sign a Buyer Broker agreement which include noting what the min. commission that will be paid.  If the seller is not meeting the min. then the buyer needs to come to closing with funds to pay the balance.
Even though there are get online resourses for finding a home.   You will find many times the information is out of date.   A buyers agent will help you find the available properties.  Make time consuming calls to the listing agents and homeowners to schedule and find out the stories behind the properties.   Many times they start the process of neg in purchase with the property with valuable interaction they have.  Your agent will walk you though the documents involved in the process of the purchase. 

  • May 28 2011
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There are many ways to negotiate commission with an agent. Often times we will negotiate aggressively when a client has a property to sell and a property to buy. Or we might negotiate when your home is in an area that sells quickly and easily. A lot of people like to over-price their home, which causes it to sit longer, so if we get a seller interested in pricing it right from the beginning, we might be more negotiable there as well. Sometimes we negotiate based on the dollar amount of the home... the important thing is just to ask your agent.
  • May 12 2011
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As with many professions what is actually being SOLD is knowledge. The REALTOR has the knowledge that most of the public does not have. Most people will buy/sell a home only a few times in their lives usually with many years between. These transactions will represent the largest financial issues they will ever deal with and have the greatest impact on their day to day lives outside of weddings,kids or illness. For a life changing event having the best information possible to make the best decisions only makes sense. Would you really want the 5th best heart surgeon at the local hospital for your spouses operation or the best in the state? there are very good agents out there every day helping their clients and earning their commissions. Unfortunately there are also many less qualified individuals posing as agents who give the good ones a bad name...
  • May 12 2011
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Profile picture for beachbuyer1
I think there is a time and place for negotiating commissions. Even after you have signed buyer/seller agreements with a agent/broker.

I worked with one agent on selling raw land I had and she wanted her 10% no matter what. Actually lost a sale for her and I. Potential buyer was squeezing the price and I was willing to give some and asked the agent if she would take 7%?. No deal, deal fell thru and I eventually fired the agent.

Then I found an agent that basically was a go getter and worked for a broker where he (the agent) paid an up front sum each year to use the broker's name/office and didn't split any commissions with the broker.

Best guy i ever dealt with. He eventually sold 3 properties for me. Knew good lawyers, surveyors, appraisers, etc. Never had to remind him of anything or check up on the latest 'happenings' His bottom line was, everything is negotiable as long as nobody got screwed or taken advantage of.

 70% of the pie was better than no pie at all.

He was super in dealing with a builder's agent on a new house I was buying (without his involvement). Mentioned a problem one day to him that I was having and he jumped on it just because he thought he could help out (which he did and without compensation).

Just watch out for the potential agent/broker that wants you to 'sign your life away' to get them to even get involved with you.. Read the fine print and if there is something in the contract you don't like then get it changed. Everything is somewhat negotiable with a really experienced agent/brokerage. Be sure to take the time and READ THE FINE PRINT before signing anything.
  • May 12 2011
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Profile picture for Blue Nile
The only "business" that has a lower entry cost and experience threshold as well as operating cost that I know about is "Amway distributor" or similar.

Any Realtor® that spreads that propaganda about how their 140 hours of training beyond a high school diploma made them more of an "expert" in their field than a lawyer or plumber has certainly disqualified themselves from representing me.  Similarly, the misrepresentation of their listings in Zillow, or worse, lack of listings in Zillow, means they can't be trusted by me for anything having to do with Real Estate.  And who told these Realtors® to spread this propaganda about how only they are qualified to represent a Real Estate transaction?  NAR?  Well then, being a member of NAR would then be a good reason to disqualify them from representing me.  NAR's talking points have deceived the public way too long, and NAR's lobbying for really poor housing and lending policies almost bankrupted over 100 different countries.

Forget the NAR; join the AARA (American Association of Realty Agents) instead!

(Besides, who says buying a place to live is an "investment"?)
  • May 09 2011
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Profile picture for Blue Nile
"There is a lot of access to legal information, would you represent yourself in a legal transaction?  Why would you not want an expert representing your best interest in what is typically the largest investment of one's life?" -

Does that mean Realtors® really think they are lаwyers?  If one wants legаl representаtion, a Realtor® is not qualified!

