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Understanding The Real Estate Agent’s Commission For Nela Homebuyers

By Author: Samantha Turkle
Total Articles: 75

The process of purchasing a home, particularly for first-time homebuyers, is somewhat opaque. You sign a contract with a broker, who you might view as your shopping friend, and yet you are not obligated to pay them for anything. At no point in the process do you cut a check to your real estate agent, even if they spend dozens of hours with you in the home purchasing process.

Let's face it, it isn't difficult for an agent to spend a dozen hours with a client. It can take a half a day to look at various homes for sale in Glendale, for instance. Logging another several hours looking at nearby homes in Glassell Park or Burbank makes sense.

This is no different in Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) as it is in Bel Air or San Francisco or Chicago or New York. In the American system of house buying, the actual compensation to both agents, those representing buyers and sellers, is somewhere between 5% and 8% of the sale price of the home. It is paid for by the seller and split 50-50 between the agents, typically (although that occasionally gets negotiated differently between them).

So, for example, if you buy a home in Eagle Rock for $650,000 the commission might be 6%. The seller then pays out $39,000 to the brokers, who then each get (give or take) $19,500 for their work. Nice, right? Keep in mind they might spend many hours in showing the home to a variety of buyers (weekdays, evenings and weekends), all while directing preparation of the home for sale, or showing a buyer 20 or 30 other properties after spending hours on research (in towns adjoining this one, such as Mt. Washington, Hermon, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Garvanza and others), negotiating prices, drawing up contracts and guiding buyers and sellers through the closing. Also, Realtors rent offices, employ administrative and marketing staff, and absorb the marketing expenses (photography, videography, signs, listings, even staging costs in some situations). Those brokers’ fees also may be split between agents who work for brokers. Brokers are well compensated, but not as much as is often mistakenly assumed.

The more successful agents know from their education and experience how to price a home fairly and effectively, how to work out issues in negotiations, and how to guide a buyer or seller through the paperwork, legal and financial/lender processes.

Also, sometimes a home doesn’t sell, a buyer doesn’t buy, and no one earns a commission. That’s the way it can work in real estate.

From time to time real estate agents try different methods of compensation. Alternatives to this system – each of which have clear disadvantages – could be:

Pay a flat fee – Say you determine it’s worth paying an agent $5,000 to help you find or sell a $750,000 house. But the other party has to agree to something similar and it’s highly unlikely they would do that. In cases where someone is purchasing a home from a family member or friend this might be a workable plan. Or not.

Pay a [lower] fee that offers no incentive to move quickly – This falls under the rule that “you get what you pay for.” If an agent is working to earn 1% on the sale price, will they be sufficiently incentivized to give a buyer or seller expeditious service? When the fee is at a market rate, the agents are collectively interested in making the sale happen as quickly as possible.

Pay by the hour – If a buyer’s agent agrees to this, presumably the difference between the hourly fee and what would be the 3% (more or less) of the buyer’s agent would be value returned to the buyer. But that would incentivize an inefficient process, such as seeing too many homes that are inappropriate or, for the seller, bringing in too many prospects who aren’t really qualified buyers.

For more on homes available in NELA, speak with a realtor. Experienced NELA realtors are able to outline the terms of working with them under traditional fee structures.

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