Does that mean all Realtors® are "experts" in their field?  Even if they have 5 sets of 3 letter designations after their name, it doesn't mean they are "experts", it only means they took a few hours to take some non-graded courses with no impact it they failed to learn the material and paid a fee for the course.  In most cases "useless" and they could have learned better from an apprenticeship or from doing their own research on the subject.

Of course if I was in small claims cоurt I would represent myself; that is the way the lаw is written.  Of course if I have a traffic violаtion or city zoning code citatiоn I would represent myself... it is the only efficient and effective way to do it.

But most Realtors® won't even do their own tax forms, nor electrical, nor plumbing, nor concrete work, nor drywall work nor framing... and all those trades require substantially more training and experience to get a license than Real Estate agents require.  And I will do all that work myself without a license because that is the way the lаw is written, and because I do better work faster than having to call a so-called "professional".  So, if a Realtor® can't even fill out their own tax forms, how could the Realtor® possibly be knowledgeable and experienced enough to represent me?
  • May 09 2011
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Profile picture for klarek the realist
Yes hypothetically a car that you make yourself, a Yugo and a Lexus are identical.

You missed my analogy completely.
  • May 09 2011
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sea2sea09,

Everything is negotiable in real estate.  Starting with the listing or buyer's agreement all the way through.  My business model is to offer the highest professional services with discount fees.  Everyone has to make their own decision in business dealings.  Some states have rules restricting commission rebates, Florida does not.  Also, as a listing agent, I have no problem, in this current market, taking a negotiated commission starting at 1% and up and putting 3% or more on the buyer's side.  Buyers are few and far between and that should be reflected in this equation.  You should not settle on working with a Realtor until the relationship is the way you want it to be.  Good luck!

Shawn
  • May 09 2011
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Sorry Sea,

Apparently this isn''t about answering your question.

Yes hypothetically a car that you make yourself, a Yugo and a Lexus are identical.  All cars, all have four wheels, a steering wheel and an engine.

Equally hypothetically, buying your home yourself, with an inadequate real estate agent and a good Realtor are all identical.

Realtors are not a commodity.  All are not equal.  Some buyers on their own will do better than if they had a Realtor.  I propose that the best Realtors are better than going it alone.

PS: I don't drive a Lexus, but I don't drive a Yugo either.  ;)
  • May 09 2011
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Profile picture for klarek the realist
Ed, a fundamental accounting lesson for you to understand:

If the proceeds of a sale fund the agents' fees and the purchasing money funds the proceeds, how does that equate to the sellers paying the fee?  They're taking the buyers' money and paying the agents.  Hence, the BUYERS pay for it all. 

Your Yugo/Lexus analogy is interesting.  Let's suppose that the Yugo and the Lexus were in fact practically the same.  Same reliability, same quality, same luxury.  But in this case, the Lexus manufacturers controlled the entire market.  They make it extremely hard for anybody to buy a Yugo, and go out of their way to convince the public at large that Yugos are inferior, even though in this scenario they're practically the same.  That way they can sell their equivalent product for fortunes more, bilking the public out of their money.  There is no benefit to anybody except Lexus, and it's an economic inefficiency introduced to a very expensive product market.

That is what the real estate industry is today.  They're selling us a Yugo-quality service at a Lexus-quality price.   Call it a chip on my shoulder, but I resent the falsehood that removing an agent from the process - hence saving 3% of redundant commission fees - is not saving money.  How many 5-figure middleman-scheming fees is one person supposed to pay in a lifetime?
  • May 09 2011
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Sounds like some "realist" has a chip on his shoulder. Let's put it this way. There are good cars out there and bad ones. A Yugo won't cost nearly as much as a Lexus. it may even get you where you are going, but is it worth the savings if it breaks down and doesn't get you to your destination or you have to pay to get it fixed along the way? Buyers agents are typically paid by the sellers. So have you really "saved" anything?
  • May 09 2011
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Profile picture for klarek the realist
James:

When was the last time that Zillow or Red Fin walked you through a house?

Actually that was the original poster's point: why should 3% of the sales price go to somebody for opening a freaking door?

 or helped you understand the terms of a sellers offer?

Not that this is a complicated matter, but there's nothing to say that a full-service, full-charge agent would explain it any better.

or told you of the negative experiences that other sellers have had with a local home inspector and why you should choose a different one?

So agents are experts in rating inspectors?  Like Angie's List?

C'mon. Anyone with any sense knows that Zillow, while a great idea, is still very, very flawed system, even in the limited data that it provides.

When I think of a "flawed system", I think about NAr and the real estate cartel, not zillow.  When I think about bad or limited data, I think about how NAr's been pushing fraudulent RE stats for the past five years.  Zillow is golden compared to your industry's spokespeople.

  • May 09 2011
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When was the last time that Zillow or Red Fin walked you through a house? or helped you understand the terms of a sellers offer? or told you of the negative experiences that other sellers have had with a local home inspector and why you should choose a different one?

C'mon. Anyone with any sense knows that Zillow, while a great idea, is still very, very flawed system, even in the limited data that it provides. Don't believe me? Scroll up and down the Q & A sections and see how many people's homes have the wrong number of bedrooms and bathrooms listed and are trying to get it fixed. How many people are on there trying to get Zillow to even show the correct home for their address?

Zillow and Red Fin are nice concepts, but they are both flawed. And even if they worked perfectly, they only provide one small piece of what a Realtor can provide you in terms of service.  Before becoming a Realtor, I can say without a doubt, I never had a second thought about it, because honestly, buying houses isn't something that people do every day. But now that I'm in the business, and I work with clients on a day to day basis and see all the different needs that they have, it's obvious that there is much more to being a Realtor than just saying "Here's what your house is worth" or "Here's what you should pay for the house you want".
  • May 09 2011
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Profile picture for minotau
A 50/50 split on the buy side commission should be the starting point of the conversation.  That's 50% of the buy side commission back to me before any split with a broker, etc.  Honestly, it's not really a conversation, at least not for me.  I consider it to be a very, very generous offer and many agents these days are receptive to earning a good payday.  So I just tell them that I'm willing to do a "Redfin" type 50/50 split with them, I tell them to speak with their broker to make sure that they're good with that.  Any push back and I'd just move onto the next one.  But I haven't seen much push back lately.  Also, keep in mind that this has been standing operating procedure forever for certain ethnic groups.  So if you do get push back...  But if you're in a Redfin coverage area then it should go pretty smoothly.

Right now we're "working with" two different agents in two different areas, there really wasn't much push back to the split that I "proposed".  I even have a discount guy on the back burner willing to work for 1%.

I use Redfin a lot, I'd actually love to do a transaction using them and hopefully will one day, but right now we're using "traditional" agents for a couple of reasons unrelated to the services offered.  I did the same thing with our last sale, 2.5 to the buy side and 1.25 for our selling agent.
  • May 08 2011
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$1.30

Average price for a gallon of gas in 1997.

$1.20

Average price of a gallon of milk in 1997

$1.38

Average price of a pound of hamburger in 1997

Statistics are great, except I can't eat statistics and they won't pay my bills.

50 percent

Percentage of sold homes that were foreclosures in April 2011

30 pages

Average number of pages in a foreclosure purchase agreement (not including add on pages between buyer and agent).
  • May 08 2011
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This is always a great debate.  Take this into consideration.  Prior to the recession the average was that 80% of people who get their real estate license nation wide are out of the business in the first two years.  Of those that survive the first two years, 50% don't make it through the next two.  So you are talking about 10% surviving through the first few years and a 90% failure rate.   

It is a very difficult job and can be very expensive.  According to my tax records it costs me in the neighborhood of $40K per year to be a RE agent.  Keep in mind that the average RE agent makes less then $30K per year.  

  
I think many good agents make the job look easy and therefor don't convey that they are "earning" the money they make.  I have had several careers and even graduated graduate school and I can tell you this is the most difficult thing I have ever done. There are volumes of legal issues that we need to be aware of, not to mention building codes, and safety issues.  Every day we need to wake up and generate our own business.  It is extremely hard.  

The average home in Seattle is now near $400K.   Do you want to try to purchase it without representation, considering that in almost all cases that representation is free?  If you were being sued for $400K would you want to be represented by the cheapest lawyer you could find?  I would argue there is a real similarity. 
  • May 08 2011
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Profile picture for hpvanc
"Clearly the business model is broken from top to bottom. And the agents at the bottom of the business model are taking the brunt of the cuts."

Is a very valid point for the industry. 

There are also too many agents chasing too few sales at lower prices than in recent years.  Couple that with increases in technology and the flow of information that has led to increases in productivity in every non-commissioned occupation that I know of i.e. the same person getting paid the same for the amount of work that used to require 2 or more people complete.  Many people in other industries have been forced to take pay cuts or forgo bonuses and have the number of hours or days they work reduced.  The only difference with agents is they are independent contractors so they don't get laid off or asked to work less, they can still work as much as they want, but the likelyhood of receiving compensation has dropped, even as they redouble their efforts and work even more hours to try to make up for it. 

I would say that it is the perfect storm for the industry, however I agree that you are justified in asking.  Keep in mind that to really get it reduced you need to add a clause to the contract to reduce the buyers agent commission and discount the price by an equal amount, or in lieu of that rebate the commission discount you have negotiated (illegal in a few states, but legal in WA).

Good luck.
  • May 08 2011
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Profile picture for the_country_hick
Michael, "When you consider that Realtors are paid a percentage...and... the average home sale price has dropped... asking for a cut on commission is equivalent to a twofold pay cut."

I guess it all depends on your point of view. Not to be to argumentative here but compared to 1997 (pre-bubble) prices adding inflation agents are still making more per sale than back then. Granted, in some areas like detroit houses are cheap enough to strip and sell the pieces for a profit and probably las vegas is similar. But in most of the country house prices are still above historical 100 year inflation adjusted averages. That means realtors incomes are above what they used to be inflation adjusted per sale. If total real estate sales are up or down is a different issue.
  • May 08 2011
  • 3Yes

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Profile picture for poor and unemployed
How many jobs have flexible hours, earn $10K - 100 K in a month acting like a car driver, taking advantage of buyers lack of knowledge?
  • May 08 2011
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Profile picture for sea2sea09
Thanks for all the great responses. They are very insightful. I was hoping to get some more responses from people going through the buying process. I'm curious to hear your insights. Are there success stories with discount brokerages or redfin? Or is it true that it is better to go through a traditional agent?
  • May 08 2011
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When you consider that Realtors are paid a percentage of the sale and when you consider that the average home sale price has dropped - in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars - asking for a cut on commission is equivalent to a twofold pay cut.

The price of some sales have dropped so low that some agents risk losing money due to the fact that many have to pay a processing fee to their broker in addition to the commission split.

Locally, the president of Edina Realty nearly bled from his ears at the suggestion that corporate needed to stop increasing the fees to their agents at the same time their agents commissions are rapidly decreasing.

Clearly the business model is broken from top to bottom. And the agents at the bottom of the business model are taking the brunt of the cuts.

Death by a thousand pages of purchase agreements (which is how many pages bank owned purchase agreements seem to be these days).
  • May 08 2011
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How would your outlook be towards your job if your employer asked you to take a 1/3 reduction in your pay? Would you still give 100%  Keep in mind that realtors receive NO free benefits - no health care insurance, no dental insurance, no life insurance, no pension, no 401k matching, no paid holidays, no paid vacation ... and on top of that, most of us have to pay office fee's.

Okay, so your employer requests a 1/3 reduction in pay, takes away all benefits, takes away your paid vacations and holidays and charges you rent for your office. Oh, and you're still oncall 7 days a week. Would you even stay with that employer?
  • May 08 2011
  • 1Yes

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You can ask for your buyer's agent to credit you a portion of the commission. Keep in mind that agents do a lot of work, even if you don't see all that they do. If you find the house yourself and it is a huge commission you might ask for some rebate. But as with everything in life, you get what you pay for... I would suggest select an experienced agent who will do a great job for you and let them earn their full pay.
  • May 08 2011
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There is a lot of access to legal information, would you represent yourself in a legal transaction?  Why would you not want an expert representing your best interest in what is typically the largest investment of one's life?  For what, saving 1%, because of a Zestimate?  Commission is negotiable, I am sure newer agents would work for less, there are also discount sites, go try them.  You will soon see why most go with not only agents but full time ones that have earned some designations.

Good luck. :-)
  • May 08 2011
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Profile picture for wetdawgs
For traditional purchases, the seller is the one that negotiates the commission.   So, while the buyer is paying the bills (using the seller as the go between), unfortunately the buyer doesn't have the opportunity to negotiate.  (Be aware, the buyers agent's commission is split with her/his broker)

Does the commission structure make sense?   IMHO, no.   But then, I'm sure a lot of agents will chime in to tell us otherwise. 
  • May 08 2011
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